Workflows Are More Useful Than Solutions

In our day-to-day lives we use a collection of products and homegrown tools to do our work. One approach to solving a problem is to attempt to be a complete solution that fully solves the problem, but there is a tradeoff–the more complete the solution the less useful it becomes in more situations.

In order to solve something completely, the solution needs to assume more about your problem or become really complicated in trying to solve every corner case mucking up the experience (see user experience entropy). A workflow approach is more useful to a wider range of variations by assuming you are applying one or more pieces of functionality to solve a problem. Done well, components are useful independently and can be recombined and applied to more problems. However, finding the right level of abstraction that meets that criteria is difficult (especially compared to solving a single complete problem).

  • Consumers Buy Products, Enterprises Buy Platforms

    The buying behavior of consumers versus enterprises can be characterized by the difference between products and platforms. A product is a specific solution to a problem or problem area whereas platforms are frameworks for implementing present and future workflows. This explains why, as businesses grow larger they start to buy from Oracle, Workday, etc. they’ve outgrown what a single product can do.

  • A Hundred Things to Organize

    Whenever there are a hundred things or more in a process someone is doing, there is a recognition that “there must be a better way”. A hundred items are the upper bound of what one can reasonably track manually. A hundred items indicate that the process is more complicated than one thought.

  • Our Digital Lives Are Siloed

    Most elements of our digital lives (e.g. apps) only exist within themselves and seldom work together. Because workflows are more useful than point solutions that leaves users with the burden of getting things to work together, humans are the interop layer.