Sometimes extra steps in workflows are good

When implementing a content management system or other product, customers often ask for workflows that require the least number of steps required to any given complete task. At first, this seems to make perfect sense; however consider this example of a car:

Before you can get inside your car and start driving you have to perform the following steps:

  1. unlock the car door
  2. pull the door handle
  3. open the door
  4. get inside the car
  5. close the door

Steps 1, 2, 3, and 5 seem to add unnecessary actions to the workflow. The goal here is to be able to start driving to get to the destination. Over the course multiple car trips over a day, these steps seem to “waste” a lot time. An easier and “better” workflow may be for cars not to have a door at all. Then you’d save the steps of having to open and close the door.

However, with the current level of commonly available technologies, it makes sense for a car to have a door and require these steps before you can start driving.

Extra steps are often required to provide security, maintainability, reuse, reliability, scalability and performance.

Shortcuts aren’t always the best solution. You may save steps and thus cost now with shortcuts, but as a result you may pay much more later in other costs.

As technology advances, some necessary steps can be automated or eliminated. For example, some cars now have keyless entry that eliminates some of these steps. In the future, an advanced version of keyless entry may even open and close the door for you. However, expecting those in a car of today would be impractical.

Similarly in content management and other software extra steps aren’t always a bad thing. A good content management system isn’t one that allows web site producers to complete their tasks in the least number of steps. It is one that enables completion of the task in an optimal number of steps balanced with other factors like reuse, maintainability, flexibility and security.

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