Can I work now? Anti-pattern

Tuesday, 19 March 2024 by

An anti-pattern is a design pattern discouraged for a variety of reasons. Regularly used in software development, anti-patterns are methods of accomplishing certain behavior which might be poorly implemented for either convenience or cost efficiency.

The reason I am drawing this terminology into some basic computerized businesses processes is because it is a good description of some of the issues I see with proper information flow inside of companies.

Today, I would like to highlight the “Can I work now?” anti-pattern. This immerges in a few places and usually associated with different processes. The basic circumstances look like this, the office is working on a document as a group in their individual workstations. You are ready to make your updates, but you cannot because someone is editing at the moment. So now you must call around the office and ask “Are you working on X? Could you please logout. I have something to add, which will take just five minutes.” It’s even more difficult if working remotely.

You may get lucky and easily identify who is working on what you need, other times it could be any number of people using this. Sadly, this is also the best-case scenario. At times a computer may crash and the file is locked without anyone actually using it. Other times, someone may be on vacation or even terminated from the company and it is still sitting open on their workstation without anyone knowing.

You can see how this can be frustrating and create a giant traffic jam in any business process.

These processes are used in:

  • Simple data collection built around Microsoft Excel (or similar spreadsheet software) programs.
  • Process, Walkthroughs, and Procedure Documentation.

Some reasons businesses are stuck with this model:

  • Older software.
  • Compliance is easier on an internal network than a cloud system.
  • Systems that are multi-user but because it slightly lowers a recurring cost, only one “license” is purchased for the system.
  • Older database systems that are multi-user BUT for whatever reason they are improperly configured and only allow one person in at a time, or worse, whenever multiple people are in it causes lost data that has led users to avoid using it at the same time.

Some solutions to this problem:

  1. Migrating to a cloud platform
    • Google Sheets
    • Microsoft SharePoint/OneDrive on Microsoft 365
    • Airtables provides a cloud based highly flexible spreadsheet system with a lot of database-like capabilities and custom programming.
  2. Build dashboards to replace manual entry that maintain themselves and are less likely to human error.
  3. Build custom software to meet needs precisely.

This software may continue to function with existing software or stand alone as a complete replacement.