frevvo 6 – Workflow Escalations (part 1)

This article is the first in a series about the workflow escalations feature included with version 6.1 of the frevvo platform.

Notifications

Workflows in frevvo are a simple solution for automating business processes that require multiple steps performed by different people. A common example would be an expense report that is be filled out by an employee (step 1), routed to the employee’s manager for approval and signature (step 2), and finally to the accounting department for processing (step 3). When all the responsible parties are available and diligently watching their “inboxes”, everything flows smoothly. However, at times a workflow could be held up at a given step for various reasons. In this example, the manager could be out sick or the accounting department is overwhelmed with other requests and doesn’t have bandwidth to monitor their inboxes. With the latest release of frevvo, the workflow designer has a new set of tools to help deal with these scenarios.

Workflow designers can define escalations for any step of the flow. Escalations are a set of deadlines that consist of 2 components: a condition and a set of actions to take if the condition is met. Let’s take the expense report example and assume that the accounting department must process expense reports within 7 days from the time the manager approves it. With frevvo escalations, a work flow can be created that will notify the accounting department when they have missed this deadline.

Below is an image of the expense report process in the frevvo workflow designer:

esc-designer1

Users can configure escalation behavior by selecting a step and clicking Setup Escalations. In this case the Accounting step is configured to show up in the task list for anyone with the Accounting role. The screenshot below shows how an escalation can be set up to notify these “potential owners” when the task has not be completed within 7 days:

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 2.33.24 PM

If the accounting step is not complete within 7 days, an email will be sent to all the users with the accounting role. Note that the subject and message use templatized strings (e.g. {flow.activity.escalation.duedate}) to provide context for each workflow (or expense report in this case).

You can set up as many escalations as you want. For example, let’s say John Smith manages the accounting role and needs to know if 8 days passes:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 11.10.30 AM

The first deadline is collapsed and hidden but a second one for Mr. Smith has been added.

This has been an example of triggering notifications in frevvo workflows.  In the upcoming articles, reassignment and reminders will be discussed.  To learn more about the escalations feature, please check out our user documentation.

OCMW members help their community instead of worrying about paperwork

OCMW logo

OCMW Roeselare strives to support members of the Roeselare community lead a dignified and quality life with the goal of creating opportunities and increasing the chances of happiness and well-being.

They must accurately record notes and decisions at their meetings for compliance, transparency and continuous improvement. Automating the process with frevvo saves their members valuable time and allows them to focus on helping people rather than paperwork (Case Study).

With frevvo Live Forms, the process is now an online workflow integrated with their Confluence wiki. Meeting notes use a structured format eliminating errors and missing fields. Built-in workflow ensures that the right members are notified at the right time.
The notes are saved to a Confluence page for easy access without searching through email.

Want to learn more and automate your own workflows? Sign up for a free trial.

LDAP and the Cloud

LDAP is the de facto standard when it comes to managing identity information in an enterprise. It authenticates who you are, with a user name and password, and authorizes what you can do, by means of roles (groups). There are other interesting attributes associated with the ‘who’ such as your name, email address, manager etc. In a frevvo context, the name would typically be used to identify an applicant on a form, while the email and manager can be used to route notifications or escalations in a workflow. In order to route workflow tasks by role, we need to answer the question ‘who are the users that have this role?’. This is information that the LDAP can provide and is not the typical authentication or authorization function that it is used for. We need a direct connection to the LDAP in order to make this query which most organizations are happy to allow as long as the access is within their firewall. This approach has been used successfully in frevvo on-premise deployments for many years.

