Workflow solutions accelerate processes

Net Infinity argues that flexible software can solve local issues, but others suggest management policies are to blame.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  July 28, 2003

I|~||~||~|As more Middle East organisations look to grow their corporate advantage, it is becoming increasingly critical for them to deploy robust workflow solutions that help them streamline business processes and enhance productivity and efficiency.

As more Middle East organisations look to grow their corporate advantage, it is becoming increasingly critical for them to deploy robust workflow solutions that help them streamline business processes and enhance productivity and efficiency. However, most workflow management tools that are available today are out-of-the-box solutions that are neither flexible nor user-friendly. Furthermore, they increase vendor dependence, according to Madhumita Kalauny Pravin, CEO of Net Infinity.

As a result, the Dubai-based company has introduced a .Net based workflow engine called Skelta Workflow.Net that comes with a drag and drop feature, which enables the region’s developer community to easily deploy new applications on top of it while also giving them the flexibility to construct and modify rules within existing software.

“This is just not possible with the current suite of products that are available in the market,” says Pravin. “If we take the regular bunch of workflow solutions, they are all fantastic, no doubt and we can even benchmark best practices against them. However, they have very tightly integrated architectures and therefore, make it very difficult for developers to break. This means if you need to scale up the workflow to suit your organisation’s growing business needs, you will need to know the scripting language of the software itself or go back to the vendor for help,” she adds.

Consequently, when developers are faced with a client instance where they need to develop a workflow, they prefer to take on a ready engine such as Skelta and plug it into the client’s backend processes instead of building a solution from scratch. The client can then be given ownership of the engine so that in future, they can drag and drop the components into whatever new processes they are using. “All you need to do is write the basic XML tag and feed the data into Skelta and it could serve as anything from a content management tool to a complex workflow that you can use within your non-critical processes, such as human resources or administration,” continues Pravin.

||**||II|~||~||~|So if a client, for instance, had in place a leave application process for their organisation and two years later, the company changed its associated business process, rewriting the workflow would be relatively easy. “From this perspective, Skelta makes a lot of business sense for both developers as well as clients because they can take this engine and customise it to suit their business processes without having to rely on the vendor,” explains Pravin.

This flexibility is possible because Skelta is based on Microsoft’s .Net architecture, which, according to Pravin, allows end users to easily redefine their workflows to realign them with their changing business processes. "You have access to the actual engine, so you don’t need to know the language. You may have upgraded your ERP or moved from one platform to another. All you need to do is take this engine and embed this there, and your business will run just as it did before because it is rules-based,” she adds.

While Lars Bogvad Jeppesen, managing director of Valuevad agrees with Pravin that flexibility is a key requirement in workflow tools, he adds that organisations that go in for such solutions are often big and will have some of their IT people trained on that specific product. “Since flexibility and customisation are two big issues in workflow, most organisations that deploy this would have trained their staff to handle this,” he adds. Nevertheless, he admits that an easily customisable solution will be a more cost effective solution for companies.

Jeppesen, however, raises a more fundamental issue that concerns companies in the Middle East. According to him, companies, where most decisions are taken by the top management, fail to benefit from workflow solutions. “Workflows don’t produce many results in an organisation, where you don’t have a streamlined, efficient process in place,” says Lars. “In most cases here, you experience bottlenecks because you have to wait for the management to take a decision on every small issue. So you don’t really benefit from a workflow because you end up with a pile of e-mail instead of a pile of paper on your desk,” he adds.

According to Jeppesen, a workflow tool, by itself has become redundant globally because a lot of the functionality that was specific to the solution is now being built into many other business products. However, he agrees that an engine that will allow the developer community to build applications on top of it and allow for easy implementation and integration within an organisation will become an attractive choice as business processes mature in the region.||**||

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