One thing we all know about workflow: No-one knows enough about what’s going on

It takes a team of people with a range of skills and knowledge to create our web content. The way we work together and organise the tasks that go into creating content is, in sum, “workflow”. Approvals, stakeholder engagement, work-tracking and getting feedback on draft content are all aspects of workflow.

Problem is, there’s a standard form of workflow – the sign-off process – that makes it difficult to collaborate properly with all the people who contribute to making great web content. (As well as this, it also slows things down, like roadworks.)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone wants to know more about what’s going on, sooner

In my previous job I talked about our workflow with a lot of stakeholders and digital team members. No matter what role people played in the content creation process, they all said that they wanted to be involved, or at least informed, sooner than they typically were.

Earlier involvement makes it easier to get things right first time. It’s better to know upfront if there’s a common legal issue with a way we describe a particular product, upcoming-but-still-confidential marketing campaigns, or unique design challenges that can affect a page’s structure or the time it will take to build.

“Just tell us what you’re going to to do. Please.”

Late engagement makes it harder for people to do their job properly. If you have a full fortnight of work lined up and then get asked to approve a couple of unexpected webpages, you’ll either do a rushed job or be late. You’re probably also going to resent the Digital team.

Sign-off isn’t real engagement

Late engagement happens because we tend to divide stakeholders into the ones we work with from the start, and the ones only ever go to for sign-off. But sign-off signals the end of someone’s involvement. It’s the transaction that confirms that we’re all happy.

Sign-off isn’t engagement any more than paying the bill is a great night out

We get upset when other teams treat us like publishers and just hand us content that they think is good to go. How could they possibly expect to get things right when they didn’t let us help? Don’t they know that we’re the experts?

Flipping this around, when we throw something to stakeholders “just for sign-off”, we can create a similar impression. In either case, the content can suffer from someone’s expertise not being tapped early enough.

A better way to engage

When we have a “sign-off relationship” with someone, it’s very difficult to collaborate properly. This is one of the reasons why it’s time to end sign-off and move to a different way of working: risk management.