How to Use Collaboration Software to Map Workflows

 How to Use Collaboration Software to Map Workflows

On the first day of my first Page Design Pro real job, the most senior editor of the journal publishing company that hired me took me to a huge flowchart pinned on a wall. “Here’s how an article goes from written to published,” she said. She walked me through the whole process, emphasizing the parts where my team and I were involved. This was 2001, before collaboration software was freely available, but the lessons I learned that day apply even in this age of Asana and Slack.


Every journal article went into an oversized poly envelope with a piece of paper taped to the front. The report was color-coded to the journal in which the article would appear. We called this a job jacket. Every time the article went to a different department, whether to the copy editors for proofing or the keyboarding department for changes, the history of its journey was logged on the job jacket. When one employee finished it, she would assign it to a new department by writing a line on the track sheet. Anyone who saw a job jacket knew exactly all the stages the article had been through and where it was supposed to go next.

Thinking back on it, these job jackets were a precursor to and physical manifestation of today’s workflow software, like Asana. The workflow chart pinned to the wall was an excellent orientation for me as a new employee and anyone else on board. It gave me a clear picture of the organization’s actions and how. In today’s world, where we push for paperless environments and have largely moved to electronic files and folders, it’s easier to forgo creating these kinds of workflow documents and keeping them updated. But for all businesses and hobbyist-level teamwork projects, documenting your workflow is super important.


Why Document Workflow?

Why should you document your workflow? There are a few critical reasons, including the following:

  • It helps business owners and managers fully think through and understand what happens at every stage of the business process and why;
  • It enables unnecessary steps to be identified and cut out of methods;
  • It reminds employees or team members who may be distant from certain stages of the business why they exist and what value they provide;
  • It’s essential for onboarding team members;
  • It’s one of the best ways of explaining to potential colleagues, clients, and investors how a business operates; and
  • It allows a team to start using collaboration tools more effectively.

To that last point, I’ve already mentioned Asana. Asana is a workflow management tool, like a to-do list on steroids. It resembles the job jacket system I used in my first publishing job. Asana lets you track tasks that need to be done and push them through a process. Every lesson has a history of all the steps or subtasks that it’s been through. When one person finishes the subtask, they assign it to the next step and direct it to a person or department who will pick it up next. I’ve made the analogy before that Asana is like a deck of cards, whereas project management software is like a board game. When you open up a board game, you might have a board, various playing pieces, and a clear rulebook for how to play the game. Everyone who is playing agrees to those pre-determined rules.

Dennis Bailey

Professional beer geek. Alcohol ninja. Social media scholar. Award-winning twitter fanatic. Writer. Basketball fan, mother of 2, audiophile, Saul Bass fan and communicator, collector, connector, creator. Producing at the sweet spot between simplicity and purpose to create strong, lasting and remarkable design. I'm a designer and this is my work.