My systems analysis class, taught by the amazing Stephanie Haas, was all about workflows, both physical and technical. This could be something as simple as the process for checking out at a supermarket or something technical like a system for managing all the aspects of a cohousing community, and all sorts of other matters. Our assignments involved creating diagrams of how these systems work and then analyzing ways to make them more efficient. We were then organized into groups, and my group had the task of creating a unified system that managed aspects of life at a cohousing community in Carborro. (I actually just looked at their website now, and they did actually implement the Plone system that we designed for them. Cool.)
I am going to make some of these same sorts of diagrams for processes that we do here at the Special Collections Research Center and (eventually) share them with you all. I want to make one for our system of answering reference requests (including making copies, ordering research time, and our part of billing) and the process for getting classes to come into the SCRC. Hopefully we can discover ways to make the processes more efficient, saving us time, energy, and sanity. But even if that doesn’t happen, it will allow us to reflect on what we are currently doing in a more general way, allowing us to approach our daily tasks in way that we don’t normally.
If any of you have any suggestions for other workflows that we could be analyzing, how to go about this process, or workflow stories of your own, please let me know.