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Last Post 12/12/2016 10:44 AM by  Rod Weir
Spotlight on workflow object - Log new job
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Rod Weir
HelpMaster development team
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09/02/2016 4:53 PM

    The next version of HelpMaster has a radically improved workflow system with lots of new workflow objects.  One of the most powerful and useful is the new "Log new job" object. 

    As the name suggests, this workflow object allows you to create a new job by selecting a job template.

     

    When you select a template to use, you can also select whether to log the job silently, or with user interaction.  Silently means that the job will be logged right there and then, without any user interaction or visibility at all.  HelpMaster does all of the work for you behind the scenes.

    If "Interactive" is selected, the new job logging screen will be displayed so that the user who has invoked this workflow object will have the opportunity to complete the job logging process.

     

    One of the best "workflow" type features of this is the ability to link the newly created job to the parent job (the job that started this process).  Choose from the standard HelpMaster linking options for jobs - none, simple, or parent/child.

    Logging a new job as part of a workflow can have so many practical applications.  eg.

    • HR new starter > Log new job for IT team
    • HR new starter > Log new job for facilities management
    • HR new starter > Log new job for Training
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    Josh B
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    12/09/2016 10:40 AM
    Over the past couple of days I have been looking at workflows in v16.10.17.4 (without the changes mentioned above). We are attempting to map one of our more complex processes in to workflows to assist our staff in remembering to complete key steps.

    Here's some issue/ideas that were raised along the way:

    • At the moment you have to log a job before the workflow can be started. This means we are unable to map important decisions in to the workflow that precede selecting the appropriate job template. It might be a good idea to have a workflow that can be run in place of selecting a job template, and the outcome of the workflow selects the appropriate template for you.
    • When a decision is presented, you must make the decision or cancel the workflow. You can't view other Helpmaster windows while a decision prompt is active. For example, after several decisions we have a situation where you need to check the Client Details screen before making a decision. If you cancel, running the workflow causes it to go back to the beginning.  It would be nice if you can view other frames while making a decision, or if each decision that has been made saved its progress.  Edit: As a workaround, I can use an Action Template or a Message Box to punctuate decisions.
    • Decision buttons do not resize for larger text options (yet the workflows interface does, which is misleading). To be fair, this is probably a winforms limitation. The problem with small labels is you have to carefully word your question. This plays out with the user reading the question, looking at the options, then re-reading the question to figure out what 'yes' and 'no' mean based on the question. eg. was the question worded as a negative? In web ux, we design the yes option to be something like 'Yes, the user has returned their insurance form'. I hope that's clear? 
    • The title and question layout on decision pop-ups is pretty awkward, and both fields are mandatory. Maybe the title should be bold. 
    • The ability to chain workflows would be great. We have 3 workflows that have the same key decision half way through them. Everything beyond that point is the same for each of the 3 workflows. At the moment, would have to embed all the logic and process in to each workflow, which is needless duplication. Maybe this is already possible via the Script option with something that replaces the workflow attached to this job with an alternate. 
    • Decisions are limited to 2 options. 
    • We also discussed that it's not particularly obvious that a job has an attached workflow. One suggestion has been to disable all action buttons when an incomplete workflow is attached to the job. Maybe provide an override with Job Security Role options.
    • Would be great to have quick entity lookups as part of the workflows.  Eg: Link an asset to the job - display an asset search field.
    • Ampersands in the question text of decision elements are not rendered.
    Rod Weir
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    12/12/2016 10:44 AM

    Hi Josh,

    Thanks for you post – some good ideas and feedback here as usual.

    Your idea of having a pre-job workflow is something we’ve already considered and it’s on our ever-growing list of things to do.  Having a series of Q+A and/or workflow to work through BEFORE logging the job would be a handy tool.  Similar to a trouble-shooting guide that leads you through a series of steps in order to fix the issue, and then if it doesn’t work out, you log the job (with a narrowed-down list of job templates) and the steps you’ve already gone through are documented etc…  Lots of cool possibilities with this concept.

