Emailflow for Exchange/SMTP

If your company is small, you probably have a manual workflow process. When an order arrives, one copy goes to accounts receivable and a second copy goes to the warehouse for shipping. If your company is large, or if you have a complicated workflow process, you can save a significant amount of time by automating that process. GFI FAX & VOICE Emailflow for Exchange/SMTP is the tool you need.

The product, in conjunction with Microsoft Exchange Server or any other SMTP/POP3-compliant email server, helps you move information from user to user. You don't need to install a separate client utility on each computer that participates in the workflow process; the product lets you use a standard SMTP/POP3 mail client on each desktop. Your users use Emailflow through their usual email interface.

The product's server component is simple. One program, the Emailflow Server, controls your company's workflow. I installed the Emailflow Server on my Micronics-based Windows NT server. The entire process took 5 minutes. After installation completed, I needed to set up a dedicated Emailflow mailbox on my mail server.

Setting up the product for users required more time. I decided to test a basic order-processing workflow. I wanted to follow a new order through order entry, credit-department approval, shipping, and accounts receivable. To create the workflow, I used Emailflow's Workflow Editor, a GUI application that lets you define the steps a workflow comprises. Each workflow you create consists of a series of steps. Emailflow offers seven steps you can use to create workflows: Start, Message, Response, EForm, WebForm, Script, and Launch.

Your workflow must have a Start step, which defines what triggers a workflow. In some instances (as in my order example), the Start step might be an automatic process triggered by email, a Web-based form, or a periodic schedule. In my example, simple conditions triggered the workflow: The order needed to go to orders@ideamation.com and have the subject Order. Screen 1 shows a triggered workflow in the Workflow Editor interface.

The remaining workflow steps are optional. The Message step lets you send a message to a workflow participant (e.g., I configured my sample to send me a mes-sage when an order arrived). The Response step lets you send workflow participants a yes-or-no question to which they must respond (e.g., in my sample, the credit department needed to approve or deny the credit request). The EForm step is similar to the Response step, except that EForm accepts multiple responses and open answers. The WebForm step lets you send an HTML form to a workflow participant. The Script step lets you execute a Visual Basic for Applications (VBA)-compatible script. The Launch step automatically launches another workflow.

I liked Emailflow's ability to trigger workflows through Web forms or faxes. In my test environment, I configured the product to let a Web-based event (i.e., the manual submission of a Web form through my Internet Information Server—IIS—server) trigger the order workflow. I needed to install NTForms (an optional component on the installation CD-ROM) to have the product process Web forms.

The VBA-compatible scripting language that Emailflow includes is powerful, but not an option a novice user would use. The scripting language offers important options, however, including the ability to open, read from, and write to output files. Emailflow can also interact with ODBC databases. For my testing, I configured the program to send information to a special-order log database so that I could later generate reports using Seagate Software's Crystal Reports.

Emailflow's $695 price tag includes a 10-user license. An evaluation version of the product (complete with sample workflows) is available at the company's Web site. At $20 to $40 per seat, Emailflow is an affordable solution for small and midsized businesses but could become expensive in large environments.

Emailflow for Exchange/SMTP
Contact: GFI FAX & VOICE * 888-243-4329
Web: http://www.gficomms.com
Price: $695 for a 10-user license; $20-$40 per seat
System Requirements: Windows NT Server 4.0 or NT Workstation 4.0, 32MB of RAM, 200MB of hard disk space, SMTP/POP3 email server or Microsoft Exchange Server 4.5 or later, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, or ODBC database