Why Self-respecting Workplaces Don’t Manage Workflows Through Emails

Manish Nepal

February 2nd, 2017 workflow  

Don't Manage Workflows Through Emails

Ok, let’s start with what emails are good for.

  • They are a good way to let people know what will be discussed at a meeting
  • They are good for reminders about tasks or events
  • They are a good way to disseminate notes and summaries after a discussion

But they have their limitations too:

  • They’re terrible at conveying non-verbal cues like tone
  • Most of our inboxes are overflowing and important details can get lost
  • They can draw out a simple conversation over several days

However, we tend to overuse emails and ask them to do more than they were meant for.

Especially when it comes to workflows.

An Email Nightmare

A workflow is when you have a predictable sequence of tasks that must happen iteratively to complete regular business work.

Let’s look at an example of a Travel Reimbursement request. You might have a spreadsheet template you need to fill out and then attach scans or pictures of all of your receipts. You attach it to an email and send it to your boss to approve. She writes back and asks you to clarify one of your expenses. Then you realize that it was a gift you bought for your kids and you take it off the spreadsheet.

Your boss writes back ‘Approved’. Then you forward the email chain to the finance team, telling them that your boss has approved it. After a day, you get a response with a new email subject that your reimbursement has been rejected because of a personal expense. You realize that when you forwarded the email to them, you sent the original spreadsheet, and not the updated one.

You send in the new spreadsheet, but the finance team must have some documentation that says that this new request is approved by your manager, so you have to send it to them again.

After forwarding the request, you wait for a few days, but don’t get any word and have to send another email to follow up on the status of the reimbursement.

See how this can get out of hand?

Email’s Limitations

This story demonstrates exactly why you shouldn’t rely on email to handle your regular workflows.

  • Emails can’t validate data. People can use any format they like, regardless of how you have asked for it.
  • You can’t see a dashboard of all of your requests in one place the progress of each one.
  • Email doesn’t accurately show the path data has taken.
  • You cannot hide or put visibility filters on data in an email. If it gets forwarded to someone else, they can see everything.
  • Workflows won’t move to the next step until someone manually emails a response to the next task in line.

Not to mention, you can’t pull analytical data about a process out of an email. What do you do when you have to measure how well – or poorly – the last project did? Scattered mail trails don’t generate good reports and insights.

What’s the point of using emails for workflows if you have to do many things manually? It’s much better when you can get a system to automate tasks while you can peruse the data and take meaningful decisions to improve process efficiency.

Get Workflows Out of Your Email

A better solution is to pull the data out of email entirely. Use a smart form and create an automated workflow to pass tasks on from one person to the next. Specialized workflow automation software has in-built and automated capabilities to keep participants on same page as the tasks make progress.

Let emails do what they were meant for and don’t force them to do more work than they can. Pull your data into a system that offers you better tracking, visibility controls, validation, and insightful analytics and reports.

When you are thinking about automating your workflow, don’t think about email. Think about validated data smoothly flowing on a perfect track. Try an automated workflow solution like KiSSFLOW today!