Posted by: Adam Deane | 09/04/2010

BPM: The Effectiveness of Nagging

told offIt is always easier getting told off by a “system” than by your manager.
A system has no personal grudge against you, no personal agenda, and is not trying to be mean to you on purpose.
That is one of the reasons why workflow escalations and alerts are so effective. A notification from the workflow system enables the end-user to be reminded of outstanding tasks without worrying about office politics.

But the effectiveness of alerts and escalations is only as good as their deterrent.
If an user doesn’t see any reprimand from their manager, the alerts are pointless.
On the other hand sending out too many alerts is also counter-effective.
They are seen as “noise” or “nagging”.

More alerts does not mean better deterrent.

Finding the balance is tricky and needs clever planning.
I’ll give an example:

One of the customer’s email servers packed up for a few days.
The users were actually quite happy. They could keep on working using the tasklist portal, but with the added advantage: no escalations or alerts were sent out. Bliss…

Come Monday and I had the “enjoyable” job of releasing the 900 jammed emails.
Some of the reminder emails were no longer needed as the user had already completed their task.
Some of the escalation alerts needed to be removed as it wasn’t fair that a user should be told off if they didn’t get the first task notification in time.

Problems like this happen once in a blue moon, but still need to be dealt with carefully to ensure user’s confidence in the system. Email swamping would have caused a backlash. Deleting the unsent emails was not an option either.

So I spent a few hours surgically removing some of the emails and resending others.
Every half an hour I released a small batch of emails to ensure that each user wouldn’t be swamped with emails from the system.
I talked to some of the users that had a large number of emails, discussed the problem, and we decided together on what to do with them.
The event became a non-event.

Escalations, alerts and reminders are a key part of every BPM system.
Finding the balance – Ah, that’s the fun!


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