When OutSystems announced the Workflow Builder - a tool aimed at creating a workflow app in just a few minutes - it didn't cause much of a commotion, after all OutSystems already has a proven track record of delivering enterprise applications in record time, and to some members of the community, this seemed more like a gimmick of sorts.
But in fact, this tool is a huge improvement to the platform, because it addresses several pressure points in a way that might not be entirely perceptible at first sight. In this article, we will explore the “hidden” benefits of the OutSystems Workflow Builder.
The Devil is in the Details
Didn't OutSystems already have a way to implement workflows in applications, you may ask?
Correct. It is called Business Process Technology (BPT) and it was launched years ago.
However, developers didn’t quite feel this was a valid option for implementing more intricate workflows, due to the technical complexity involved. And for this reason too, non-technical users with business expertise were cut off from giving their sometimes priceless contributions to this process.
Workflow Builder helps tackle this technical complexity because it is a visual tool for building workflow apps. It is kind-of a low-code tool for BPT inside the OutSystems platform, enabling Multidisciplinary teams to work together within the same common platform, from process design to app development to deployment.
This visualization of the workflow and all it involves, allows everyone to define processes, create forms, conditions, roles, among other actions - in a clean, fast and simple way.
As soon as the workflow process is finished - which can be achieved in minutes - with just one click the solution can be published, taken for a test-drive and shared with the rest of the team or stakeholders. We can always go back and fine tune the solution until we get the perfect setup for making our case management as efficient and user friendly as possible.
By itself, the functionalities of the Workflow Builder are very impressive, but what is under the hood is what really surprised our team here at Outfit (Devoteam’s Center of Excellence for OutSystems technology).
Under the Hood
Workflow Builder relies on the Case Management framework, which abstracts some of the complexity of BPT, while also adding built-in features that are specially tailored for case management apps, enabling the ability to publish an app directly to the registered environment. It ensures the apps go through the same application development lifecycle as any other OutSystems app, with proper architecture, and following all the best practices.
The following diagram shows the modules of a Workflow Builder generated app:
What this means is that not only Workflow Builder accelerates dramatically the development of a Workflow / Case Management application, but it also lays the groundworks of a scalable, performant application that you can extend and customize as any other application that you’ve developed from scratch.
An it does this using a framework that allows you to extend the Business Process Technology, by providing actions and entities that let you add the following capabilities to your case management apps, such as:
- Keeping track of process transactions during the entire lifecycle of a case.
- Email Notifications
- Define different types of rules to be used in case and process decisions
- Managing activities delegations
- Configure specific SLA for process and activities.
- Associate events to a give case
- Manage Access Control
- Perform operations (takeover, pick up, release, block, unblock, and add comments) to activities.
All this is delivered in a standardized Case Management library for everyone to use, allowing the ability to orchestrate across the automated actions and human activities with BPT, and adding the ability to coordinate the follow up activities based on the Case rather than in a sequential order.
Explore it yourself
There's no better way to see the impact of this tool than “learning by doing” so give it a try and explore this great addition to the OutSystems toolset, that allows us and our customers to explore a whole new approach to Workflow application design.
Ricardo Real, OutSystems Pre-Sales Engineer and Solutions Architect