Becoming handy with dynamic processes, a look at the Bizflow BPM Suite

There are a lot of vendors making a play for the adhoc and dynamic process side of BPM with their solutions so when a company says it was there years ago I had to take a look. Enter HandySoft and their Bizflow BPMS tool which Garth Knudson, Director at HandySoft kindly gave me a briefing on recently. HandySoft have spent 20 years in the process space and in 1994 they created Bizflow their workflow flagship solution. Since then they’ve built on that solution and added ad-hoc routing around 7 years ago and in 2007 launched the Bizflow Office Engine which took that to another level with dynamic task execution.

Bizflow is a Java based solution and can be deployed with SQL or Oracle backends, also allowing for the now ubiquitous integration with Sharepoint via it’s Web Parts (?) handles the structured, ad-hoc and dynamic processes that exist in an organisation today, that is it can handle both process modelling in advance and those which cannot be mapped up front. 

The Bizflow Process Studio component contains the usual process repository elements found in other tools but Garth is keen to stress that from here a user can create an entire process executable in a zero coding environment as it’s all forms driven. The shape palette is based on BPMN so you can import any BPMN driven diagram easily into Bizflow and work on it from there, it’s simply a case of drag and drop. Users can however define their own default modelling templates so there’s no need to be strictly adherent to BPMN. Using the process studio users model the process and then via the forms driven environment define the workflow behind it, creating conditional flows (click on the joining line for example and define the sequence rules through the form), schedule times, thresholds or to call additional sub-processes and services into play such as email, db updates and web components.

Users are able to attach documents to the process tasks and activities and set access permissions based on the process participant roles. You can also create BI reports on the fly rather than have them predefined or requiring a developer at hand, such is the flexibility of the form based environment. The information captured and defined within the process can be passed as data to external components on three levels; at the activity level, the process level and globally so creating a report can glean information at varying levels depending on how deep you want to drill. Bizflow allows for BAM in real-time and can be invoked at any point in the process to target potential bottlenecks and understand what’s occurring. Another example of how flexible the Handsoft solution can be is that changes made to workflow or processes can be propagated throughout all or some of the processes making use of that particular attribute or activity, so in a case of halted or slow work you can target specific areas and improve the flow but leave other processes in place as they are that make us of that particular task. In terms of ad-hoc handling, Bizflow allows users to reroute work to another participant or participants outside of those defined in the workflow too.

Bizflow Webmaker is their latest addition which allows for the creation of rich interactive forms which act as the business application users see in front of the workflow. Again, it’s a no code approach and all drag and drop, from the construction of the form to how the data is passed from the application to the workflow. The mapping of data can be achieved either with the Bizflow database or via an external source and data binding is taken care of through the form controls itself.

One last component to explore, and possibly the most important for today’s focus in the industry is their dynamic tasking environment which allows users to create ‘knowledge worker’ based processes and can be used as a process discovery tool to track how a process instance unfolds dynamically as it happens.

I see this becoming of importance for clients and increasing in awareness as we as an industry explore these areas in more depth over the coming year so being able to aid in the process discovery for dynamic and unstructured processes, providing the flexibility to support them as well as a robust suite for the entire process lifecycle will become HandySoft’s strongest points.

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