Open Source Workflow Risk DiceDefining the gap between the features and functionality that you need and what you get with Free or Open Source Workflow software is critical.

There are many Workflow/BPM products on the market today – some free, some open source workflow, and some requiring high-end licensing fees.  While you often get what you pay for, even some of the high-end products do not include today’s latest Workflow/BPM features.  When comparing workflow tools, check to see if they provide the following:

1. Thin-client Graphical Designer – a browser-based workflow design environment in which you diagram your processes by dragging and dropping actions/steps onto the design surface and drawing the connections between them.

Open Source Workflow Workflow Designer

Open Source Workflow Workflow Designer

2. Thin-client Graphical Execution Viewer – a browser-based workflow execution viewing environment displaying a graphical view of the workflow execution progress and the workflow definition on which it is based.

Open Source Workflow Route Return Expression Values

Open Source Workflow Route Return Expression Values

Looking at the graphical view of an execution instance will make it easier to pinpoint errors, reduce redundant steps or connections, and intuit process improvements that can be made.

Open Source Workflow Workflow Instance Execution View

Open Source Workflow Workflow Instance Execution View

 

3. Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) – a messaging layer that provides for event-based application interaction, and in this case, event-based workflow execution.  The ESB is considered the digital highway for transporting communication and data between disparate systems within a network. For example, when a PO is created in SAP, an event can be triggered, messaged via the ESB, and received by the workflow engine for workflow execution processing. ESB is an essential technology when integrating with other systems.

4. Web Services API – a programming interface that exposes Workflow/BPM services for integration with other platforms, including those implemented in scripting languages such as PHP, Java, etc. For example, one might use the Web Services API to expose Workflow/BPM services to platforms that can be utilized by mobile devices.

5. High Performance, Distributed Engine – a distributed workflow engine whose performance is maintained and possibly increased when scaled. Today, a distributed, scalable workflow engine can leverage the hardware of a cloud environment to optimize memory and CPU usage, maximizing processing throughput.

6. Custom Steps – most Workflow/BPM products come with a library of steps applicable to common business processes.  Supporting the use of a common programming language to build custom steps for your workflow definitions increases the power of the tool by enabling tailoring of workflows to your specific business needs.

7. Automated Failover Processing – enables use of redundant servers to monitor and automatically process with failover conditions.  If the main server goes down, the redundant server must take over processing automatically.

8. Support – many free products do not have proper support or timely fixes for application/integration issues, even bug fixes. Email support can help in many cases, but for critical issues, the availability of telephone support is a must.

A small sampling of the Workflow Technology for BPM Solutions contained within our cDevWorkflow product offering can be found here: Workflow Technology That Works.

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