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Jetform InTempo 3.0 - InTempo provides corporatewide workflow over the Web

This article appears in the issue March 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 4]

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JetForm (Ottawa), the established electronic forms solution vendor, has just released a new version of its workflow product, InTempo. We assessed InTempo 3.0 and found that the new version and its Internet client provide a great solution for organizations that want to provide workflow access to every desktop in an organization--including Web users.

The InTempo system leverages your existing messaging infrastructures, so it's ideal for lower-volume enterprisewide applications that can be ad hoc, loosely structured or highly structured. In addition, the browser-based client provides ubiquitous access and reduced administration costs.

Functionality

For workflow users, InTempo is a snap. All work and notifications are delivered to users' E-mail inboxes, which can be any MAPI- or VIM-compliant E-mail system as well as Internet E-mail. This relieves users from having to remember to open a dedicated client application to get their work. When users launch their work from their inboxes, there are two client interface options: the JetForm Filler client application or the "zero-maintenance" client that runs in any browser.

The client used will depend on the type of form associated with a particular piece of work. If the item uses a JetForm interface, the JetForm Filler application is launched. If an HTML or Java form is used, the browser is launched to allow the user to complete the work. The type of form presented to the user is configurable by the administrator. Both clients provide good functionality, such as the ability for users to delegate work to another user, or to send work to another user for consultation.

The Web-based client is significant for JetForm, because it allows any user to participate in an InTempo workflow without having the client software installed. However, the client currently does not allow administration or process design tasks over the Web. In addition, users of the Web client will need a live connection to the Internet or intranet to complete their work; users of the JetForm Filler client can work in disconnected mode.

Workflow design utility

To develop workflows, InTempo provides the Process Designer, a separate 32-bit Windows client application. This tool is used for all aspects of workflow process definition, such as defining tasks, creating routes, associating roles with tasks, specifying actions and conditions, and associating forms with the steps in the process. You can also set up deadlines and escalation parameters and define a business calendar for a process or for the organization as a whole.

The Process Designer is functional, allowing developers to build highly structured and complex flows, with the flexibility for ad hoc routing at runtime. Unfortunately, the tool is not as intuitive as other graphical workflow designers we've seen. Although no programming is required (even for creating data-driven rules), the tool can be complex, and we had trouble figuring out the required tasks in the design process. In addition, the utility cannot import designs from other design tools or BPR tools.

To JetForm's credit, the Process Designer does provide a number of packaged sample workflows for processes such as expense reporting and general accounting. These samples will help speed the development process or serve as a starting point for building more involved flows. In addition, developers can dynamically build most rules in a point-and-click fashion.

For steps that require a user interface, you must design a form as the front end. You can use any third-party forms utility; JetForm Design and FormFlow Design products are available as add-ons. Design can be used to build Java forms that include enhanced features such as field validation, calculations and database lookups, which are not available in HTML forms.

Architecture

InTempo is a 32-bit client-server system that uses an ODBC relational database back end. The core server and workflow engine is the InTempo Agent. The Agent runs as a Windows NT service and leverages Windows NT users, groups and security. The Agent executes workflow processes based on defined rules, logs all system transactions and allows users to query the database for workflow or task status. The Agent can also trigger automated tasks such as printing, faxing and custom script execution for interacting with other applications.

InTempo leverages an organization's existing E-mail or groupware system for transport and notification of tasks. When a user has a work item, it is sent via E-mail to the user's inbox, relieving the user of having to check a separate inbox just for workflow tasks. Likewise, the Agent can send users E-mail notifications based on events such as elapsed time or deadlines. But unlike workflow systems that use the proprietary groupware system as the database, InTempo uses an open SQL database.

Web users connect to InTempo via any standard Web server, which runs CGI scripts to execute various functions and connect with the InTempo Agent server. The Web server executes four types of CGI scripts: HTML Connector, J-Form Connector, J-Form Authenticator and Acknowledgment Generator.

Overall

InTempo provides a good solution for organizations whose knowledge workers participate in both highly structured and less structured processes. And for organizations that already use JetForm's electronic forms solutions, adding InTempo provides a powerful combination.

On the downside, the tool could use some improvement in the areas of usability and integration. But overall, InTempo is quite sufficient for the types of broad-based applications the product is designed to address--providing workflow capabilities that span throughout organizations


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