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Studying The History Of Workflow Management Systems Information Technology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 4224 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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1. Introduction

In this seminar, I would like to introduce the history and definition of workflow management system. In that, we can classified the workflow into several. Then, standard and types of workflows. Beside that, I also introduce the advantages of using workflow management system.

Other than that, I also introduced one of the collaborative system which to assist in workflow management system, that is document management system. I will briefly discuss the history, definition and advantages of systems and usage of the system to help in workflows systems and related to document management.

In groupware. I will introduced the history and definition of it. Furthermore, I will discuss about the area and levels of groupware with its advantages. I will linked and identified how do they work together to deliver a well manage workflow from different level of lecturer and staff in developed the new course and its details.

2. Workflow management system

2.1 Introduction

In 1980 ago, most of the companies and customers were seen an crisis and obstacle. It was because of the structure of organization were very inflexible and slow to response the new requirement from the markets and customers. As the market become international, the competition between organizational increased rapidly. To overcome and increased the power of competition, organization need to changes their organization structure to faced the new requirement from market. Because of these challenges, computer sciences industry have to created and develop a new information communication technology to suited the new requirement of markets. So the workflow technologies was developed in early 1990 was an leading to the new trend of computer industry.

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Workflow management systems is comes from the word “workflow”, which means that is sequence of jobs/ operation to distribute to a person or a groups of people on a simple or complex works. It may also delegate a small portion of big task to distribute , work split to others people for controlling purposes. The most common described the flow refer to the document that is being transferred from one to another. For more detailed, workflow is an activity that can described the information flow, process of work and organizational structure such as functions and hierarchies into a work process.

(Wikipedia, 2010)

2.2 History

In 1990s, workflow management system was created based on workflow process and business rules. The main purpose of the creation is to resolved the paper-based task with electronic process. At the end of 1990s, the workflow management system was created with additional function like modelling tools, business rules process and others. But in year 2005, Microsoft was created windows workflow foundation to replaced the original workflow with others functionality like BPM (Business Process Management).


2.3 Definition

In workflow management system, they are different module to run the business process. For example, document images processing, office system and transaction processing was build during these trend. From the beginning, the system is more concerned about storing, retrieving and tracking the data and information. Later, the system will more emphasized on office system which e-mails will become the core module to communicated for workflow system to exchange files and documents among them.

In workflow management, there can divided into four generation (see figure 1). In first generation of workflow management system, the system is more focusing on e-mails exchange and document management. Then in next generation, the workflow process are tailorable through coding. Third generation, the systems have the standard architecture then can fully supported with third party tools. In fourth generation, the systems can fully supported with e-mail exchange, workflow process management etc.

WORKFLOW1.JPG (61753 Byte)

Workflow management systems is a computer system that manage multiple tasks in an organisation to produce output to others. It allow us to define workflows for work of processes or types of jobs. Example, in a manufacturing company, the product of design document may from designer then pass to technical people to production engineer. In every stage of workflow, every individual is responsible for their specific task and jobs. When the task is completed, the workflow management system will make sure that people that in charge of the task are notified and the information they need to process in their own stages. Its also help to eliminate redundant jobs and others uncompleted task are followed up. This called dependencies, means the system required the dependencies of every completion tasks. Others function of workflow management systems is using to replacing paper document transfer (paperless).

(Kämpf and Großmann. 2006).

2.3.1 Classification of workflow management system

There are 3 classification types of workflow management system, that is production workflow, ad hoc workflow and administrative systems.

Production workflow

Production workflow are the predefined job, tasks to be process or need additional steps. For as example, in the claims of car accidents, they will involve several basic steps (identifying the parties involved, log the police report and confirm with the agent of policy coverage) and additional steps (handling bodily injury, compensate of property, repairing of the car). Production workflow dedicate the process and maintain the productivity.

Ad workflows

Ad hoc workflows are through discussions and created new thing for each workflow. Ad workflows always use e-mail to carry out the work. In example of groupware, everyone need to collaborate to create or work on new design on a new product.

Administrative workflow

Administrative workflow are combination of ad hoc and production workflows. Means that the flow is pre-defined (e.g. approval of expense report) and they will use e-mail to communicate with others. This work is normally used by administration for example of travel claims.

