We are leaving a world of workflow and entering the world of search. In order to be effective, workflow requires hierarchy and organization and alternatively, search requires comprehensiveness and speed. The pace of the migration depends heavily on our confidence that search tools are capable of finding just what we want just when we want it. Once our confidence in search gains a foothold we will never look back.
To find a document in the workflow context, a contract for example, we would go to a contract management system which in the physical world might be a file drawer labeled contracts, but in the digital world would be a tab in a CRM system labeled contracts. Once we understand the hierarchy and arrive at that location, we are able to sort through and find the contract on some ordered list - probably alphabetical.
In the search context all documents of any nature involving any party would be in one giant hypothetical drawer and we would search for the contract by some indexed keywords -- probably name, maybe plus contract.
The workflow structure is more comfortable because we have always done it that way and we like it because it is orderly and logical. However, If we fail to find what we want in the workflow context we have to find a person who is more likely to know where it is - muttering all of the way about how people do not adopt these tools.. bla bla bla.
Anyone familiar with the experience of searching for things and not finding them, has probably adopted a process that includes widening the search until it is certain to catch the object searched for, and then narrowing until it the list presented is short enough to look through. Whenever the list get's too short, i.e does not include the item being sought, then back up and try a different query.
This search process depends entirely on our confidence that everything is in the giant file drawer -- this is comprehensiveness, plus the ability to do many searches until the right combination of criteria are discovered -- this requires speed. Once search achieves a certain amount of this user confidence, the workflow method of organizing/finding things is going to feel as ridiculous as an iPAQ in the age of the iPhone.
When searching for something in Salesforce.com it is difficult to back up enough to cast the net wide and get a comprehensive dataset to start with. Just about all tab based workflow systems I have used suffer this same malady. The purveyors of workflow style systems are notoriously bad at search -- maybe they don't think it is needed.