Workflow management systems are incredibly useful tools for automating complex processes. Using a workflow management system, managers can set up exactly how tasks should flow from department to department, team to team, or individual to individual, so that they don’t have to do all of that work and co-ordination themselves.

For example, a product feature might require several different tasks to be completed by several different people before it can be marked as completed. Without a workflow management system, the manager and their team members would have to communicate the set up and completion of tasks individually. This is time consuming and potentially confusing.

With a workflow management system, instead of telling their manager, “I’ve done the thing that needed to be done before the other things could be done, so you can tell Thingy, Thingummy, and Whatsername that they can do the other things now,” in an email, call, or in-person visit, a team member can now just click “Done” and the workflow management system does the rest.

Workflow management systems are an absolute life-saver for complex projects, particularly in software development, but there is a downside. With so many interactions being automated by software tools, people who work with workflow management systems on a day-to-day basis can start neglecting (or even forgetting how) to communicate on a person-to-person level. And sometimes this neglect can slow the workflow instead of making it more efficient.

Most workflow management systems do allow for notes and messages to be added to tasks and notifications, and there’s a certain style of communication that’s usually best suited to these messages: to-the-point and abrupt, often using shorthand words and structures. The people using the “machine” of the workflow management system start communicating like machines themselves. This is understandable and usually appropriate. After all, task notes are not the place for in-depth discussions of small talk.

However, it’s important to remember that every “user” assigned to a workflow management system is a human being and not a machine. Unlike machines, people don’t always respond well to brief, codified language. And this isn’t just about feelings (although feelings certainly come into it). It’s more that sometimes communication needs to be more elaborate in order for the recipient to understand what the message even means.

Every team member using a workflow management system needs to understand the limits of the system, and the benefits of communicating by other means. And by “other means”, we don’t mean emailing a link to a task on the workflow application with the subject header, “When are you going to do this?”

Without the communication skills and communication tools to make it work, a workflow management system can sometimes do more harm than good. Whenever an issue arises that an automated system can’t deal with effectively, then your team needs to be able to communicate clearly, professionally, and meaningfully. An automated notification won’t tell anyone what a task means to someone on the other side of the office, the other side of town, or even the other side of the world. To really understand each other’s needs, priorities, and motivations we need to communicate on a personal level. “Personal” in this case doesn’t mean “private” or “intimate”, or even necessarily “in-person”. It simply means treating each other as people, not machines.

The ideal method for personal communication is, of course, communicating face-to-face, in the flesh. But in the 21st century business world this is often impossible, even without COVID-19. We usually default to a phone call, email, or messaging app as a second choice, but these are all dated and have their drawbacks. Woice is a communication tool designed to allow and encourage the best aspects of the most effective forms of human communication, making it the perfect partner for any workflow management system.