Tool Dysfunction: Can Workflow Process Customization Go Too Far?

With any tool designed to help you manage your team’s or organization’s workflow process, there comes a point when dealing with the structures and limitations of the tool becomes a massive task in and of itself. Who is at fault when a tool becomes a burden on your team, or when that tool starts negatively impacting productivity?

Is it the tool itself, or is it the users?

The answer is a little of both. Some users over-customize tools to the point where they become cumbersome and difficult to learn. But some tools also force this sort of behavior by not providing the flexibility to balance customization and core functionality.

There’s an argument to be made in favor of keeping tools light on customization and add-on features, building processes that work across teams—the key idea being that you don’t let the tool end up controlling the workflow process. You want to determine the best processes first, then select and adapt tools that are a good fit.

This is common sense, and there’s a lot to back up this approach. It’s true that if you delve too deeply into the inner workings of any particular tool, you can end up with the worst outcome possible: a heavily-customized product that has eaten up a ton of your time, money, and labor as a result of continuous compromises.

But there are benefits when you don’t modify, specialize, and custom-fit your online tools.

When you work with tools that have been customized too extensively, it’s easy to forget that the best processes are portable across teams—that means they have fewer specificities, not more. The way we see it, the optimal solution is to share only essential, core processes across teams, while allowing those teams to customize around their specific needs. This is exactly the kind of thing Unito was designed to help you do.


Don’t Let the Workflow Process Justify Itself

A good workflow process should lead to better outcomes for clients and customers. When we lose sight of that ultimate goal as we’re developing work processes and the tools that manage them, we can end up with processes that are continually eating their own tails. In such cases, processes are self-refining to the point where the only improvements are within areas of the process itself—tracking, accountability, notifications, reporting.

If the process doesn’t deliver more value to the consumer, it’s good to optimize the workflow process. When looking at ways to make a process better, we want to find improvements that affect results beyond the process itself. Things like:


  • Improving product quality
  • Sparking insights and innovation
  • Promoting or facilitating collaborative work
  • Increasing team motivation, morale, and purposefulness


Building the ultimate, perfect ticketing system isn’t going to get your company anywhere unless it directly feeds into providing a better product and a better experience for the customers you’re serving.


Better Processes Lead to Better Collaboration

The core of inter-team collaboration should be light, portable processes that share the minimum, essential information across teams. Unito allows teams to use the tools that they want, and to then sync over only the information that is truly necessary and useful.

One thing to keep in mind about good collaborators: they communicate the elements that are most necessary and helpful for the people they’re collaborating with, rather than the elements that are most important for themselves.

A good cross-team workflow should focus on providing other teams with the information they need to get their respective parts of the job done. Passing on information and tools that aren’t relevant to the work others are doing isn’t going to generate better outcomes.


Choosing the Right Processes to Share

Maybe now you’re convinced that light, standard-issue processes are the way to go, but remember that it isn’t an either/or decision. Once you’ve got a light workflow process that works across teams, you can use apps like Unito to share it in a macro sense while still allowing individual teams to modify and build onto the cores processes. This lets them create the kind of custom micro-processes that they need to be effective.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when creating a workflow process to share:


  • Can other teams use this process, or was it built around a specific team’s objectives?
  • Is this process designed to improve outcomes on the consumer end, or only to improve the process itself?
  • Is there extraneous functionality or information in this process that other teams don’t need?
  • Were the decisions that shaped this process based on the capabilities or limitations of the tools we’re using to implement it?


There’s a place for idiosyncratic, heavily-specialized custom processes, but that place almost certainly isn’t “being shared among all your teams on your project management app.” Unito can be a powerful way to sync up the light processes that all your teams can use, across all the platforms your company uses, while allowing specialized processes to continue to grow and adapt where they’re needed.


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