(Kämpf and Großmann. 2006).

2.3.2 Standardization

The following diagram will specified the standard for Workflow Management Coalition(WIMC) which included characteristics, functions and interfaces.

WORKFLOW2.JPG (48021 Byte)

by Shegalov, Gillmann, and Weikum (2001)

Refer to figure 2, the standardization of workflow are exists in three level. The first levels is how the workflow fit all the process together. Second level is abstract specification means that what the data of function needed. Third level is the details of how the function implemented using the tools.

Refer to figure 2, there are five Application programming interface (API) surround with workflow engine. The API is functional as interact and communicate between clients and workflow engine.

Process definition: This is the process which will involved the workflow and allocated the resources example: system and people to execute the jobs.

Client interface: This interface which the workflows will involved by software.

Involved applications: This interface involved the workflow software like example: document management system, email system and document imaging system.

External workflow services: This interface is deal with external workflow of the company or others companies.

Administration and monitoring : This interface is functional as admin and monitor of all the workflow being executed.

These five interface become the minimum standards for workflow system. It is very important to having system architecture to cope with existing environment and implemented it with others business related companies.

(Kämpf and Großmann. 2006).

2.3.3 Types of workflows

There are two types of workflows.

Sequential workflow

Sequential workflow style is execute set of process and activities sequentially or one followed by another. There are no return to previous flow if required. For example figure 3.


Figure 3

State machine workflow

State machine workflow is combine of state, actions and others. These workflow usually complex and may return to previous flow if required. For example figure 4.

State Machine Workflow

Figure 4

(Msdn, 2010).

2.4 Advantages of Workflow Management System

2.4.1 Improve productivity

There are many advantages of using the workflow management system. One of the advantages is it can help the organization to improve their productivity. Before it, the workers will spend a lot of times on doing the manual tasks for example to approve the clients changes on their details on paper works. This will waste lot of man power, times, resources and money on this dummy works. Furthermore, it will slow down the organization performance and risk the development of it. With the system, every things can doing on split of eyes. When there are changes of the details, staffs can send e-mails to their supervisor to approve the changes rather than paper work.

2.4.2 Visibility

It also important to let manager having visibility on the business workflow. For manager, it is responsible for them to understand the whole workflow of department. If there are any happen with business critical processes, he will identified it and take appropriate steps to overcome it. For example, in the shipment department, there are lot of wrong shipment to destination. Manager may easily identified which flow are causes the mistakes.

2.4.3 Faster change to business reaction

Besides that, it allows the organization to having faster business reaction to change. In the organization, top management may change organization business flows or business process reengineering to react to market changes. For manager, they may quickly change it through process modification on workflow system. Example, if customers pay the bills for abnormal transaction by using credit card, operator of credit card company may call the card owner to verified the transaction to avoid fraud.

2.4.4 Accountability

For manger, it can improve accountability skills. Manager have overview and understanding of process, it can help him to allocate resources and man power to which processes are more necessary. This may reduce wasteful of resources on focus to other major process. Example, manager may identify administration department need lesser staffs compare to accounting department. So, he can switch some staffs to accounting department to improved productivity rather waste resources or terminate the staffs.

3. Electronic document management system

3.1 History

From year 1980s, there are lot of IT people began to develop a system to manage the paper-based document and images of a company to reduce the yearly huge expenses on paper. Later, they created the first system called electronic document management (EDM) system to managed those document that created by computers. It also known as document imaging systems, because the main function were capture, storage, and retrieve the file. It also help the organization to capture faxes and save document as images.

(Wikipedia. 2010).

3.2 Definition

Electronic document management system is a kind of computer software to organized and manage electronic document. For example, word processing documents, image, spreadsheets and others. The document which users can change and store the document in electronic form or images for the purpose of retrieving, sharing, distributing, version control, workflow management. Document management system will require scanner to convert the document to digital form for storing.

(Wikipedia. 2010).

3.3 Function of electronic document management system

In electronic document management system, there are few major function to manage the document:

Data recording and storage – both in document and out document are required to tagged with date and time of last accessed.

Capturing documents – when scanner scan the images of hard copy document into electronic formats, it will stored it in database for easy storage and flexible retrieving the document.

Document retrieval – the system make the document retrieve more easily by clicking some button rather than search it in cabinet.

