Workflow for SMEs

In Australia in June 2011, there were 230,638 business with between 5 and 19 employees; and a further 81,006 employers with 20-199 employees; according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  Businesses of this size struggle with process – they are large enough to deal with increasing specialisation of work; but the costs of specialised solutions (HRIS systems; Case Managment Solutions; Sales systems) can be prohibitive.  Often, this results in continuing with paper or spreadsheet-based systems well beyond the point at which they are efficient for those businesses.

The economies of scale to build and deploy workflows for an organisation means that it is typically large organisations who have the process knowledge, skills, and time available to undertake a process mapping and development process and to get the full benefit of a workflow automation process.  On the other hand, all organisations use workflow – the nature of work is that any process involving multipe steps or people can benefit from going through review and automation.  In many cases, this means that Small and Medium enterprises don’t get the benefits of workflow… despite being the largest category of employer.

Web and Flo, having worked with large and multinational organisations for over a decade, and an SME ourselves; have decided that enough is enough – and have started developing a library of best practice workflows that we will make available to SMEs for free, or on a subscription-model.  The idea is to consolodate the process information we’ve gathered over many years, and make the available to organisations that until now haven’t been able to benefit from BPM and Workflow Automation.  We’d welcome any input into what processes are the most painful for business as the outgrow their paper and spreadsheet-based systems.  Please feel free to comment in the blog or reach us at the Web and Flo website if you’re interested in learning more, or in registering as a Beta client.

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Can business users make their own Workflow/BPM Applications

This is in reference to the following article:

http://kswenson.wordpress.com/2006/07/09/what-bpm-can-learn-from-a-spreadsheet/ 

 

Can business users make their own workflow applications, well yes they can. My girlfriend’s father who is an accountant with zero programming training created a simple 3 or 4 step BPM application using Kontinuum. I think the key word here is simple. Programmers are more likely to see the problems a little bit differently and their concerns of maintainability, reuse etc would not be at the forefront of the mind of a business user. This would mean that as workflow systems tend towards greater complexity the non-programmer would create a less and less cost effective solution.

As for the first question of Business office workers will never program software well they are already doing so. Not only in excel type applications but also in creating BPM applications.

Another counter argument is that the application is purpose built. Well every language was built with a purpose. Take C and Prolog. Built for different purposes. Are neither of them programming languages? If you submit that they are because ultimately they could achieve all the functionality of the other albeit in an often convoluted way well then couldn’t a BPM system deliver such functionality albeit in a more convoluted way?

As a final though some people have said that 3gl is not programming. OK why? Because it is to easy? Because you don’t have to type? The important part of programming is logic. If you can deliver to a computer that same logic through dragging and dropping something as opposed to typing it out what should it matter. If not then isn’t 2gl not programming either? Should we real programmers go back to binary?