Nintex Hawkeye makes workflow analytics one step easier

By instrumenting workflows with "beacons" as they build them, citizen programmers can light up a range of performance metrics for analysis.

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With the recent launch of Hawkeye, Nintex, the workflow process automation company, has made it that much easier for companies to achieve a global understanding of their workflow environment. For years, Nintex has been helping customers automate their workflows — all those necessary corporate processes that keep a company running — with software built on top of Microsoft SharePoint. Nintex has since extended its workflow platform, which now runs in the cloud and connects Office 365, Salesforce, key systems of record, and content repositories to allow non-programmers (Nintex calls them “citizen programmers,” essentially business personnel) to create workflows rapidly in a visual setting, often from templates.

As companies adopted Nintex, their installations became more complex.

Today, some customers run thousands of workflows, and each workflow may run hundreds of thousands of times per year. For example, a generalized “approval” workflow may serve for budget items, a new hire or a signoff on a project. Such an approval workflow can be — and often is — tailored for many processes, and these processes may be invoked repeatedly.

So, once a company has adopted Nintex and put it to use extensively through its operations, how does corporate management figure out what’s going on? How can it monitor the use of these processes to see whether they are used, how they are used, by whom they are used, and how effective they are? The answer is Hawkeye, which keeps a hawk’s eye on corporate workflows.

Hawkeye arrives at a time when Nintex is migrating much of its functionality to the cloud. Like many software companies, Nintex has seen the wisdom of creating a scalable service that can be maintained centrally. Of course, some customers will continue to run their workflows in their own data centers. There are all kinds of reasons for that, including security, control and compliance. And others will run them in hybrid environments, with some activities taking place on premise and others in the cloud. But many firms are happy to push as much of that plumbing maintenance to a service provider and have chosen to do so. Hawkeye represents the new breed of capability born in the cloud.

Hawkeye works through a set of “lenses,” groups of capabilities that focus on a particular type of analysis. At launch in July, Hawkeye had two lenses: a usage lens and a process-intelligence lens. Sources of data for analysis include the company’s data acquisition engine, Nintex itself (the system has been instrumented to generate its own metrics), and the execution of actual workflows.

The usage lens looks at Nintex data, including the size and scale of workflows, who is working on what, and who is using what. Hawkeye ingests this information and provides useful visualizations of it. These visualizations are surfaced in a dashboard, which can be Nintex’s default capability, Microsoft’s Power BI, or a third-party viewer.

The process-intelligence lens looks at customer data. By inserting programming elements called “beacons” into a workflow, a citizen programmer can instrument the process for later analysis. Nintex calls this procedure “decorating your data.” The process-intelligence lens reads these beacons and then gives return-on-investment metrics for that process, such as how long it takes, what stage it’s in, how many times a document was revised, what proportion of a process’s runs led to approval and what to rejection.

To come: two other lenses, inventory and monitoring. The inventory lens will gather all usage metrics on Nintex processes, elements like where they are running and who is using them. The monitoring lens will look at processes as they are running and will generate alerts if certain thresholds (such as an overly long process runtime or the expiration of a date) are breached.

Over time, Nintex Hawkeye will increasingly tie together information from its own product set, including the Nintex Workflow Cloud (the software-as-a-service version of Nintex), as well as from other systems such as SharePoint, Office365 and Salesforce. This increasing scope will help customers refine their view of process effectiveness and give them better metrics for improvement.

Hawkeye is designed to provide intelligence about automated processes, their raw content, and the people who use them, giving a perspective that can lead to improvement and optimization. By capturing this data, Hawkeye is able to generate analytics that help an organization understand and manage its processes, their effectiveness and their participants, shedding light on formerly unstructured organizational processes.

With such information in hand, corporate managers can proactively monitor and manage Nintex workflows, identify opportunities for additional automation, and target workflows that need improvement.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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