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 Percussion PowerFlow?
Percussion Software has a workflow tool called PowerFlow which we consider to be our best competition. And, as you might imagine, we're often asked how the two products compare. Here, then is our answer

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

We're regularly asked to compare ProcessIt! to Percussion's PowerFlow. "How do they compare?," people ask, and it's a good question. After all, PowerFlow is a worthy and well-built competitor.

Not surprisingly, though, we think that for most organizations, and when all is said and done, ProcessIt! is the best overall workflow tool. Here's how they match up:


Percussion PowerFlowProcessIt!

always called ProcessIt!

Overall

PowerFlow is well-built tool and a worthy competitor. The primary differences between PowerFlow and ProcessIt! come from the philosophic differences between our two companies.

Percussion's approach to workflow is one of unlimited possibilities. Their tool, which uses a server add-in API to monitor changes in documents in targeted databases, can be implemented entirely behind the scenes without adding any new code to the database.

Well, almost. You have to have something in your forms that can be identified by the engine to trigger workflow events. In any case, you don't have to add much to your database to implement PowerFlow. It has no user interface of its own, for instance. Everything is run under the covers.

In our analysis, PowerFlow was designed to be used to build a small number of highly-customized workflow applications. Why? Because, among other things, you have to plan out your own user interaction for each application--not a trivial task, particularly for lower- to mid-level developers. For any given individual application, or when compared on a feature-by-feature basis, PowerFlow is a great tool.

But when you start thinking in terms of building and supporting tens or hundreds or even thousands of applications, PowerFlow’s more or less unlimited flexibility starts looking more like a testing, training and support problem waiting to happen.

By not imposing anything on your database--no forms, no views, no buttons to push--every application ends up being different. And, although there are some benefits to that kind of flexibility, it also means that every application requires its own special user training and support and, since you have to custom-build each trigger for each step in each workflow, extra application testing.

That means there's more work involved in getting applications rolling and in keeping them going.

ProcessIt! is an equally good tool which matches item by item virtually every PowerFlow feature but does so in a simpler, easier-to-use tool that was specifically designed for building and implementing lots of individual workflow applications quickly.

While PowerFlow was designed to give skilled developers unlimited flexibility in creating workflow applications, ProcessIt! was designed to provide developers of all levels maximum flexibility within a framework of mass customization.

Unlike PowerFlow, we do provide a user interface of sorts. We give you a starting set of views and administrative forms as well as a core workflow form that can automatically retrieve any custom workflow form you create and route it around based on the rules you define.

And, although you can modify any of these things, we believe there is huge value in being able to very quickly build entire workflow systems without having to give a great deal of thought to the plumbing that runs them.

For the same reason the gas pedal is always on the right and the clutch on the left, our experience has shown us that, in the long run, consistency of user interface is vastly more important than unlimited design flexibility.

Particularly in an organization hoping to implement a lot of workflow applications.

That's because a predictable user interface means consistency across applications. When people learn to use one application they’ve pretty much learned to use them all. And, that means less testing, less training, and less need for both documentation and ongoing support.

In the long run, a consistent interface means that more applications can be implemented more quickly, with fewer hassles. And isn't that really the point of having tools like these?

Support requirements

Because all workflows are defined using Percussion's Visual Workbench, a proprietary graphical designer, and because all of the data related to the workflows is housed in one of two outside databases, even the most trivial of workflow changes has to be made by someone both licensed and trained to do so.

What that means is that any change to your workflow, no matter how trivial, will have to be done by someone from the IT staff which, in many cases, means getting in the queue.

ProcessIt!'s workflow is set up and managed with a special form kept in the same database as your application. You don't need to have Designer access to the database to update the workflow.

And, while you'll still want IT to make the major workflow changes, most clients allow one or two of their more experienced users to make the minor day-to-day adjustments to ProcessIt! workflows themselves.

By eliminating the IT queue, typical administration time is measured in minutes, not hours, days or weeks.

Servers, infrastructure & setup

PowerFlow works only on Windows-based Domino servers.

Plus, since PowerFlow is API-based, it requires the addition of a server add-in task, which is something that many administrators are understandably reluctant to add to their Domino servers.

PowerFlow requires the correct setup of several associated databases to work properly.

ProcessIt! works on any Domino server, including:

  IBM AS/400

  IBM S/390

  IBM AIX

  IBM OS/2

  Linux

  Sun Solaris

  Windows NT/2000

  HP-UX

ProcessIt! is LotusScript-based and requires no server add-in tasks.

ProcessIt! is self-contained in a single Notes database. That means it's easy to set up and easy to replicate between servers.

User directories

With PowerFlow, user directories must be defined before you can assign individuals or groups to a specific workflow task. You can use the Notes Name & Address Book, but there are rules that you need to follow when defining the name. With PowerFlow, you may have to maintain two separate directories that may contain the same name in both.

ProcessIt! just uses the plain old vanilla Notes Name & Address Book., nothing else, no other directories to maintain.

ProcessIt! does not let you use Group documents directly from the NAB but will let you create your own groups (which can pull data from NAB groups) within the ProcessIt! database.

Workflow design

PowerFlow has a graphical workflow designer, the Visual Workbench, which is used to help developers build their workflows. It's nicely designed and looks great in demos.

But like all such graphical designers, you won't get very far with the Visual Workbench until you need to start digging through dialog boxes trying to find the special setting for the feature you hope to enable.

And, like most of the other GUI designers, Visual Workbench requires special licensing and is one more program to add to your computer (and to learn how to use). Because of this, all changes to your workflows---no matter how small--have to be done by someone who has the Visual Workbench installed.

ProcessIt! does not have a graphical workflow-building tool. Instead, our 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! Workflow 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 PowerFlow, 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 change the workflow in PowerFlow, you must make your changes using the Visual Workbench.

While workflows are active, you can add or remove individuals from roles/organizations, and you can make changes to a hierarchy, role, or person definition.

When you make these changes, PowerFlow re-evaluates assignments and notifications based on the new hierarchy and membership as long as you open and save each active workflow document.

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

You can add, change or delete members of an approval group. You can change the workflow at any time and ProcessIt! has tools that will allow you to update some or all of the existing workflow documents with the new workflow.

Help availability

PowerFlow provides extensive help through the Visual Workbench and a printable PDF file as well as an FAQ area on their website. Telephone support is available, but be prepared to possibly wait in a queue before someone can get to you.

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, (c) a lot of in-the-configuration-form help information for administrators and users.

Not enough? Call or write us. Our staff can answer all kinds of strange questions because we use ProcessIt! ourselves every day. When you call into Teamwork, you are not placed into a queue. You are sent directly to a person who can and will answer your question.

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.

So, how does ProcessIt! compare with Percussion PowerFlow? 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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Teamwork Solutions' innovative Lotus Notes workflow products and applications have made us two-time Beacon Award Finalists.