At the beginning of October, Garth Knudson, Director of International Sales and Alliances of HandySoft, gave me a briefing on the new release of BizFlow Plus. HandySoft are one the early pioneers of BPM still left as an independent software vendor. Over the years since their founding in 1991 they have come up with some innovative approaches to the business of BPM, and BizFlow Plus V12 certainly follows this trend.
For those of you not familiar with HandySoft, let me give you a short background. HandySoft has a philosophy of producing easy to use software while providing great customer experiences. After years of groupware and workflow consulting, HandySoft released BizFlow in 1999, which has now evolved into a full BPM solution. By this I mean a solution that supports all types of processes and provides the necessary components to support the development and management of process and rules, both on-premise and in the cloud.
The first thing to say about BizFlow Plus V12 has nothing to do with the product per se but more about what HandySoft see as the needs of its customers and prospects. Businesses and government organisations have to be more agile; responding quickly to changes in the marketplace. There is real movement towards the idea of event-driven business models. This requires a real understanding of triggers, rules, roles as well as the types of process involved. So the first point that struck me in my briefing was this statement: "Our focus is on solving high impact, complex human-centric business challenges through:
- Accelerating complex solution delivery to the speed of business;
- Radically reducing development life-cycle time and cost;
- Creating intuitive, flexible and inviting solutions that users embrace; and
- Enabling user self-service, whilst reducing the burden on business analysts, developers and IT."
Great! Here is a vendor understanding the business world and the need for process software that can handle these needs.
What I like is that HandySoft had the courage to look at their original own base theme and menu design and, for BizFlow Plus V12, carry out a complete overhaul. HandySoft are quick to point out that for existing customers who have created their theme that this will be kept.
Figure 1: Redesigned main menu (Source: HandySoft)
The new theme provides users immediate access to defined process applications as well as HandySoft's unique dynamic Tasking and exciting new "Quick Process" capabilities. HandySoft view Quick Process as key to BizFlow Plus' product differentiation.
Quick Process enables end users to quickly create their own multiple-step processes without leaving the BizFlow web client. Process and project planning, execution and tracking thus becomes a simple 5-step, wizard-driven exercise available to anyone, a very powerful and needed addition to human workflow enablement.
Quick Process allows users to:
- Create a checklist for goals, objectives, deliverables, milestones, or outcomes.
- Design a workflow or task plan to achieve the shared goals.
- Share their Quick Processes with others, so designees can modify or run them.
- Change their task plan on the fly by adding new tasks, changing existing tasks, or removing planned tasks.
- Maintain checklist items independent of the task plan.
- Collaborate with anyone in the process at any time and to enable process improvement.
- Share documents, be it from their local PC, a central repository like SharePoint, or documents stored online like Google Docs.
- Add reminders to keep things on track.
- Advance through the task plan or to send work back to the previous task owner. Route back and forth, as often as needed.
Figure 2: Building a Quick Process (Source: HandySoft)
HandySoft's forms or application development studio follows a Model View Controller (MVC) design pattern. In V12, HandySoft has simplified the studio with a new Design View that enables the majority of controls (e.g., boxes, buttons, grids, tabs, tables) to be rendered using a WYSIWYG editor, providing a fast and better prototyping capability for all users. The existing Layout View has been maintained, but the Tree View has been removed.
Changes to the Single Page Designer have been made to allow Field Details (data, rules, events) and Data Bindings (linking between fields and external data objects) to be changed at the same time. In addition, two new tabs have been added, Application Map (controllers and actions linking views and data) and Page Design (view, look and feel). Combining all this design functionality into one user experience makes development more intuitive and even faster.
Figure 3: Simplified WYSIWYG app development studio
HandySoft now offers a BizFlow Plus Mobile application available from the Apple App Store; this is free for BizFlow customers. With the BizFlow Mobile app, a user can:
- Create their own Dashboards using widgets.
- Create a new task.
- View all tasks (from OfficeEngine Tasks) in their Inbox.
- Respond to an assigned task.
- Make comments to task assignees or task assignor.
- Use FaceTime to video chat with an assignor or a commenter.
- View all work items (from standard processes) in their Inbox.
- Filter items in their Inbox by new, urgent, or overdue.
- Search for a specific item in their Inbox.
- Add comments to a work item.
- Open a work item in the mobile Safari browser to perform additional actions, such as choosing a response and complete.
- Manage multiple profiles to connect with BizFlow servers.
- Use any number of mobile devices without interfering with your desktop login session.
Figure 4: Mobile UX for BizFlow apps
BizFlow Plus V12 also has extended reporting and analytics capabilities. Customers can use any data in relational databases for operational reports, scheduled reports, ad hoc reports, and personalized dashboards. They can leverage on-demand analytics with multi-dimensional data cubes, big data, or operational data via connectors to Mongo DB, Hadoop Hive, and Cassandra. This expanded functionality gives BizFlow Plus full operational intelligence capabilities.
Figure 5: On-demand user-driven reporting and analytics
BizFlow Plus V12 is a step-change for HandySoft, making BizFlow Plus a product that is really worth considering for your initial BPM products selection. The addition to the various vertical solutions that are available is another plus point. HandySoft, through tasking capabilities, also understand how to integrate email into the collaborative process world that exists today. Quick Process capability is the icing on the cake as far as I am concerned. Business analysts are in short supply and here we have a facility that keeps the control that we need for corporate business but allows business users to develop processes on their own.