Overview of K2.net Enterprise Human Workflow Tools: ASP Alliance

The K2.NET product encompasses so many aspects to an organisation – it’s hard to know where to begin sometimes.  Business Process Management is the “buzz-phrase” – and I hear it’s something to do with “workflow” too ?!?

Just been reading a great article @ ASP-Alliance – they start with the following “definition” of workflow, with MY interpretations and thoughts to follow (review/discuss/etc) :

The Workflow Management Coalition (http://www.wfmc.org) defines workflow as the automation of a business process, in whole or part, during which documents, information or tasks are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules.

Ummm, OK – what about an example ??   

  • A user within the office intranet is entering details for an new employee.  The new starter’s name, address and salary details are all entered onto the web-form, and the “category” of personnel is entered – eg. Senior Management.
  • When the form is submitted, the K2.NET server reads the submitted form, and sends off a request to a web-service interacting with the “Active Directory” of the organisation.  This creates a new user account, and selects the “User Group” within Active Directory co-relating to “Senior Management”.
  • Another web service creates an email account within Microsoft Exchange, and yet another web service add the salary & address details to the Human Resources Payroll system.
  • By the time the new employee is shown to his new desk and turned on his computer, he will have a login, email address, permissions to intranet portals and even some auto-generated welcome emails from the social club and footy tipping.

Now, that is what I would actually call “System Workflow” – as the user simply submitted a form, and (auto-magically) data was shuffled about the corporation.   The steps above are more likely to be considered “I.T. Admin” tasks – not what a CEO or board would consider to be “business processes”.

And – if you read the “dictionary definition” above – NOT what would you call workflow. K2.NET simply is being used as an expensive scripting tool with .NET.

The real benefits to an organisation (and what a CEO will agree) will come when the “inefficient” aspects are improved – and that’s PEOPLE !

How many offices have paper shuffling exercises ?   Purchase orders, travel requests, sick leave – to name only a few.

I can sense the nodding of approval – some people do have offices like these :

You have to print off a form, then you have it signed by a certain person – if it’s more than $X,000, then also signed by another person – and a copy to personnel and warehouse, and so on – and it might come back ’cause you forgot your employee number – and then sit in your in-tray until you see if three days later !    All the while you’ve been assuming it’s been ordered !!   *blah*

The workflow at play here is “human” – inheritently inefficient.  Not reliable, not measurable, not dependable, not timely, and so on.    (not everyone office clerk is like this, or course !)

And so – this rounds out part(II) of the definition from above :

…documents, information or tasks are passed from one participant to another for action according to a set of procedural rules

Here’s a solution to the above “blah” scenario :

  • Purchase Order WebForm has fields to enter – and “must enter” Employee number
  • Saved to Sharepoint – and “workitem” email approval request to manager, if greater than $x,000
    • Manager opens the Email and clicks “Approve” – or “Deny” – or “More Info” which transmits the form back to the originating requestor.
  • Once approved – email to personnel (User Group), and update in HR system
  • Send “workitem email”to warehouse to check for item
  • Warehouse staff finds that item is in stock – and deducts from inventory system – and returns to employee.
  • If item was NOT found, then a Word document order form is auto-generated from the initial information – and faxed to the manufacturer, and a “sorry, delay” email returned to the originator.

Advantages (at first glance)

(1) Can’t “miss” the Employee number – validation of data

(2) Workflow (K2.NET) will always show who hasn’t done their bit in the process – the bottleneck.

(3) No lost or missed orders – or when it was/wasn’t entered in HR system 

(4) Who did what / when and why to the purchase order document.

Management can then being to gather statistics and determine that (for example) the bottleneck is “manager approval”.  Has he got too many tasks ?   Maybe need more staff ?   Maybe he needs a wake-up call ?!?   🙂

This is just one example of a Human Workflow – (1) documents – stored electronically, and (2) people doing their part.

For another example, have a look at the Overview of K2.net Enterprise Human Workflow Tools: ASP Alliance article – some more information into the “technical” aspects of K2.NET – for the techies, once the business folk have tuned out.

What are your thoughts – would you agree with the above “definition” – or would you change it ?  

Are there any GOOD – or BAD – processes in your office/workplace ?


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