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Many organizational processes are manual by nature, which typically makes them prone to human error, inherently inefficient, and extremely difficult to manage, track and execute. Not only can things get lost in the shuffle within these manual processes, but they often lead to significant delays in getting things done.

For example, in a traditional approval process a person might submit a purchase request to an executive administrator, who in turn forwards the request to the executive’s inbox for approval. The request can sit in the inbox for days waiting to be approved. Once approved, it moves on to Accounting where it might sit another day or two waiting to be processed and entered into the system. Additional delays can lengthen the process if anyone along the chain happens to be out sick, on vacation, or simply not able to execute their portion of the approval process in a timely manner. The bottom line is that there are simply too many manual aspects associated with these traditional processes.

Novell Teaming is all about empowering your people to collaborate and work together more effectively, and part of this empowerment comes from its built-in workflow capabilities that enable you to automate processes to save time, eliminate errors and improve overall efficiency. You already know that Novell Teaming provides a virtual workspace filled with collaboration tools that make it easier for your workgroups to share and act on the content they need to do their jobs. While its document management, calendars, discussion forums, wikis and blogs are central to enabling that workgroup collaboration, the workflow capabilities in Novell Teaming can enhance your workgroup interactions even more.

Novell Teaming workflow capabilities allow you to create a more formal structure for collaboration processes, giving you precise control over how information flows through your organization. They also give you the ability to enhance and streamline processes key to the success of your business operations.

How Workflow Works

Unlike other teaming solutions that offer workflow, you don’t have to be a programmer or developer to deploy the workflow capabilities in Novell Teaming. Not only is it simple to implement and use, but it employs an easy-to-understand structure that consists of six main elements: States, Transitions, Entries (also known as forms), Folders, Notifications and On-entry/On-exit Settings, and Access Control.

States represent points in time when an action needs to be taken or a decision needs to be made. For example, a basic help desk ticket workflow might consist of the following four states:

  • New – When a user opens a new help desk ticket
  • Assigned – When the ticket is assigned to a help desk technician
  • Closed – When the ticket is considered resolved and closed
  • Reopened – When the ticket is reopened for whatever reason

Transitions represent movement from one state to another. For example, in the help desk ticket workflow, the transition from the “New” state to the “Assigned” state might consist of a help desk ticket technician accepting the ticket. A transition from an “Assigned” state to a “Closed” state would require the trouble ticket to be resolved. (See Figure 1).

Entries (also known as forms) present users with the actual interface needed to interact with or participate in a workflow. In a help desk workflow, an entry or form would be the electronic trouble ticket a user would fill out to report a problem. This form would likely have a place for the user to describe the problem, along with any other pertinent information. When technicians review a trouble ticket, the workflow will typically present the form in a different format than the user sees to enter data. The technician version of the form would be customized with options or actions like accepting or assigning the ticket, making notes on the ticket or closing the ticket. In short, entries are used as an interface to collect, review and act upon the information displayed during a workflow.

Novell Teaming workflow capabilities let you take advantage of both default entries and custom entries. Default entries consist of the user interface screens you normally see in Novell Teaming for blogs, discussions, wikis, photos and folders. Any of these default entries can be used as a template to build custom entries. Custom entries typically contain input fields for capturing information essential to a process.

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For example, a help desk entry might have the following fields:

  • Is this a hardware or software problem?
  • Does this have high, medium or low priority?
  • What OS are you running?
  • What building are you in?

The idea is that you can tailor-build entries based on your company needs and demands. Also, entries can be easily edited later if processes or information requirements change. (See Figure 2). The discussion entry is one of the most basic forms in Novell Teaming and, as such, is probably the most commonly used template for building custom entries.

Folders simply represent the location where different aspects of a workflow are stored within Novell Teaming. For example, you might assign blank forms for user trouble tickets to be stored in your global workspace under a folder called “Trouble Tickets.” Once a form is filled out and submitted, you might have it stored in your help desk team’s workspace in a folder called “New Tickets.” When a ticket is closed you might archive it in a folder called “Closed Tickets.”

Notifications and the On-entry/On-exit settings provide the automation in standard Novell Teaming workflows. As the name implies, notifications use e-mail to notify individuals or groups of people that a certain action has occurred within a workflow process. Typically, these notifications alert participants that a workflow has reached a state that requires their attention, provide information to managers who are tracking the process of a workflow, or provide a participant the opportunity to view or work on an entry when it reaches a particular state.

In a trouble ticket workflow, you would likely have notifications sent to help desk team members when a new trouble ticket is opened. When a trouble ticket remains in a “New” state without transitioning to “Assigned” within a certain period of time, you might want a reminder notification sent to team members. You might also want a notification sent to help desk supervisors, alerting them to the fact that no action has been taken on the trouble ticket within the predefined response timeframe.

Likewise, when technicians close trouble tickets, notifications can be sent to the originating users, allowing them to indicate whether they agree or disagree that their problems have been resolved. If they agree, the trouble ticket can officially transition to a “Closed” state. If they disagree, the trouble ticket can transition back to a “New,” “Assigned,” or some other appropriate state that you predefine.

On-entry and on-exit settings prescribe when an action happens, in particular, upon entry to or exit from a specific state. These settings often work in concert with notifications, as in our previous example where notifications are sent to help desk team members when a new trouble ticket is opened. This is an on-entry setting since it represents an action that needs to take place when a trouble tickets enters a “New” state. The notification example for closing a trouble ticket is an on-exit action since it dictates what must happen when a trouble ticket moves from the “Assigned” state to a “Closed” state.

However, on-entry and on-exit settings are not limited to notifications. Moving forms is another common on-entry/on-exit action. It’s the on-exit setting you would use to move a workflow form from one folder to another. As mentioned before, your blank trouble ticket forms might be stored in a public workspace called “Trouble Tickets,” but when a user submits a trouble ticket, you want it moved to the “New Trouble Tickets” folder located in your help desk team’s workspace. To do this, you simply define an on-entry setting for your “New” state that moves trouble ticket forms to that folder. Likewise, when trouble tickets enter the “Closed” state, an on-entry setting can move those trouble ticket entries into your “Closed Tickets” folder.

Next

  • Figure 1

    In Novell Teaming workflows, states represent points in time when an action needs to be taken or a decision needs to be made, while transitions represent movement from one state to another as shown in this sample help desk workflow.

  • Figure 2

    Custom forms can be easily created or revised to capture the specific information needed to move a process forward.

  • Figure 3

    A variety of options are available in Advanced Workflow to help you automate the flow of a process based on a variety of input and criteria.

  • Figure 4

    Documenting a workflow on paper can help you resolve problems and discover new ways of streamlining and improving your processes.



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