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Brochure with screenshots
of workflow and scheduling
Functional and technical
overview of the modules
Four steps to profitability
Workflow management
in media production
Workflows in post-production,
for example pre-mastering

System Overview

1. Concept Web + Workflow + PPS

There are already a number of workflow systems in the world so why have we developed another one? Because other workflow systems have three main disadvantages:

  • They are built for rather simple administrative procedures and not for the complex and constantly changing production processes that are found in producing industries for example
  • They do not involve any planning component for scheduling of resources, they have no project/order management and also very little material management (e.g. an archive in the media industry)
  • Most systems are not web-based and if so, far worse to use than their desktop counterparts

We remove these disadvantages with our system. Therefore, there is also the title of 'Web Workflow PPS': web-based workflow management production planning and control system (PPS). In the next three sections, we will give you more information on the three components and here is an example.

2. Web Components

A browser-based system is available for employees, field staff, freelancers, suppliers and customers worldwide whether on the road, in a branch office or at home. A single, centrally maintained system is available simultaneously for all.

Because powerful user interfaces are not possible with standard Web technologies like HTML, however, and fat-client applications based on Flash, Silverlight or Java downloads have too many drawbacks, we had to develop our own technologies based on standard HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The term Web 2.0 has since become the standard description for such applications.

The technical aspects of a Web 2.0 application are dynamic web interfaces with windows, sophisticated drag and drop, content changes without reloading a page (AJAX), customizable sort-able views, and context-dependent help and so on, so that it does not feel much different from a fat-client desktop application.

Read more in Web Components.

3. Workflow Components

The main advantage of our workflow components is their dynamism, that is, their capability to map complex relationships and requirements, and the facility to change a workflow instance at run-time.

Read more in the following chapters (next topic: Workflows for People) and Workflow Components.

4. Out of the Box Modules (PPS)

The main, ready to use PPS components of the workflow system are the scheduling, order management and archive modules. In addition, the pre-defined workflows, interfaces and reports can all be used right away (out of the box) for different use cases. See also Standard System.

4.1 Scheduling

Because of its importance, staff and resource planning is described in several sections in its own area. Find out more at Scheduling and subsequent topics.

4.2 Order Management

Order Management provides the base for a contract or project. Workflows, offers, invoices, etc. are bundled and associated with clients or customers in the broadest sense i.e. customers may also be individuals or departments within a company.

The basis for the order management is all possible types of master data, such as price lists, employees, teams, departments, customers, equipment resources, studios etc.

On this basis, the following functions are generally used in this order:

  • Costing and quoting
  • Order progress and detailed views
  • Planned/actual comparison
  • Accounting and billing

Fast operation has been given particular attention, so an offer may be created during a telephone call, changed quickly using templates, and sent via PDF.

Order Management supports activity based costing (ABC) and Internal Cost Accounting in different variants.

This gives customers a real-time view of your orders, you can log in to the system over the web as a normal user, participate in workflows that use integrated groupware features, browse the archive, share or edit documents and get order status updates and evaluations. Using the integrated authorization protection, access rights are defined for internal and external users features and functions can thereby be switched on and off or made accessible read-only.

4.3 Production Library and Archives

This module is only relevant for customers in the media industry who want to manage content and media for audio, video, subtitles and so on. In the archive, the circulation desk and the warehouse, the media and its content are managed and made available to the production process e.g. workflows. All relevant metadata, for instance name, bar code, audio tracks, the range of technical specifications, check-protocol labels and delivery notes, etc. are generated or acquired. Contents (trailers, for example) here have different properties (such as regional encoding) depending the objects to which they are located (e.g. DigiBeta, Blu-ray or hard drives/RAID).

The archive is not a real MAM or DAM but is optimized for production. Although some customers use it to manage their shelves or digital archives, it is especially responsible for the management and tracking of production content that is not yet or no longer managed by a MAM. All copies, intermediate products, etc. are managed, documented and handed over to a MAM only when needed (again). Usually, a number of interfaces can be implemented to integrate the MAM-specific functions such as search, preservation, playout, etc. into a workflow. Please see more here: System Integration.

Thus, for example, so-called virtual content with special properties are managed; although they may not yet physically exist (e.g. because they have not yet been delivered), but they may already be used for workflow steps or decisions.

5. Technical Architecture

The system supports multiple users, multiple databases, multiple languages, and changeable skins. The 3-tiered architecture is based on web, application and database servers. Depending on the underlying hardware, it is scalable from a low-cost single user to thousands of users on distributed servers. Through load balancing and clustering, the system can also be designed to be highly available. Aside from the modular design and the universal workflow engine, the system can also be adapted on different levels to suit individual needs.

The system has the following technical characteristics, which should be of interest for IT managers:

  • 3-tier web architecture
  • high availability (cluster)
  • scalable (parallel servers)
  • Web 2.0 client
  • Multitenancy capable
  • ASP/SaaS/Cloud enabled
  • Virtualizable
  • Unicode Multi-Language (double byte)
  • Skinnable via CSS

For more details and features, see the CTWS white paper.

For the operation of very large databases (e.g. with several terabytes), data can be stored and remain available for decades via a process called cassation. This keeps the database small and operation fast.

6. Data Security

The rights of users in the system are controlled by the role based access control system (RBAC). Custom roles can also be created from specific rights to complement the standard roles in the system.

