by August 4, 2005 0 comments

OmniFlow is a business process management solution that has grown from a solution made only for the insurance sector to something any organization can use. The version we reviewed requires a Win 2000/2003 server OS, with SQL Server 2000 or Oracle 8i. Clients require IE6 with a Java virtual machine. As JVM is not available for IE6, you’ll need to install Sun Java2 separately. Your set-up time is mainly taken up with the installation of these components, but since typical corporate networks will anyway be having these servers deployed, installation is very straightforward. 

There are two main components of the solution-one called OmniDocs Pro Server provides backup and service administration and the second called OmniFlow system has an administration and a client component. The admin component has three applications-Config Server to monitor your configuration and make changes,and run different ‘server’ components of OmniFlow on various machines through the Config server; Forms Server to serve content to the clients and the Process Modeler to design the workflow. The dashboard on client component allows you to register, start and stop various components; finally there is the Process Client which forms the user’s interface to the system, through either a thick Win32 client or a set of server-hosted Web pages implemented in JSP, ASP or whatever.

The forms designer interface is a RAD environment featuring drag-drop setup and comprehensive step-configuration

A ‘task’ typically involves several steps, like checking the submitted information and documents, validating them, checking status and so on before placing a ‘done’ mark on that item. Along the way, different portions of your organization would come into play, handling different aspects of this process. With OmniFlow’s solution, you will first use the Process Modeler to layout the processes involved. You simply drag-drop the various elements like start and exit markers, decision and system-managed events, visually onto the canvas. You can right click on each element to get a comprehensive configuration screen that allows you to set up constraints that control both of how the work-item enters that step and how and when it exits. After this, the workflow process owner will register the process. Then, he also has to assign different aspects of the workflow to the various users. If your network uses LDAP, OmniFlow can integrate with that to draw users, otherwise it has its own standalone database. Assignments and security can be set either user-group wise or user-wise. With this, 
various users will get the assigned tasks listed on their client screens and can begin to work on them. Supervisors re-model the workflow and reassign work at any time.

This is not an easy solution to get started off with, because its distributed nature mandates that every application carry a user name and password. While our evaluation copy can use a standard credential for all items, this is not a typical deployment scenario. Also, the amount of complexity introduced (eg, login box directly demands that you know your SQL Server’s IP address and port numbers) at various stages makes it a little daunting. The interface is feature rich and allows you to perform all actions for the particular work item and step. At the client side, the browser-interface works by downloading an ActiveX control to the PC and then showing the forms designed through that. NewGen says the customer has the option to deploy thinner HTML front ends instead of the higher-bandwidth and richer UI of the ActiveX Web form.

Bottom Line: An impressive product that could do with some interface tweaking and simplification. The cost is worth the smooth workflow it provides.

Sujay V Sarma

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