Help me find a solution for electronic forms, signatures & workflow.
June 21, 2007 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Help me find a solution for electronic forms, signatures & workflow. What are the best options? Is there anything open source that fills those requirements?

My company needs to implement a system that will handle electronic forms, signatures & workflow (person A approves form, system auto-sends to supervisor B for final approval, etc).

It would be handling a myriad of paper forms that we use now: purchase requisitions, purchase orders, IT access request forms, etc.

We'd want everything to be available via web browser, preferably allowing authentication to an LDAP server.

I can't seem to find much information on what systems are out there or reviews for what systems are recommended. We prefer open-source (if anything exists to do what we need) but are open to commercial applications that are highly regarded. We really don't want anything that requires a subscription fee or regular maintenance costs (other than annual support if we desire). We'd much prefer to own the system outright and do as we wish.

Hope this gives enough information on what I'm looking for. I welcome all feedback and any questions to help clarify. Thank you!
posted by aceyprime to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
The only OSS solution I know of, that's even close to what you're talking about, are scratchbuilt solutions using gpg. I know some guys that experimented building a demo system that was basically shellscripts, Perl, and gpg that did document signing and authentication -- no web interface or anything fancy, though. (All they were doing was taking a document, appending a 'signature statement' to the bottom, then signing the resulting appended file with gpg and passing it to the next person.)

In terms of a commercial solution, I know Adobe Acrobat has cryptographic capabilities, including signing and non-repudiation, and purports to let you build a whole workflow around this, but I don't think there's a web interface. For it to work, each user has to have a copy of Acrobat (the real Acrobat, not Reader, I think it's like $395pp) installed, and have the keys set up on their machine. And of course you have to use PDF files. The last time I played around with it was a few years ago, maybe it's more advanced now -- I'm sure if you talked to an Adobe rep and acted interested, they'd give you a demo.

I also think that IBM has a bunch of document-management workflow systems for small/medium business that would do what you're talking about, but I'd prepare yourself for sticker shock and/or the necessity of moving other parts of your business onto IBM platforms in order to make the workflow seamless. Might be worth taking a look at though. I've heard anecdotally that their sales people are very good at getting PHB approval.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:25 AM on June 21, 2007

I am an independent content management consultant by trade, and let me first tell you that there are no good open source programs for this--you will have to go the private route if you want anything half decent. Most systems are very expensive and the minute you mention workflow you're looking at a LOT of services cost unless you are willing to adapt your business to what is available out of the box or spend a lot of money and effort getting your IT staff trained.

The major players in this space are EMC (Documentum) and IBM (FileNet, Content Manager). Additionally there are several other ECM vendors out there including Oracle (who just purchased Stellent) and a whole host of mid to low-level competitors... a good place to start looking at Vendors if you have some budget is the Gartner Magic Quadrant.

I would recommend if you want something inexpensive and hosted, however, and are willing to adapt, you should check out SpringCM--I have been recommending this lately to even the big boys who are looking for an interim solution while they ramp up an enterprise system.
posted by fusinski at 1:04 PM on June 21, 2007

With most workflow-type solutions, you will get an engine, and not a fully-baked product. There is a workflow module for drupal that works OK for default content types. The action triggers are rough around the edges, and you might have to write/hack a fair amount of php to get it done.
if you're java-oriented there's openwfe. If you're ruby-oriented, there's openwferu and/or acts as state machine. I've used the latter to great success with a homebrew rails app.

I think microsoft's sharepoint 3.0 has some workflow-type things that may do the trick for basic stuff.
posted by rye bread at 7:01 PM on June 21, 2007

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