How to increase work autonomy in workflow management systems?

Irene Vanderfeesten and Hajo A. Reijers (Department of Technology Management, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Eindhoven, The Netherlands)

Management Research News

ISSN: 0140-9174

Publication date: 1 October 2006



Current workflow management systems (WfMS's) are often too rigid and lead to “chain production” in the office. The paper proposes a number of “tuning measures” to reconfigure an implemented WfMS in such a way that it is more agreeable to the needs of its users.


The “tuning measures” are generated through a creative process that is founded on two theoretical pillars: the job characteristics model, from the domain of job design theory and work psychology, and the assignment and synchronization policies, from the area of workflow management.


By combining theories from both job design theory and workflow management we have developed a number of measures to “tune” WfMS's in a human oriented way. An expert panel has selected the six most promising of these measures. These six measures have been used in the evaluation of three contemporary WfMS's. From this evaluation we concluded that current workflow technology is only partly able to support our measures.

Research limitations/implications

Because of the limited system evaluation, it would be valuable to do a more thorough evaluation of the three systems, have a closer study of the other generated ideas, and to broaden the scope of systems we considered. Additionally, it seems worthwhile to perform an actual validation in practice, i.e. an experiment with real workflow users in a realistic setting.


New in this paper is the focus on people working with WfMS's. The paper tries to go beyond the traditional borders of finding a good support for a business process. It highlights the importance of the human factor in the success of the implementation of a workflow system in a company and gives directions for concrete improvement in order to make working with a WfMS more enjoyable to its users. The proposals stated in the paper are of value to workflow designers, managers and workflow researchers.



Vanderfeesten, I. and Reijers, H. (2006), "How to increase work autonomy in workflow management systems?", Management Research News, Vol. 29 No. 10, pp. 652-665.

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