Create indexes – system can help to organize document by create indexes to uniquely identified each group of document and save time for searching.

Version control – system able to keep track multiple version of same document to manage and store multiple version of data to system.

(Marc, B. 2010).

(Bestpricecomputers. 2010).

3.3 Advantages of Electronic Document Management System

3.3.1 Reduced storage spaces

The storage document in an organization always is an big issues for them. If the organization which exist more than 10 years, it will be a huge amount of documentary in organization. By scanning those documents and store in DMS system can reduce a large amount of paper storage. Beside of that, it also help the organization to reduce cost of storage to store documents.

3.3.2 Prevent lost files

In an organization, it is very common that a document can lost it easily without having a well organized storage. Lost of documents is an loss for an organization and need time to replace it. Furthermore, hardcopy of records which retrieved from storage, may lead to loss because others may getting the same file. With DMS, the image of the document will store in the server and can view by others without losing and damaged.

3.3.3 Improved security

DMS can provide a better security, flexible to access on document level based on the level of groups and people. Documents that store in DMS are required authentication and access code to view and modify the documents, it also eliminate the unauthorized people to access confidential documents. Example, in an organization, staffs are need password and username to access groups of document instead of easily get the document stores in cabinet without any authorization checking. Furthermore, DMS can provide audit function of who, when and which documents being access by staffs.

3.3.4 Controlled and improved distribution

Documents imaging are easily distribute to colleagues and staffs by e-mail and web instead of photocopy to share. This provide cost saving by reducing organization’s paper document for example printing and postage which with hard copy documents.

3.3.5 Flexible retrieval

Keeping the softcopy version of documents in DMS system is better against hardcopy document. It is because that, it more fast to retrieve the records compare to searching in cabinet to get the records. Staffs can spend lesser time to get the records in their own table without leaving.

3.3.6 Version control

Documents are stored in network can be changed by users without changing history. Document management system require documents to be checked out first for change and check in to save changes into database. It can view the entire history of documents of who and when to modified the documents.

3.3.7 Reduced costs

When implemented the system, we can reduced a lot of unnecessary paper work’s cost on it especially for TAR college with huge amount of students intake and lot of lecturers.

(Content Manager. 2008).

3.3 Critical evaluation

In TAR college, it is emergent need for the document management system (DMS). The reason is to reduced the documents spaces. For TAR college which are big education institute with approximated 6000 people intake every year, there must be a huge amount of students’s details and documents of it. The space need to stored, managed and categories these students will be a “headache” problems for staffs. Beside that, lecturer may have document sharing as discussion on new course development.

Loss of documents will be an norms for bad practices on document management. In TAR college, with large amount of document and lecturer works. It will easily loss their document if impropriate managed and storing due to . Those information are valuable to them and time consuming to replace it. Example, record of students or evaluation on course developed.

Beside that, with DMS, the documents and information are securely been stored in it. Someone is needed password to access certain documents. This to prevent unauthorized staff and lecturer to access some highly confidential and students details or financial documents to protect privacy and prevent disclosure those information to third party. Example, normal staffs may not easily get the financial report from finance department.

The results from discussion of course developed is essential to keep its version control. This is to make sure the workflow of it is well managed under DMS. Without it, it is easily mess up with older version results and produced inaccurate discussion and results based on old version discussion.

Other than that, with DMS, staff and lecturer may easily to retrieve the information by clicking some button rather than physically go to other department to retrieve it from cabinet. Example, lecturer reference some course details from course development department.

In “Extending Document Management Systems with User-Specific ActiveProperties” journal. The author stated out 4 problems of traditional document management system. That is file documents, manage document, locate documents and share documents.

-For file documents: it reflects that particular documents are relevant to multiple activities and department. Example, travel plans are relate to budget decision and scheduling with the department of accounting and HR.

-For manage file: the administrative function of documents according to demands of user needs.

-For locate documents: documents may filed to one criterion but retrieved according to another, because cannot define the cross-cutting set of categorization to group of documents.

-For share documents: organization may not know that particular document is relevant to people or need of their groups of people.



