February 6, 2017

The search for small and affordable workflow automation & business process management tools

In my last two blogs I have explained how important automating tedious office tasks can be to improve employee satisfaction.

Many big companies already use workflow management tools or business process management suites such as PegaSystems, OpenText, Appian, Oracle BPM Suite, etc. Most of these tools are very powerful but for many small companies they are a bit overwhelming. These big platforms offer many features such as scalability, high volumes, advanced integration, customizing portals & user interface, case management, development environments, multiple build teams, etc.

A small company taking the first steps in automating their workflow processes only needs a small subset of all the features offered by the big platforms. For these companies it’s better to start with a smaller platform. When these companies grow and working with automated processes become more familiar then it’s the right moment to choose a more powerful platform.

The purpose of my next blogs is to review small workflow tools and to show that workflow automation is also possible and very useful for small companies. Now there are some smaller workflow automation tools which are offered as a SaaS service. What makes SaaS services so interesting for small companies is that because they are hosted in the cloud they can start immediately without having to invest in hardware and new system administrators. Therefore I’ll start with reviewing one of the most well-known small SaaS workflow automation tool: Kissflow (www.kissflow.com).


Kissflow Review

Kissflow is a simple SaaS workflow management tool which uses the Google App engine to deliver the platform as a Saas. This platform includes 48 workflow apps which can all be customized easily or used as template for new workflow apps. See below for a complete overview:

Tabel 1 Blog Jan Jaap

When modifying or creating a workflow app the user must first define forms, workflows and permissions before he can publish it. See below for how this looks like for the Employee Onboarding workflow:

Tabel 2 Blog Jan Jaap

The form builder supports all standard input field with a few nice extras such as Richttext, Attachment and Signatures. It is possible to specific basic validations for every field and to group these fields in sections and tables.

The next step in the Edit Workflow App wizard is to define the workflow:

Tabel 3 Blog Jan Jaap

By clicking on CHANGE on the assignment shapes the user can specify who must fulfil the assignment and what the deadline is for this workflow task:

Tabel 4 Blog Jan Jaap

In the next step of the wizard the user can specify for every workflow task which form fields are editable, read-only or hidden:

Tabel 5 Blog Jan Jaap

In the final step of the wizard the user can publish the app and specify who else may edit this workflow app and which form fields are used to label workflow instances:

Tabel 6 Blog Jan Jaap

Overview of workflow tasks

The homepage of the Kissflow cockpit view shows an overview of workflows which can be started by the user (in the top menu) and multiple views of work to be done by the user (the left menu and the main panel).

Tabel 7 Blog Jan Jaap

By clicking on one of these task a form is shown to the user:

Tabel 8 Blog Jan Jaap

Note that the user can attach multiple documents here. Now, because of the integration with google apps, the user can attach a document from the google drive:

Tabel 9 Blog Jan Jaap

So if employees use google drive for document storage then it is possible to use Kissflow for all workflows related to documents.


I like the simplicity of the platform, in one hour I was able to edit and modify forms and workflows. I also like the set of 48 included workflow apps which I’m sure can be reused, with some customizations, by many companies.

Because of this tight integration with Google apps this platform is very suitable for companies using Google Apps to maintain their accounts and documents.

It is also possible to use Kissflow if your company is not using Google Apps. However then you have to share documents using your own local file system instead of a central document system. If that is not workable for you then you can consider using a google app tool such as Zapier which integrates well with Kissflow and is able to integrate with a suite such as Office 365.

So all in all a very interesting platform for small businesses to help in taking the first steps in automating tedious office tasks and standard processes. It looks good and because of its google app integration it offers nice extra’s such as Google Drive integration, accessing other users of the same google app domain and integrating with other platforms such as Office 365 using Zapier.