by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 31 August 2012
Workflows and tasks are equally important for small businesses. While the former activity establishes process and a method of doing things, the latter is associated with execution and delegation. As far as we are aware, there is no application that integrate them into a single application. Until we reviewed the latest release of Comindware.
This week, we will review an application that takes a different tack and fuses both activities in a creative and engaging way. We will review Comindware - a web-based workflow automation system with an integrated task management solution. We will look at its interface, features, and see how it can be of use to you.
According to Comindware's founders, 10 percent of small business problems can be solved by tasks. The other 90 percent are solved through workflows and processes.
In my previous review of Comindware, I focused on the solution's workflow management capabilities. Briefly, the solution enables you to configure and allocate workflows through an easy visual interface of drag-and-drop icons.
However, the solution does much more.
It enables you to plan, allocate, and manage tasks as well. More importantly, the solution establishes relationships between workflows and tasks and enables collaboration at multiple levels. At the micro level, departments within a small organization can create individual workflows and assign tasks customized to their individual processes. At the macro level, the same departments can fuse processes, data, and tasks to reach organizational goal. This is an especially smart approach when you consider that most project management solutions tend to a take a silo-based approach. The end result is that multiple systems and processes, which accomplish much individually, are lost in translation when they work in concert.
For employees, Comindware stands out from other, similar solutions because it enables department and project employees to talk to each other through workspaces and task management. For example, project managers can plan, design and allocate workflows. Through workflows, they can plan and manage tasks.
Team members can use the same solution to manage personal tasks, contribute to process discussions through comments. Team deadlines can be met thanks to workflow automation which streamlines process execution and brings more visibility and control over processes.
There are two components to Comindware: Workflow creation and Task Management. This how they are tied up: when you have a workflow, and an item goes from one state to another, a task is automatically assigned to the responsible, which reduces the amount of guesswork and useless email communication. According to Comindware these tightly integrated features can cut time and cots up to up to 50%.
The solution already offers sample workflow templates for activities related to human resources, software development, IT helpdesk, and Office Management. However, you can also create new templates using the solution's graphical workflow builder.
Each workflow or process is divided into activities. You can recycle existing activities in the system or create new ones. Activities are collections of individual tasks assigned to users. The association and collaboration that I referred to in an earlier section happens through the interplay of dynamic elements (such as tasks) and static elements (such as items) within the system.
Items are user-created static artifacts as part of the process workflow. Because workflows are automated, information and artifacts created during a workflow are processed from one stage to another without manual intervention.
But, that's about the solution's workflow processing.
As I mentioned earlier, the main benefit of the solution lies in collaboration. The solution enables and accomplishes collaboration at the company, team and individual levels. It accomplishes this by relating workflows with team members at personal and team levels. Managers, who are responsible for configuring processes, can assign individual tasks using the solution's user management features within the administration panel. The solution already boasts active directory integration, making it easy for administrators to import information and configure users. What's more, managers or administrators can also assign tasks and track project communication through Microsoft Outlook. This integration, an exclusive feature from Comindware, also provides enriched tasks with the discussion tread so users can work on Comindware and other tasks directly from their Outlook interface.
Based on deadline and automated email notifications (which can be configured in the administration panel of the system), team members can configure personal deadlines and tasks for themselves.
Project and team information is aggregated and presented to members through a consolidated and customized dashboard. If required, the dashboard look and metrics display can be personalized using configuration options within the administration panel. Creation of personalized dashboards is fairly easy and consists of adding relevant widgets and grouping data for display.
I have purposely titled this section as an experience. This is because, although the solution consists of multiple activities and programs, it integrates both seamlessly into a comprehensive user experience.
The home page consists of three panels. Each panel enables you to perform tasks or see related information. I thought this was a pretty smart idea as it took the pain away from user navigation. For example, whilst I was configuring user data, the solution offered me the option of using sample data or taking a tour. Nice!
Configuration of workflows and tasks is through a WYSIWYG interface and is extremely easy. Perhaps, the only improvement that I can think of is the use of brighter system and panel colors!
We liked the possibility of customizing workspaces and the fact that the company logo can be included into the solution. We found this new version of Comindware Tracker more customizable with workflows, workspaces, widgets, and notifications.
I mentioned this in my earlier review. The solution has a comprehensive user guide, glossary of terms. Paid users also get comprehensive support through the Comindware Advantage package. It would be interesting though to work on increasing user engagement within community forums.
As I mentioned earlier, Comindware is an excellent solution for collaborative work management, with automated processes management as its most unique feature.
I was pleasantly surprised at the solution's capabilities, and simplicity, and highly recommend the solution for its excellent capabilities.
It is also important to mention that Comindware Tracker has enterprize-scale security, and role-based access. Only administrators can toggle between the menu and the administrating panel, that should be welcomed by the solution owner within your company.