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Workflow automation software improves LA court productivity

Court's in session, and the jury is unanimous: Automation software can help IT departments provide simpler workflows for end users on both desktops and mobile devices.

About five years ago, the Los Angeles Superior Court began moving all of its end-user computing resources to the cloud. That migration brought IT management benefits. But to simplify employees' business processes, something was still missing: a way to automate complex workflows.

As organizations adopt subscription models and aim to digitize paper-based processes, many turn to workflow automation software that streamlines common tasks. The LA Superior Court deployed Microsoft Office 365 to help judges and other employees store, share and edit data, particularly through SharePoint Online. With five to 10 people sometimes being involved in a single workflow, automation software from Nintex helped better integrate those processes between multiple apps and users.

"We are able to build what they need," said Marco Papa, SharePoint project manager at the LA Superior Court. "Our goal is to build something that enhances their ability to go through a court case and get [information] that is useful."

Workflow apps on the docket

The workflow automation software market is predicted to reach $17.3 billion by 2023, according to Research and Markets. The software can help many organizations overcome the challenges of legacy, paper-based processes.

Using Nintex's Forms and Workflow products, Papa's team of developers has built around 20 different apps that combine multiple tasks -- many of which used to be done on paper -- into single workflows.

All of the apps integrate with SharePoint. For instance, the court system receives judicial complaints from the public in the form of letters. Employees can use a Nintex workflow app to enter information from these letters -- such as case numbers, plaintiff names and the judges involved -- into a form and share the data with multiple parties through SharePoint. They can set triggers -- for example, they could send a Nintex app notification to the supervising judge to remind him or her when they need to respond to the complaint.

Without the workflow functionality, none of these would be possible.
Marco PapaSharePoint project manager, LA Superior Court

"You wouldn't believe how many complaints come in, so we have a fairly complex workflow that manages receiving those letters," Papa said. "Without the workflow functionality, none of these would be possible."

Employees can access their Office 365 applications on desktops or their personal mobile devices. The apps built from Nintex's workflow automation software are essentially SharePoint extensions, so users can access them via a URL through web browsers. For mobile workflows, the IT department doesn't recommend employees use the native SharePoint app, because it's not as easy to interact with the Nintex forms from there, Papa said. IT instead suggests using the web on a tablet with a large screen, so the forms look the same as on a desktop. With such long lists of information, it's easier to read that way, Papa said.

The department has not yet moved to Windows 10, because Internet Explorer 11 is all workers really need to access these cloud-based apps, Papa said. Users no longer access many of their local desktop apps, so by moving to Office 365, the organization isn't as reliant on the operating system anymore.

"The browser is the OS," Papa said.

Workflow automation software providers

  • IBM
  • Oracle
  • Pegasystems Inc.
  • Software AG
  • Appian
  • Vision Software S.A.
  • IPsoft Inc.
  • Newgen Software
  • Nintex

Source: Global Workflow Automation Market Analysis (2017-2023), Research and Markets

The verdict's in

Moving to Office 365 means application maintenance and updates are Microsoft's responsibility, which takes a load off the court's IT department in terms of time and effort.

The addition of Nintex workflow automation software brought more simplicity, as well. Over an eight-month evaluation process, the department also considered an automation competitor called K2, but that software had too many development environments, Papa said. Nintex workflow automation software was easier to use, because its development platform is similar to C#, and it offers more visual, point-and-click, drag-and-drop, app-building features, he said.

"That makes it really easy, even for me, to add one more person to the development framework," he added.

The development team that builds the Nintex workflows includes pros with computer science backgrounds and around 10 years of SharePoint experience. It was easy to train even junior staff members on the workflow automation software, using short courses to teach them how to create the workflows, Papa said. The team has not yet given end users the ability to build the workflow capabilities themselves, however.

"It would be a lot of support calls, probably," Papa said, adding that already 20% of the department's time goes toward supporting SharePoint. "We don't have the ability of supporting them that way."

Feedback from users has been positive so far. Some of the almost 600 judges in LA are resistant to any new technology, but even they are satisfied with the workflows, Papa said. One app that's particularly useful to judges allows them to access lists of information they need to work on cases and get email notifications about data they need to review in SharePoint.

Once IT started providing these workflow apps, users wanted more, Papa said. The original licenses with Nintex charged per workflow, but the court didn't have the ability to tack on more over time without knowing how many apps it would eventually need. Papa worked with Nintex to develop a new license for the workflow automation software that the company previously didn't offer, which now provides unlimited workflows at a single subscription price.

"The court likes to know how much we're expected to spend next year," he said.

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