Teamwork Solutions' team has more experience with workflow tools for Lotus Notes and Domino than anyone else anywhere, period. Members of our team have built three, count 'em three, workflow tool products for Lotus Notes: QDM's Quality At Work (1989), Teamwork Solutions' ApproveIt! (1995) and of course, ProcessIt! (originally released in 1997). If you are hoping to purchase a workflow tool that's been designed to work in the real world from someone who can help you use it correctly, look no further: Teamwork Solutions is your premiere workflow consulting firm.
How does ProcessIt! compare with Lotus Workflow?
Lotus has a workflow tool of their own called Lotus Workflow. We're often asked how ProcessIt! compares. As you'll see below, we think it compares quite nicely

We're regularly asked to compare ProcessIt! to Lotus Workflow (previously called Domino Workflow).

Teamwork Solutions's ProcessIt! Workflow is a much better workflow tool for the real world than Lotus Workflow. Read below to find out why.

For a while, Lotus made a lot of noise in the marketplace about Domino Workflow so, naturally, people want to know what we have that's better or worse. When people ask, we tell them; straight up. And, we'll be happy to tell you, too. In fact, we've prepared a side-by-side comparison for you to review.

In fairness, however, and in the interest of full disclosure, we should probably start with two disclaimers:

1. As the developer of two competitive products to Lotus Workflow (ProcessIt! and ApproveIt!), we are probably not the most objective people you can find on this particular question.

2. Notwithstanding the above, in addition to writing workflow tools we are Notes/Domino consultants and have first-hand experience building applications using Lotus Workflow.

So, we're not completely objective but we're well-informed. Fair warning.

Lotus Workflow
formerly Domino Workflow
formerly PROZESSWARE
ProcessIt!
always called ProcessIt!
Overall

Lotus Workflow (LWF) is a good tool, but very complex, with a learning curve that is both long and steep. Typical setup and development times to get the first real application up and running usually range from weeks to months.

Four separate databases are needed for any workflow, no matter how simple. In fairness, however, three of these four can be shared by more than one workflow database.

ProcessIt! is an equally good tool which matches item by item virtually every Lotus Workflow feature yet does so in a much simpler, easier-to-use tool.

ProcessIt! runs within a single self-contained Notes database and uses the standard Notes Name & Address Book (Domino Directory).

From start to finish, figure on a day or two to get your first application up and running--including the time needed to develop your forms--and a few hours for most applications thereafter.

Support requirements

We have a client, one of the world's largest corporations, who has estimated that internal support for Lotus Workflow costs them $50,000 per year, per application. That's not development costs--just support. Nearly a full resource for each application.

Most of our clients allow their more experienced users to make the minor day-to-day adjustments to ProcessIt! workflows themselves.

Typical administration time is measured in minutes, not hours, days or weeks.

Infrastructure & setup

LWF is neither straightforward nor intuitive and, in addition to needing five separate databases to setup and run, requires special consideration and setup for occasionally-remote users. Web users cannot perform all of the same functions as Notes clients.

With just one database, ProcessIt! is easy to set up and easy to replicate. ProcessIt! doesn't care if you're local or remote (or on the web) . . . everything works the same.

User directories

The LWF Organization database--just one of the four LWF databases--is core to the system and contains names of all possible approvers (in other words, a substantial duplication of the Domino Directory).

It also contains all of the relationships between approvers, people's group affiliations, and more. It is an impressive collection of information but it has to be maintained manually, an almost impossible task in a large organization.

Although you don't have to use the Organization database--you can use the Notes Name & Address Book (Domino Directory) instead--if you don't, you will severely limit the relationships you can define between people and groups, which is a core part of the LWF functionality.

That's "severely" as in "you can't do it."

ProcessIt! just uses the plain old vanilla Notes Name & Address Book.

To be fair, ProcessIt! is not as smart about organizational relationships (like, "who's my boss?") as a well set-up LWF application using the Organization database.

Neither, however, can we imagine anybody who could keep the Organization database up to date without a dedicated staff. At least we don't ask you to try.

Workflow design

Lotus Workflow has a very nice graphical tool--the Workflow Architect--for building workflows. Much of the power of the Architect comes from being able to work with business rules, process definitions and reporting relationships. All of these are things you'll need to build, using the Architect, as you build your workflows. So, while the Architect is generally easy to use, there's a lot of work you have to do behind the scenes to make it so. As with everything, there's a learning curve involved in setting up these relationships and it's important to get them right because everyone else will be using them, too. That's both a feature and a potential source of problems in your applications.

