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The Importance of Being Work Flow

by Jack Santos  |  March 20, 2014  |  Comments Off on The Importance of Being Work Flow

In this era of Big Data we often forget that data without process is like a day without…well you get it.  It being tax season in the US, I came across a prime example which I initially thought was a stretch, until it happened to me!

In the good old days of (say) ten years ago, the tax process was simple: you either did it yourself, or you had a third party do it – but in either case you sent the paperwork (forms etc.) with the check (if you owed money).

Well, electronic submission has changed all that.  Now the common practice (especially if you don’t trust turning over access to your bank account to the IRS) is to send a check separately from the form.  And the repercussions of that could be huge.  What was a single communication stream like this:



 becomes this:


No -This is not a rant about taxes – which would be entirely inappropriate for this blog – but it is an observation about what could  happen when we decouple data from process.  Miscommunication between preparer and citizen (wrong amount, missed email, etc. etc.), the inability of the bureaucracy to match receipts with forms, any number of things can go wrong – that wouldn’t have happened before  (or would have happened fewer times).  Then we need to think about how we remedy that ( if we allow the new process to exist)  – more process on top of process, more disruption, more cost.

Analytics is part of the puzzle.  The new scenario could complicate analytics (do we now need a data warehouse to match money to form and method? or to analyze the decoupled data and more complicated process?).  And let’s not even get into what’s the “meta data” – ala NSA concerns – especially now that they are two disjoint streams.

And this week, while writing this blog post, just when I thought this couldn’t possibly happen to me, I received an unexpected check from – guess who – the IRS.  I  am more in the habit of giving money to the IRS – not receiving it.  So imagine my surprise when I found out that an estimated payment, sent in correctly and appropriately, was somehow not able to be matched to me.  So they sent it back. with interest.  I am spending the $1.24 all in one place.

Of course the simple solution to this workflow conundrum on the citizen end  is to give the money to the preparer so it emulates the initial process – the preparer sends in the money with the form.  But most preparers don’t do that, now that electronic filing has come of age. 

Or give the IRS access your bank account.  Yeah. That’s a good idea.

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Category: externalization  information-management  innovation  it-governance  management  managment  outsourcing  practitioner  

Tags: data-management  information  outsourcing  strategy  

Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio

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