E-mail is about as effective as launching spitballs at your co-workers when it comes to managing workflow: either of them might result in some action, but neither provides much accountability. If you really want to get a grip on workflow, you need something more. Novell's latest GroupWise WorkFlow Professional version 5.2 is the answer for those who use the GroupWise messaging system.
WorkFlow Professional adds graphical tools for designing and controlling workflows to the basic message-routing capabilities of GroupWise 5.2. You can use the tool for creating simple message routings or you can create conditional, parallel and circular workflows. What's more, you can attach documents, images and notes to each piece of workflow.
WorkFlow Professional is not instantly intuitive. In fact, I had to consult the online help just to get my first project started. But I soon found the program surprisingly easy to use.
You create a workflow by launching the WorkFlow Author. Curiously enough, despite other WorkFlow utilities being represented on the GroupWise toolbar, you have to go through the File/New/Workflow Professional menu sequence to access WorkFlow Author.
The main window of the Author already contains an initial workflow icon. Double-click on it to set workflow properties (including its name), to add notes, to attach documents and images and to specify which users will be able to track the workflow. When you attach documents, you also can specify whether recipients will be able to view, edit or remove the attachments.
You create the actual workflow steps by dragging icons from the Step Panel to the right of the main display. The icons, which you can create and configure at will by calling up the Role Administrator, represent individuals or groups, or even resources or activities. After you drop a Step icon onto the workspace, you link it to the workflow by simply clicking and dragging an arrow from the edge of the previous icon to the new one.
In placing workflow steps, the originator also can specify what responses are open to recipients. Then, depending upon the recipient's answer, the project will be directed to the next appropriate step. When a document goes to a department manager, for example, you might offer the manager two choices: approve or reject. If the manager rejects, the document returns to the originator. If the manager approves, it goes to the administrative assistant for processing.
Step by step
In addition, if you've set up the workflow in such a way that recipients can view, edit or remove attachments, you can modify those settings for recipients at each step. That is, at one step you might decide not to let an employee edit the attached document. You can also set deadlines for each step. Failure to meet the deadline will result in alert messages that are sent automatically.
Anyone in the system can originate a workflow. Notification of work and any attachments are routed through GroupWise, and as each step of the process is completed, the originator (or another user you designate) receives an e-mail notification. When the project is completed, a report of the steps and the dates on which they were completed is sent. If at any point you want to get a bird's-eye view of all your workflows, call up WorkFlow Central. This utility, directly accessible from the GroupWise client, offers a concise report of the status of all workflows, and you can quickly sort the lot by originator, subject, due date or several other criteria.
Remote users can also participate in workflows, though their steps will be delayed until they make a connection to the GroupWise server, of course.
I have only two significant criticisms of Work-flow Professional. First, the product currently works only with the Windows 95 and Windows NT GroupWise clients. Second, the product is so strong and easy to use, I wish it could be used with other e-mail systems, rather than being tied to GroupWise. Both requirements make it of limited use to shops with mixed e-mail environments and clients.
The RRP for GroupWise version 5.2 including Workflow Professional, starts at $1760 for five users.
GroupWise WorkFlow Professional, Version 5.2WorkFlow Professional brings powerful, easy-to-use workflow tools to users of GroupWise. Unfortunately, the product only works with Novell GroupWise clients for Windows 95 and Windows NTPros: Easy to use; supports conditional branching; good controls over document accessCons: Limited to Windows 95 and Windows NT clients; works only with GroupWise e-mailPlatforms: Windows 95 and Windows NTPrice: $1760 for a five-user licenceNovellTel (02) 9925 3000Fax (02) 9922 2133www.novell.comAcerPower -- it's an aceAcer Computer Australia has released the latest addition to its high-performance corporate PC range. The AcerPower T6510, according to the vendor, is a "best of breed" workstation PC which incorporates the fastest Intel processor and features the latest technologies for business users. Acer says the product combines superior graphics capabilities with leading PC management and hardware technology.
The AcerPower T16510 incorporates Intel's 333MHz Pentium II processor and is supported by the latest 440LX AGPset chipset. Other features include: integrated Intel 10/100 fast Ethernet PCI network adapter with "Wake-on-LAN" support; 64MB synchronous DRAM (SDRAM); 4MB WRAM Matrox Millenium II AGP (accelerated graphics port) graphics accelerator; two USB ports and a 24x CD-ROM drive.
Acer's Advanced Desktop Manager v2.1 (ADM 2.1) is also bundled with the product. ADM 2.1 provides the system administrator with in-depth information about the PC connected to the network so they can send commands to the AcerPower T16510 from their own PC.
The AcerPower T16510 costs $4661 RRP.
Acer Tel (02) 9870 1999Fax (02) 9878 6227Sidekick kicks-offMarketing Results has released Sidekick 98, an addition to the Sidekick range of personal information managers. This product gives mobile people access to contact information such as calendars, contacts and memos irrespective of their location, using electronic organisers or the Internet. A new synchronising feature, Truesync, allows users to easily transfer data to most popular hand-held organisers.
Other features include a Web Publisher; Import/ Export; vCard/vCalendar and Windows Address Book Link. Sidekick 98 costs $89.95 RRP.
Tel (02) 9899 5888Fax (02) 9899 5728