Recently, one of our clients asked how they could move their internal purchase request workflow from a traditional paper-based system onto their IT infrastructure. This was quite a challenge since workflow packages are usually expensive both in licensing and development costs, and the budget was tight. We approached it as a mini-project with Analysis, Research, Implementation and Support phases.
The first task was a look at the business process to see what the requirements were. Although on the face of it the existing system was straightforward, it soon became apparent that requests were routed to departmental budget holders based on a cost code and the solution would have to be able to implement this branching. We agreed on the workflow to be implemented and took copies of the physical forms which would need electronic counterparts. The client has both Windows and Linux servers, and so it was agreed that either platform would be suitable.
Then came the research into what was available. After looking at a few options without finding anything which met all the criteria, we ran across Processmaker. It seemed to meet the requirements (and so far it has proved capable of doing everything that’s been asked of it) but the licensing model made it particularly interesting. Processmaker is available as a paid-for product using supported or fully hosted models. But there’s also a free Community Edition with no feature restrictions to the core product, if you’re happy to support and host yourself.
The implementation tasks were identified and split between available client resources and ourselves. The client installed the software and then we had an afternoon session on site to show how to use the package, during which we guided the set up of the basic workflow. We identified further task and routing configuration for the client to carry out, and also some code-oriented form layout and trigger tasks which we carried out remotely after researching solutions.
We’re currently supporting the rollout of the new online workflow but couldn’t wait to tell about it!
We think Processmaker is a really good fit for small to medium businesses who want to start leveraging their existing server and email infrastructure to move workflow away from paper based systems. Here are a few reasons why.
Obviously the feature set is key, and Processmaker implements all the workflow features you are likely to need. Task routing can be serial or parallel, and business rules can be implemented to control routing. Online forms can be easily created for data entry, and the captured data can be used to control task routing as well. Input documents can be attached and output documents created. And each task has a number of trigger points associated with it, so if the standard features won’t do exactly what you want you always have the option of writing some custom code that does precisely what you require.
All the day to day tasks are carried out in a browser. The main user workflow screen uses a clear email style layout. The main workflow configuration uses a visual designer which is intuitive but powerful. One really great feature is the built in debugger, which allows you to troubleshoot workflow processes you’re designing to see exactly what the rules and triggers are doing.
Processmaker uses an Apache web server and MySQL database. The core product is implemented in the language PHP, and custom code is written in PHP as well. These are technologies that many IT staff will already be familiar with. It runs on Windows (XP, Vista, 7, Server 2003 & 2008) or various distributions of Linux and Unix. The Windows installer version automatically installs Apache, PHP, MySQL and phpMyAdmin (MySQL management tool) and configures them for use with Processmaker. The Linux installation is a bit more involved as they rightly assume that components such as Apache and MySQL are either already installed or are best installed from the operating system’s own repository rather than from a third party such as themselves.
As mentioned previously, if the Community Edition fits your requirements then the software itself is free. Hardware requirements are very low and Processmaker is a great candidate for VMWare or a shared use physical server. Internal and external implementation costs are going to depend on available skills and the complexity of the process, but for a simple workflow it’s certainly possible to get Processmaker from installation through process analysis and configuration to a running workflow in less than a day.
If you’d like to talk to us about a workflow project, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1344 668014.