Author: John McCawley

What is an Emergent Workflow?

I'm not sure if there's any consensus on the definition of an emergent workflow.  It's a term that I use to describe a pattern I have witnessed in business software.  To me, an emergent workflow is a workflow that was not designed explicitly into a piece of software, but slowly evolved via users' usage of the system, and the development of conventions to support workflows as they develop.  If you have ever developed a piece of business software that manages any form of workflow, and that software has been in production for more than a year, you can be certain that there is an emergent workflow within that software – whether you realize it or not.

software developers

So What?

"There are only two hard problems in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things." - Phil Karlton. The above quote, while somewhat tongue in cheek, wears the ring of truth.  Naming things is hard.  Even when you put enormous effort into consistent and clear naming, you will invariably end up with some muddy and inconsistent caverns in your code.  And when you are unfortunate enough to inherit code from someone (or multiple someones) who put no effort into their naming...You're in for a world of pain.  If you have been programming for any length of time you know what I am talking about.