The Metamorphoses of Workflow Projects in their Early Stages
Empirical studies on workflow usually focus on systems which have already been introduced and on the problems which occur with these systems if exceptional cases differ from the regular business processes. This study focuses on the problems that occur in the early stages of projects intended to introduce workflow systems but which do not inevitably succeed. In most cases the companies under investigation eventually introduced other types of software, or the business processes were merely analysed and improved but not automated during the project. We explain this phenomenon by referring to Orlikowski’s concept of metamorphoses which analysed organizational change under conditions of groupware usage. A number of empirical details in our study of seven companies during a 4-year period can be related to this concept as well as to literature on workflow. In our ex-post study of the workflow projects we concluded that paradoxically starting with a workflow project might be an appropriate way of introducing improvement in cooperation and coordination without using workflow management technology and that concepts for flexible workflow technology are of minor relevance for this improvement.