Let’s now consider a frevvo cloud tenant that needs to access the LDAP. The LDAP now needs to be exposed to the internet, raising visions of hackers stealing identities and personal information. The immediate reaction is to use the tried-and-trusted VPN to secure the connection or single sign-on protocols like SAML that abstract away the LDAP. On the other hand, there is the less popular solution of using a secure LDAP (over SSL or TLS) connection, which is the equivalent of the trusted HTTPS. What is the right approach? VPN offers no more security than secure LDAP as this blog argues, is harder to implement in a multi-tenant product like frevvo, and costs more.  Single sign-on protocols like SAML (provided by commercial products like Microsoft ADFS or the open-source Shibboleth OpenSAML) are great for authentication and authorization (and single sign-on, of course) but will not satisfy the routing requirements. We would need to provide a back channel to upload role information to frevvo as we currently do for tenants that do not use LDAP (CSV file import). This is an additional integration that has to be managed by the customer who has the onus of keeping it synchronized, and comes with the risk of stale routing data.

Secure LDAP has the benefit of being just a configuration change (we support both the deprecated LDAPS and the recommended TLS in 6.1) with no change in functionality. Communication between frevvo and LDAP is encrypted, similar to HTTPS. On the other hand, the customer, being in control of security, has to take precautions to ensure that the LDAP information is accessible only to frevvo (origin IP address restrictions), that the data cannot be changed (read-only access), and only the required attributes are exposed (selective replication). In case of Active Directory (by far the most popular LDAP), Microsoft recommends the use of RODC (read-only domain controller) and provides guidelines to implement the above.  With this in place, passwords need not be replicated to the RODC (as authentication will be forwarded to the associated writeable DC) and hence are not exposed even if the RODC is compromised.

So what is the right approach? Secure LDAP is, well, secure, has all the capabilities we need to provide the required product features, and requires the least integration effort. This would be our recommended approach. For the skeptical, there is SAML with data upload, which is planned for a later release.

VPN SAML Secure LDAP
Authorization
Routing Need external data sync
Support Not planned 6.2(Planned) 6.1(Available)

10 reasons to digitize approvals in 2015

Stop using paperIt’s no secret that paper or Word/Excel-based processes still power day-to-day approvals at most schools and businesses. How the heck are we still discussing this in 2015? As business and society becomes increasingly mobile, digitizing approval workflows is more important than ever before. Beyond the usual save time & money, here are 10 reasons to digitize your approval processes:

  1. Streamline the routine stuff
    It may be a routine day-to-day process but delays can be costly and paper/email are lousy solutions. Passing paper around or chasing emails wastes time and inhibits collaboration – both major no-nos in today’s world.
  2. Simplify Email
    There’s a reason for the hundreds of to-do list apps in the App Store. We’re bombarded with hundreds of emails every day. It’s hard to keep track and easy to forget about getting to things that need doing. When managers forget, employees have to waste time chasing them down to figure out where the approval is.
  3. Get with the Mobile Age
    Smart phones are ubiquitous. Practically everyone has one and we all know how rapidly usage is growing. Ditch the paper/Excel and let busy parents, employees & customers handle approvals on their phones anytime and from anywhere. Make life easier for everyone.
  4. Enough with the printing
    Approvals usually require signatures. You can fill everything else online but chances are the PDF or Excel is physically printed solely for getting the Manager or CFO’s signature. Eliminate it with electronic signatures. There’s no excuse for that in 2015 – we all know there are too few trees. It’s easy to do your part.
  5. Facilitate Self Service
    Automated workflows allow 24×7 access from any device. Today, most people prefer to engage with organizations via the web rather than calling or coming to your office. For everything from school permissions to sales orders, paperless forms make life easier for your customers – another potential game-changing initiative.
  6. Tracking and accountability
    Digital approvals are easy to track with the click of a button or swipe of a finger. Stop making employees search through email or chase down paper forms to figure out where approvals are.
  7. Reduce Errors
    It’s easy to make mistakes like using an older version of a Word document or a calculation error or simply forgetting to fill out parts of the form. Then, someone has to manually get them fixed. Digital versions eliminate these unnecessary and wasteful errors.
  8. Business Intelligence
    Digital processes can be integrated with your other business systems and services. It can really improve efficiency by, for example, eliminating duplicate data entry. More important, integration can extract essential information and dramatically improve business intelligence and give you insights on how better to operate – a potential game-changer.
  9. Resilience
    The Cloud now provides unlimited, affordable storage and access from anywhere with redundancy and disaster recovery that cannot be matched by most organizations. Use it and you can stop worrying about fires and floods and the like and operate a resilient organization that focuses on customers.
  10. Go Green
    ‘Nuff said!