Once you've done the setup work, Lotus Workflow's Architect, like the other graphical workflow designers on the market, can only do so much. Unless you have very simple workflow needs, you will soon be right back out of the graphical tool and writing real code. And, "real code" in LWF means LotusScript. You can't use @Formulas. And that means you need higher-level developers to do everything.

What kinds of things require custom code? More than you'd think. For instance, customizing the wording of the messages--so that not everybody in the workflow gets the same generic message--or changing the numbering format of your requests requires special customization. Those seem like pretty basic things to do but in LWF you'll be writing LotusScript code to make them happen.

ProcessIt! does not have a graphical workflow-building tool. Instead, ProcessIt! workflows are defined in a single, easy-to-learn, not-as-sexy-as-a-graphical-tool configuration form.

You can write code (either LotusScript or @Formulas) within your workflows if you like, but most workflows don't need it (or need very little). The ProcessIt! Configuration form may only be a Notes form, but it's a smart one. There is an awful lot you can do without writing any code.

Things that are hard to do in LWF, like changing numbering formats, customizing messaging, making special user prompts, setting up automatic escalation, etc. can be done in seconds in ProcessIt! with no code.

Customizing applications

To make any changes to your workflow in LWF, you've got to go back to the Architect client, and make your changes, then publish your changes to the Process Definition database, and then re-publish it to the Design Repository database (whew!) at which point it becomes available to your users.

Unless, of course, you made any mistakes; in which case, start over.

To change the workflow in ProcessIt!, you edit your Configuration form, make the changes, and save the form.

Period.

Help availability

Lotus Workflow has, we're sorry to say, poor documentation. At least, for our needs it is. There are several PDFs included, but to find meaningful information, you have to search all of them (several times, it seems).

Even then, not everything you need is there, such as API function calls which, unfortunately, if you're building much of an LWF application, you're probably going to need.

ProcessIt! has extensive help in the form of (a) a heavily-illustrated Notes database (which, being Notes, is easily searchable), (b) ScreenCam movies covering all of the major user and administration activities, and (c) a LOT of in-the-configuration-form help information.

Oh yeah, and one more thing: ProcessIt! is so easy to use that you'll find you won't actually use most of the help we provide.

Parallel processing

LWF does a good job of splitting a process and making multiple sets of documents for a parallel process, but if you need the documents merged once you're done, look out. It took two experienced developers we know several weeks to write their own agent to re-merge parallel-processed documents.

ProcessIt! allows parallel processing at any point in the workflow.

In fairness, we don't split our workflow out into multiple sets of documents, but neither do we have to fight the re-merging problem. And, we offer record-locking to automatically keep Sally from editing the document while Joe's working on it (assuming they're on the same server).

Pick your poison.

Licensing

In addition to the user licenses or CALs needed to access Notes, Lotus Workflow requires a second user license to use the workflow capabilities. However, no longer are there additional licenses needed for servers or the Workflow Architect.

The move to user licenses only has simplified the Lotus Workflow licensing process, but it's still not simple. Keeping track of "users" can be challenging as the rules are a little complicated. Here's Lotus' explanation of when you need a Lotus Workflow license:

Per the licensing agreement, a user is defined as anyone to whom the runtime engine can assign work. This distinction between a user that simply accesses the application and one that is assigned work by the engine is a critical factor in determining how many user licenses a customer requires. If a user simply submits a workflow job but is not subsequently assigned work by the engine, they do not need a license. A user who submits a suggestion on a web site and is never assigned work in a "customer response" workflow application would not need a Lotus Workflow license. The user of a Lotus Workflow that submits an expense report that can be rejected and sent back to them for rework would need a Lotus Workflow license.

ProcessIt! is licensed by the database. Period. You can have as many workflows and as many users as you need in a single database. Need another database for a different department or application? That's a new license.

And, of course, Enterprise Licenses are available at very reasonable prices, enabling you to have as many workflow databases as you like for a single flat price.

So, how does ProcessIt! compare with Lotus Workflow? Pretty well, we'd say.

But don't take our word on it, TRY IT FOR YOURSELF. Download a fully-featured copy for a 60-day free trial or, if you don't have the time (or the connection speed) to wait for a download, drop us an e-mail and we'll ship you one on CD.

Can't wait? Click here to watch a complete workflow being built in less than 10 minutes. Including building the form and writing customized messages. Less than 10 minutes, from start to finish, soup to nuts, the whole shebang.

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