    Modal Decision boxes (Message prompts that force a response).  Yep, agreed – these are brutal, and demand to be satisfied right there and then.  We’re looking at a potential solution to this by displaying the next/current workflow step in a “Workflow” side-bar, or dockable panel on the job screen, or possibly on the main window.  This can display the decision, and the ability to answer it, without being a screen-hog. (so to speak). 

    This idea ties into the whole idea of making it more obvious that a job has workflow.  Currently you have to either click on the Workflow tab, or hover over the Workflow button to determine this.  Your idea of hiding/disabling the regular action buttons when a job has workflow is a good idea.  We’ll definitely consider this, or something like this going forward.

    If there was a work-flow side-bar, this could also be used for your quick-entity-link / lookup, and display other information.

     We'll check out those other issues you mentioned also.

    Thanks again for your suggestions.  Would be great to hear from other HelpMaster users to hear how they are currently using the workflow, and what improvements it needs.

    The next release of HelpMaster already has some great new workflow features, so this is a topic that we’re keenly interested in getting right.

    HelpMaster development team
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    Josh B
    Helpdesker
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    Posts:15
    Points:21


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    01/19/2017 11:44 AM

    Couple more ideas for workflows. First, I want to point out that the pattern I have adopted is to have an message box present instructions then an action to record in the job's history that the action was completed.  This is really the key to successful workflows imho.  Instructions -> Do a thing; Action -> "I have done the thing".

    • Something to make aligning things easier, hold shift to snap alignment or something.
    • Keyboard shortcuts; mainly delete key bound to removing selected items and escape key bound to close pop-up and abandon changes.  Also arrow keys moving the selected item(s).
    • Double-clicking a workflow item should open it for editing.
    • Editor doesn't play nice with dual monitors, opens the 'Edit Workflow Decision item' on the primary monitor.
    • A way to select a workflow item and all downstream items.  If you ever need to insert something in to a large workflow it's a pain to shuffle things around.  This would solve that.
    • System decisions.  Currently any fork in the workflow requires human decision making, but a lot of decisions could be made based on values in the job or linked entities.  This would be huge  Eg: Does the primary client have an email address?  Is there a linked asset where the manufacturer is 'Apple'?  This would pair really well with decisions with more than 2 possible outcomes.
    • Store/read human decisions.  What I have found is often we ask the technician to make a decision, then do a bunch of work regardless with one minor variation at the end based on the decision.  This leads to a lot of copy/paste workflow.
    • Message boxes are currently 'Information', 'Question', 'Exclamation' or 'Error'.  Most of the message boxes I use are actually instructions on what to do next, so it would be nice if there could be an option for 'Instructions'.
    • The ability to set a 'continue workflow' or 'stop workflow' option for each type of element.  Currently, message boxes and actions stop the workflow while decisions continue on to the next step.  Those are pretty sensible pre-sets but sometimes I want to continue on to the next step automatically.  Eg: Where a message box presents instructions for some real world action (give a form to a client), once that's done we want to do the next step, which is often an action where we record in the job's history that the form has been given to the client.  At the moment we have to press the workflow button again after every message box.
    Rod Weir
    HelpMaster development team
    Helpdesk expert
    Helpdesk expert
    Posts:521
    Points:921


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    01/23/2017 12:41 PM
    Hi Josh,

    Thanks again for the feedback and ideas.

    The new workflow designing has some of these things already.  Keyboard support has been improved, including the double-click to open/edit a workflow item.

    A new history panel will track all workflow items, with details about who, when etc.  Clicking on a history item, will also highlight the corresponding workflow item.

     


    There are also a lot more workflow items that are available, including Job decisions.  This will allow you to query a field within a job, and then automatically route the workflow direction to a new item without human interaction.  It's very handy.  This can also be achieved via  scripted SQL statement for more complex lookups/decisions.

     

     

    There also lots of other small time-savers that we've built into it.  Overall, it's a vast improvement over the existing workflow, and we can't wait to see what people will build with it. 

    I like your idea of having the ability to mark a workflow item as "continue workflow", or "stop workflow".  We'll check that out and see what we can do.

    Thanks again - keep the ideas coming!

     

    HelpMaster development team
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