‘Groupware’ was introduced by a people Richman and Slovak in 1980. They say that “Like an electronic sinew that binds teams together, the new groupware aims to place the computer squarely in the middle of communications among managers, technicians, and anyone else who interacts in groups, revolutionizing the way they work.”(8)

In 1990s, the company who used the groupware are Boeing and IBM. They use it as meeting tools to control the projects. Then lotus notes act as major software of groupware. It allow group of people to work together in internet in early stage.

Slowly, groupware was fully integrate in web site and come out Web 2.0 for the purpose of host a corporate network. The functionalities include document sharing, instant messaging, web conferencing with others.

(Wikipedia. 2009)


Groupware also called as collaborative software. The purpose of groupware is to change the documents and other materials to be shared effectively in team collaboration. Before that, we have to understand the human interaction is a must to create software to meet their needs.

There are three ways of human interact: conversations, transactions and collaborations.

Conversational interactions: It is the information sharing between two or more people, the purpose is to build the relationship among them. Communication technology are instant messaging, E-mail and others.

Transactional interaction: It is to exchange transaction entities, means to alter relationship between participants. One participant exchange money for services and products to become a customer. It effectively in transaction systems for manage records for persistent change.

Collaborative interaction: participants’ relationship is to alter a collaborative entity. Example, to achieve a common goal. So, true collaboration technology is to bring many people to achieve a common output. To get the many effort into a managed environment is collaboration technology.

We can divided groupware into 4 area:

Knowledge management tools

Knowledge creation tools

Information sharing tools

Collaborative project management tools

(Wikipedia. 2009)

Collaborative project management

Collaborative project management tools (CPMT) is described all detailed of collaboration and management of project and its related knowledge areas. Beside that, it also known as business related goals which used for project management.

Example of collaborative project management tools:

Collaborative project management tools

Instant messaging



Web conferencing


Web publishing

Revision control

Document versioning

Document sharing

Levels of groupware

Groupware can be divided in 3 categories based on level of collaboration: communication tools, conferencing tools and collaborative tools.

Communication: It is unstructured way to exchange information. For example, instant message discussion and phone chatting.

Conferencing: Interactive work toward a goal. For example brainstorming from group of people and also voting.

Collaborative: complex interdependent work toward a goal. Everyone was contribute their effort and work differently on achieving a goal. Example, everyone in an organization from different department are work hard in their own position to contribute their effort in organization to generate more profits.

(Wikipedia. 2009)

Communication tools

Communication tools is use to communicate with people and sharing information by messages or documents. Example:


Revision control

Web publishing

(Wikipedia. 2009)

Conferencing tools

Conferencing tools is use to sharing information in more interesting and responsive way. Example:

Forums – an internet discussion spaces to manage messages from other people.

Online chat – a real-time message convertion and discussion. Example MSN.

Videoconferencing – networked PCs conference with video and audio.

Instant messaging.

(Wikipedia. 2009)

Collaborative tools

Collaborative tools is use to manage group activities. Example

Workflow systems – management of tasks and documents in business process.

Project management system – it is a system to schedule and tasks allocated to people the steps in projects to be completed.

Knowledge management system – it is a system for an organization to create, store and distribute good practices and experience.

(Wikipedia. 2009)

Advantages of groupware

Increase efficiency

Groupware is to provide a centralized access point to access information. Group members have to access their related information for their tasks in their group. It can remove redundant work, required less time to search data, and spend more time in tasks.

(Web conferencing zone. 2005).

Define and enforce process

With groupware, we can know how the information is flows. All the documentation are kept on the person who make changes. This will help group members to ensure them to perform their jobs and satisfied with their contribution to the projects.

(Web conferencing zone. 2005).

Provide structure

Thought groupware, it can show the group members of how the tasks been allocated, what the goals of projects, expectation from them. Group members are know that their task and roles of projects. Other than that is to provide project management with scheduling and tracking facilities.

(Web conferencing zone. 2005).

Critical evaluation


In conclusion, workflow management system can help us to manage the task flow to be more easily and transparent. It can identified the business process, the task allocated to particular members and goal of the projects.

Beside of that, it need electronic document management system to control the task and documentation of members to work more effectively and efficiency.

Lastly, groupware will help group members to communicate more easily and effectively on discussion and reporting the methods to carry their tasks.

In conclusion, I will combined these technology to create a system to let lecturer can have a better environment on discuss and developed a new course structure.


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