It’s 2015 – why are you still printing and scanning and emailing? Contact frevvo today and learn how you can start implementing these game-changers today.

frevvo forms are Accessible!!!

Exciting news for users with visual and motor impairments! and organizations who want or perhaps are now required by law to make their web sites accessible…

frevvo Section 508 / W3C WCAG 2.0 formsLive Forms v6 enables designers to create forms/workflows that meet Section 508 and W3C WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards. Users needing assistive technology can now use Mac OXS Voice Over on Safari only and JAWS for Windows to read and fill your frevvo accessibly designed forms.

Of course you can design frevvo forms that won’t pass accessibility certification by not taking advantage of Live Forms accessibility features. For example, form controls that are missing informative labels and help, hint text will not pass accessibility certification. So you are ultimately responsible for testing your forms to verify they pass your own certification process.

It’s wonderful news that with a little careful form/workflow design and enabling the new v6 accessibility features, we can now support runtime form access by everyone regardless of disability.

Please see the documentation Accessibility and Live Forms for details.

Extra Extra.. Read all about it!

Did you know that frevvo released Live Forms v6.1 on December 23rd? Did you know your Live Forms Online cloud tenant was auto-upgraded on January 4th?
Of course reading frevvo’s blog is one great way to keep up on frevvo news… Here are a few other suggestions

Get the news…

  1. Subscribe to frevvo Product news and updates (you must be signed up and logged in to subscribe)
    • Release Updates – Software release availability.
    • Announcements – New features; scheduled maintenance to the Live Forms Online cloud platform.
  2. Follow @frevvoOps - tweets about Live Forms releases & cloud  platform updates including scheduled maintenance.
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Best Regards,

frevvo Customer Support

frevvo 6.1 Features – Rule Editor Improvements

A new version of frevvo is now available and includes some significant improvements for writing business rules including:

  • syntax highlighting
  • autocomplete
  • full page editing

In this article, I’ll quickly highlight these features and provide examples of how they can assist in writing rules.

Syntax Highlighting

Previous versions of frevvo used a bare bones textarea control for keying in the rules:

oldruleeditor

Here’s the same rule in 6.1:

newruleeditor

In this rule, javascript keywords, native type values (like string and booleans) and block braces are highlighted with different colors.  Line numbers have been added as well.  Based on the cursor position, brackets and parentheses will be highlighted in green so it’s easy to find matching pairs. This is particularly useful when you have multiple levels of nesting and you are trying to figure out which pair of parenthesis is part of the the same expression:

highlightparens

Autocomplete

Autocomplete has been added which means you don’t need to remember or lookup an item’s properties.  For example, when you type a control followed by a dot, all of the control’s properties are presented immediately in a dropdown:

autocomplete

You can see all the EmployeeID control’s properties and select the one you want without having to type the entire property name.

Maximize Editor & Code Collapse

Finally one of my favorite features in this release: the maximize editor! If you have a larger complex rule you can click the maximize icon maximizeruleeditor and the rule editor will use the full real estate of the page:

bigruleexpanded

Of course if you’ve got really large rules consider breaking them up into smaller more manageable rules but nevertheless it is great to have the option to view rules full screen.

Finally, you’ll notice the arrows to the right of the numbers.  These can be used to collapse and expand entire blocks of code.  For example, clicking the arrow in line 6, will hide lines 7 thru 34 in the example above:

bigrulecollapsed

Summary

Business rule authoring is one of the most powerful features in frevvo and with these enhancements, designers can build their rules more easily than ever.

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