TThis month marks the official release of Etrieve Flow , our next-generation workflow solution. We’re excited to introduce this beautiful and easy to use application and provide you with a high-level overview of our newest product. This article will help explain how it works and define its purpose within the Etrieve Suite.
Before introducing Etrieve Flow, let’s set the stage by introducing a few key concepts on workflow and workflow applications.
What is workflow?
Wikipedia does a nice job of defining workflow as “a view or representation of real work. The flow being described may refer to a document, service or product that is being transferred from one step to another.”
What is a workflow application?
We’ve again referenced Wikipedia to define a workflow application: “A software application which automates, to at least some degree, a process or processes. The processes are usually business-related but can be any process that requires a series of steps to be automated via software.”
What’s at risk without a workflow application?
When an institution does not use a content management system along with a workflow application, many business processes begin and end with paper, computer files or emails. These are passed from one person to the next based on a set of rules that everyone must follow. This approach presents several problems:
- Process rules are not strictly enforced
While process rules may be documented and published, they are only as effective as participants are able to follow them consistently. When changes are made, all participants must be careful to adhere to the new rules and not revert back or get confused with old rules.
- Security is not strictly enforced
Paper must be physically locked away and secured to prevent unauthorized access. Computer files located on shared locations are open for anyone to view who happens gain access. Email can originate from any number of email providers and should not be considered secure or reliable.
- No system of record
If paper documents, computer files or emails are not delivered correctly or organized properly, they can be lost. With no system of record, they can be difficult to retrieve at best and impossible to find at worst.
- Lack of auditing
When each person is responsible for manually passing paper or computer files to the next person in the process, there is no proof of who actually viewed and acted on them. Email can loosely provide an audit trail but cannot be trusted to accurately capture the full sequence of the process.
Introducing Etrieve Flow
Now comes the easy part; answering the lingering question of “What is Etrieve Flow?”
Simply put, Etrieve Flow ensures digital content (documents, audio/video files, etc.) is delivered according to a pre-defined series of steps (workflow).
Even simple business processes can be difficult to follow in paragraph or outline form. By utilizing a visual representation processes become clearer, faults are uncovered that may have been previously undetected and the overall process is optimized.
Flowcharts are a well-established method for recording processes. The first structured method for document process flow was introduced by Frank Gilbreth to members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 94 years ago. Flowcharts are also an effective method for understanding processes. Van Fredrick, IT expert at Demand Media, states “a flowchart bridges the vocabulary gap that occurs between diverse groups that work together.” I’ve shared these facts to emphasize the workflow designer experience within Etrieve Flow.
Workflow Designer Experience
Building complex business processes using Etrieve Flow is simple and intuitive with drag and drop functionality within the workflow designer. There are no complex computer languages required to learn. The interface is welcoming, not intimidating. The result is a visual representation of your business processes which is easy for everyone to understand- just like a flowchart.
Below is the workflow designer in Etrieve Flow. Notice the clean layout that provides a powerful collection of tools for building workflows specific to the institution’s needs.
Workflow Participant Experience
As we saw, the workflow designer is used to create and define workflows. Etrieve Flow then handles routing work to the correct workflow participants (called actors). These actors need to know what work is assigned to them so that they can take action to pass responsibility to another actor or complete the workflow. They do not need to be burdened with making decisions on who receives the work in order to be advanced.
Below is the inbox in Etrieve Flow. This is where actors view their assigned work as well as make decisions (approve, deny, etc.). Work is organized into packages which contain one or more documents.
Earlier in this article, we examined four problems that exist when an institution does not use a workflow application. Let’s see how Etrieve Flow solves each of these problems:
- Enforced process rules
Etrieve Flow allows institutions to keep content securely stored and enforces process rules defined using the workflow designer which must be followed.
- Strictly enforced security
Work is assigned to pre-defined users, groups or roles. Unless work is assigned through Etrieve Flow, it cannot be acted upon. When used in conjunction with Etrieve Content, digital content is only available to those who have been authorized to view it through Etrieve Security.
- Single system of record
Etrieve Flow works with Etrieve Content to provide a single source of truth for an institution. This is a powerful combination which provides assurance that everyone references precisely the same document. Searching and locating documents are easier and more reliable since all content is centrally stored. This also results in much more robust backup and restore capability in the event of a disaster.
- Auditing made simple
The ability to know who has acted on work and when is important. Etrieve Flow maintains history for packages and also allows actors to add comments for further clarification.
Etrieve Flow empowers institutions to visually build business processes which are far superior to manual transferring of paper, computer files and emails. With the ability to elegantly build workflows and represent them as flowcharts, users and admins alike gain a better understanding of an institution’s business processes. Users will save time by focusing on how to handle work and let Etrieve Flow decide how it is transferred and ultimately completed.
The Etrieve Flow Team
In closing, I would like to recognize our extremely talented team which was responsible for designing and developing Etrieve Flow. They each played in integral role in producing this game-changing application that will boost our customers’ productivity and allow for greater operational efficiency enterprise-wide.