The workflow system is protected against the usual web attack techniques, such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting. To this end, it has a series of auditing and logging capabilities so administrators can see who did what with the system and when. Depending on the applicable privacy policy, these functions can be enabled or disabled.

For large or distributed organizations that want to work on one system, yet be somehow partitioned, there are two different procedures:

  • Complete separation on different tenants using partial synchronization (e.g. for employees who work in various tenants)
  • Partial separation within a single database based on location, rights and roles, with granularity to the level of GUI elements

So the possibility of undesired data access, even within a functional area (e.g. offers from one location or HR departmental planning) is excluded from the outset.

7. Background

7.1 Service

During the last hundred years, physical labor in most industries, such as industrial production and agriculture, has changed significantly. Due to the massive use of technology, especially machine automation, work could be considerably streamlined.

In the service and knowledge-production areas (e.g. the media or software industry), there have been some productivity gains but not in this form. The potential for service industries and business parts is in large part not just in the automation of the activities, but of the organization itself.

The aim is thus to use the potential of the expensive and creative human resources more meaningfully and above all more efficiently by being freed by technology from non-value-added tasks, such as information gathering and distribution, data collection, archiving, reporting, etc.

7.2 Real-Time Collaboration

The internet now enables the automated exchange of information and thus the convergence of departmental and cross-company production chains. While previously a single customer order triggered a lot of manual queries, sub-orders, confirmation faxes and delivery notes, this cooperation is now automated in real-time for the benefit of all parties.

7.3 Information and Flexibility

In the recent past, the demands on companies have increased particularly strongly. For example, the market demands today a much faster response to changes in customer behavior. This means that it is no longer enough to make decisions based on quarterly or half-yearly figures. Real-time information and effective control mechanisms based on this information are now much more decisive factors in the competitive landscape.

7.4 Personalization

Similarly, more and more companies take a differentiated product policy. Instead of 'any color as long as it's black', you can now configure a car in millions of different permutations. It is similar in other areas as products and services are becoming more customized and personalized. This growing complexity in production and administration must be easily understandable and above all be controllable.

7.5 Quality

Many companies are also subject to varying standards and quality management requirements (laws, ISO9000, EPM, SixSigma, etc.). So that these methods and standards do not become a brake on productivity but create genuine added value, an integrated instance is urgently required which allows no difference between daily business and QM requirements. Workflow Management effortlessly combines these two worlds.

Activity Based Costing is an cost accounting model particularly suited to service providing industries in which a company's direct and indirect costs are analyzed and assigned to the company's activities.
Using AJAX technologies (asynchronous JavaScript and XML), one can reload content in web applications and websites without having to request the whole site again from the server.
Application Service Providing involves clients using software on a subscription basis without buying it outright (also known as Software as a Service (SaaS).
The Cloud describes a vast number of servers and data stores connected over the internet, which store data and information for end-users and present these together with services and processes independently of hardware and availability.
Digital Asset Management is the storage and administration of arbitrary digital content, especially media data such as graphics, videos, music data and text blocks and belongs to the field of Content Management Systems.
Enterprise Performance Management describes methods, tools and processes for the improvement of companies productivity and profitability. It is regarded as further development of Business Intelligence. As well as the process analysis and reporting in the focus of Business Intelligence, which relate to previous activities, BPM also covers forward-looking processes such as planning and forecasting.
Fat Client describes the part of a distributed application (Client/Server application) for which the server is used just to provide raw data and the majority of the application logic runs on the client. Disadvantages include weak security, high level of maintenance = high costs as updates and configuration must be performed on each end-user's individual PC, as well as the necessity of the maintenance of the underlying frameworks (e.g. Java, .NET releases).
Groupware describes software to support collaboration and cooperation within a group of people who may be in different locations or even different time zones.
Internal cost accounting is a form of cost accounting, in which internal costs are assigned based on evaluated values of cost rates. The calculated costs arise as a product of amount of activities and cost rate. The calculated costs are deducted from the outgoing cost center and added to the receiving cost center.
ISO9000 is a series of standards published by the ISO describing rules for the Quality Assurance of products and services.
Media Asset Management is the storing and management of meta-data such as graphics, videos, music files and text.
A Tenant is a technical as well as organizationally closed unit in a software system. The goal of a client-capable IT system is to make the structures and features of the system simultaneously available for several users (e.g. customers, departments), but to also enable a strictly divided approach for user data as well as the possibility of individual configuration. Advantages are saving IT resources through reuse and the central installation and maintenance.
A Production Planning and Control System is used for the digital modeling, management and improvement of client-specific business workflows.
Quality Management describes all organized measures, which serve to improve products, processes or activities in an organization.
The acronym RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) describes the organization of several physical hard disks as a logical unit, in order to guarantee a higher level of throughput independent of the RAID level used and/or to guarantee a higher level of failure safety.
Software as a Service is a concept in informatics in which software is made available by a provider over the internet. The provider is responsible for the provision and maintenance of the necessary hardware, so that the end-user by comparison has only minimal hardware requirements. Additionally the end-user usually rents the software for a limited period of time or data usage.
Six Sigma is a statistical quality target and at the same time a method of quality management whose core elements are description, measurement, analysis, improvement and supervision of business processes, using statistical methods.