Covering governance and compliance, I have the opportunity to speak with a wide variety of people who are focused on different aspects of the compliance process -- whether they represent regulatory agencies, industry lobbies, those who create the technology that companies use to meet their compliance obligations, or the companies that actually implement the technology.
Not long ago, I spoke with representatives from ActionBase -- a company that has some new ideas on managing the more "fluid" processes within an organization that have been called "tacit interactions," or "human processes." Things like audits, board of directors actions or strategy meetings often end with findings or decisions that must be acted upon by several people. To keep track of who has done what, management must often look through a plethora of e-mail threads and attachments, and it's easy to get lost or to not get a full picture of where the process stands.
But that's where ActionBase technology comes in, CTO Jacob Ukelson explained:
What ActionBase does is offer an add-on to e-mail and document systems... In some sense, what you're creating here is a collaborative e-mail where the manager and the participants can see the process as it's evolving. I can see what the status is, I can see who's done their work, who hasn't done their work, what has been attached, what's been modified. And instead of having 10, 20, 30 different line items in my inbox dealing with this particular process, I have one item tracking that process. It's a single line item in my Outlook inbox, and I'll see it change over time as the work gets done.
And that's not all, he says. There is also a document system add-on that will keep track of all the attachments associated with a particular process, and keep them in context:
You can have a document where you line up what needs to be done, you put in the due dates, you tag the recipients, and once you publish this document, it generates an ActionMail for each of the different things that need to be done and kicks off the process. Then people can go do the work and date it, with the attachments that need to be attached, and this will all be reflected in the original document. And I as the manager will be able to open up that original document and see where things stand for each finding, what's been done, the attachments that have been made. I can see exactly where this audit process stands.
According to the company Web site, these "collaborative e-mails" and "living documents" are currently used by such customers as Sprint, eOn, Texas Instruments and BG Group. But as the concept gains broader exposure, I can imagine it will be used in even more industries and companies.