Document-Genetics-GlobeSimple Workflow using Formate

5th July 2011

During our working life we all carry out lots of repeatable tasks, many of which involve paper documents and a logical set of rules.  Workflow software, or as it's also know, BPM (Business Process Management) software, allows us to create the business process, with all of its riles and logic in a paperless environment.  Users would normally interact with the workflow process via email or a web portal on their intranet.  Benefits of this type of system range from reduction in labour, faster processing of tasks, accountability and ability to remodel a process rapidly.

Formate Workflow

Workflow software offers many attractive benefits and associated savings, however many products on the market are expensive and complex and only suitable for large corporate companies with big budgets and IT resources.

Formate, whilst not a dedicated workflow tool, can perform simple workflow functionality at a fraction of the cost.  Formate has the ability to follow a predefined set of rules and has interfaces into email (client and server), MS Excel, XML, Adobe LiveCycle Forms and MS SharePoint (web portal); all of which can be used to build a workflow process.

Formate isn't suitable for very complex workflows with thousands of users across a very large organisation and for this environment we would always recommend a dedicated workflow product.  However, in many instances Formate can work well, for a fraction of the cost.

Suitable Formate workflow applications may be:

  • Purchase Requisitions
  • Holiday Request Forms
  • Customer Complaints
  • Customer Request for Information
  • Engineering Change Notes
  • Supplier Invoice Approval
  • Distributing Incoming Post Electronically

An example application:

Prior to placing an official purchase order, an employee must raise a purchase requisition which then needs authorisation by his/her immediate manager.  Depending on the value (e.g. over £10,000), the purchase order may then need signing off by a company director.  The existing paper process is time consuming, poor controlled and often results in lost purchase requisitions.  If approvers are on holiday it stops working completely until that member of staff returns to work.

The new Formate process allows the employee to raise an electronic purchase order requisition, using either MS Excel or an intelligent Adobe LifeCycle Form (this appears like a PDF document but is in fact a form template which can be filled in).  The spreadsheet or Adobe Form allows the employee to fill-in all the relevant details (supplier name, product, unit cost etc), and then submit the completed document via email.

The electronic purchase requisition is automatically emailed to the Formate server which reads the document and extracts the data.  In the case of the Adobe Form, it reads the XML data file which contains the data entered into the form.  Formate then decides, depending on the employee and cost, which managers or directors are required to approve the purchase requisition.  The workflow process a document follows is decided by Formate once it refers to a lookup table or database containing all the employees, managers and directors.  Formate emails the relevant people with a copy of the purchase requisition, requesting approval.  The recipient can then accept or reject the purchase requisition.  This is achieved by either answering the email with the word accept or reject or amending a field on the original purchase requisition.  Further notes may also be added to the body of the email or in a specific area on the purchase requisition.

When the email is returned, Formate then relays the message appropriately and either sends the originator an acceptance message, telling them to proceed, or passing them a rejection notice.  Electronic signatures could also be incorporated into this process if an Adobe LifeCycle Form was used for the purchase requisition.

This system has a number if benefits:

Firstly it eliminates the paper chain.  Secondly it allows an administrator to instantly tell where a purchase requisition is in the workflow process.  The process also copes with staff leaving the company or taking holidays.  If the approver is substituted in the Formate approver roles database, then Formate will automatically route it to a substitute approver.

This is a simple example but hopefully gives an insight into what can be achieved but hopefully gives an insight into what can be achieved for very little cost, especially for an existing Formate user.