It’s All About the DAM Workflow‏

Graphic image of a man holding a tablet with graphs and the word "Workflow"

For years MerlinOne has been providing high availability, high performance Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems that have been fulfilling the needs of our customers; increasing their productivity, and making their lives easier.  Over the years, those needs have been growing in order to keep up with ever expanding technologies, and services that are increasingly integrated and connected.

In order to help our customers meet their demands, MerlinOne has developed a Workflow Engine that provides both the flexibility and power that allows users to customize the behavior of their Merlin systems, without the need to ask MerlinOne for software changes.

What is a Workflow Engine?

A Workflow Engine is a software system that manages business processes.  Each process, known as a workflow, is a sequence of tasks that must be completed in response to an event that occurs within the environment in which they operate.  The environment in this case, is our digital asset management system.  The type of event that triggers a workflow can vary widely from something as simple as the arrival of a certain date or time, to an action performed by an end user of the system.  A Workflow Engine allows customers to define those workflows, and monitor their status.

Why Develop a Specialized Workflow Engine?

Workflow Engines have been around for a while, and are increasing in popularity as organizations come to understand their benefits.  We spent months evaluating and testing these engines from other Vendors, and found them to be lacking in a couple of key areas.

– Extendibility – While some of the products were quite good, there were problems implementing logic specific to our systems.  In the end there would always be a certain amount of compromise.

– Configurability – In trying to be all things to all people, we found the user interface options from other Vendors were often unnecessarily complex, and difficult to integrate into our own products.  One of the key requirements for our Workflow Engine is to present a user interface that is only as complex as is absolutely necessary in order for our customers to achieve their goals.

What Can a Workflow Engine Do?

Now that we have touched on what a Workflow Engine is on a higher level, you may be wondering, why a DAM system needs one, and what it can do for you.  In the Context of a DAM system, it may be easier to list the things a Workflow Engine cannot do.

A common request from DAM users is to alter the behavior of their system to address a special need that is often unique to their business.  This used to involve software changes that were both time consuming and costly.  A Workflow Engine changes everything.  It will empower the customer to change the behavior of their DAM system, based on their specific business needs, and do so in a timely and efficient manner.  By using workflows, the management of business processes shifts from IT staff over to the people who actually use the system day in and day out.

We already mentioned that workflows are triggered in response to events.  These events generally belong to one of two groups.

– User generated

– System generated

Imagine the things you do while using your digital asset management system, and you start to get an idea of the types of User generated events that can occur.  It all starts with the initial login.  A simple login can cause a workflow to be triggered to perform some kind of task.  Perhaps something as simple as creating a log entry to note that the person has logged in.  Likewise, something as simple as trying to edit a field could trigger a workflow that ensures you have sufficient privileges to do so.  Dropping a file on an output target could trigger a workflow that requires a manager give it the thumbs up before it is sent.  Almost any user action has the potential to trigger a workflow that performs some task.  These may be tasks that used to be manually performed by a person, or perhaps the task didn’t get performed at all.  By using a workflow, we ensure that all tasks get performed, in the proper sequence, at the proper time, and by people who have the proper authority.

System events are a little less intuitive.  These can range from a simple time being reached (midnight on December 24th), to a file being received in a certain directory.  The arrival of December 25th could trigger a workflow that sends out holiday emails to a group of recipients.  The arrival of a file in a specific directory could trigger a workflow that uses the names of the folders in the directory path to populate metadata fields.

Have you ever left work for the day wondering if a task you started will complete?  Would it be nice if you received an email when it was done?  What if you want to send out some documents but need authorization from a higher level manager?  What if you want to ensure that any photos output are watermarked with the company logo?  What if you just want to make sure the new guy doesn’t edit the wrong thing?  What if you wanted to output a photo, and wanted three different resolutions to be output to three different places, each with a different watermark?  What if you wanted to do the same thing with ten photos at the same time?  These are all examples of what these engines can do.

If you want to make your job, easier, faster, and more efficient than a Workflow Engine is for you.

Michael Grishaber
Senior Software Engineer

Phone: 617.328.6645

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