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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

Technical Workflows

1. Classification of Workflows

Technical workflow management is not only about people but also systems, so that essentially different software systems can be integrated. Strictly technical workflows without any human interaction are rare, so that the features described here must always be seen in the context of a human workflow.

This also differentiates a workflow system from an automation system, which only integrates specialized external systems, such as machines, low-level or proprietary systems or file formats. Therefore, these are integrated as needed as automations or sub-automations into an overall workflow. A workflow then takes care of the exchange of data between people, the automation solutions and the higher-level software systems such as billing systems, customer and order management, archive systems and so on. Thus, the economic (financial) level and the technical (executive) level are linked and no longer exist in isolation.

Since the workflow system therefore tends to have to incorporate very many very different systems, there is no fixed inflexible API, but rather functions from the world of EAI. With these functions, the previously distributed interface logic is (1) centralized and (2) more flexible and (3) the number of interfaces is drastically reduced. You no longer need to program and maintain interfaces from each system to every other one, but the interfaces can be designed without any programming in a central EAI layer. This is done by mapping the metadata between the target and source system, so a system can be connected once and communicate over a different mapping with all other systems. In this way, the workflow system can even elegantly integrate systems or an external EAI system, which explicitly performs these and other tasks.

The integration of the systems works in the EAI layer via adapters or connectors that speak the 'language' or the protocol of the system to be integrated, i.e. as XML, RMI, COM, SQL et cetera. The most modern is the SOA approach, in which web services (XML files wrapped into the web) are used as connectors. Due to the web's wide availability and the self-descriptive XML files, the functionality (services) of the various systems can be used and re-used more easily. Therefore, the workflow system supports and enables the SOA approach, in which its own workflow services are made available and other web services are integrated easily by EAI capabilities.

The CEITON workflow system therefore has as standard the central automation and EAI/SOA capabilities in order to integrate external systems into the workflow. If, as already indicated, additional functions are necessary, external infrastructure systems (e.g. SAP, Oracle, etc.) can be connected even more easily, because then two flexible EAI/SOA systems talk to each other. The workflow system coordinates flow of tasks and information (metadata), leaving the technical connection of external systems to the external infrastructure solution (EAI e.g. by SOA). This is not itself a workflow management capability, but only the technical basis for the exchange of data to other systems which can be used by the workflow system to integration. This is mostly the case for our larger customers.

2. EAI and SOA on the Back-End

When systems in the background, on the server side for example, are connected to each other, we speak of back-end integration. Examples are an export into an ERP system or a call of a server service.

Using the CEITON EAI module of the workflow system a wide variety of interfaces can be freely defined and adapted without programming. Typically interfaces are designed for the following types of systems:

  • ERP (finance, cost accounting, purchasing, HR, data warehouse, etc.)
  • Program planning, sales and CRM systems
  • Editing, authoring, trans/encoder, QC programs
  • DAM, CMS, playout, transfer

In this way, very different standards and interface versions can easily be implemented without any programming, such as:

or any other future emerging definition, such as ones defined by AMWA.

These interfaces differ in various ways, such as:

  • Batch/real-time
  • Synchronous/asynchronous (with or without returns)
  • Standard/proprietary
  • Import/export
  • Stateless/stateful (e.g. per session or cookie)
  • Self/externally triggered.

Furthermore, the interface definitions to be defined differ according to the protocol:

  • Web service (formerly known as SOAP), REST, XML-RPC
  • Files such as text, Excel (CSV), EDIFACT, XML (incl. XSLT processing)
  • SQL
  • COM+, CORBA, RMI, .NET Remoting
  • Message queues
  • E-mail, SMS/pager

The EAI capabilities enable the following benefits:

  1. Interfaces can be created without programming and easily changed or extended at any time
  2. The workflow accesses each interface transparently and does not have to consider system specifics.

As far as the workflow system is concerned external systems are black boxes with which it exchanges information, as well as exchanging information with people using forms. The workflow engine uses the form server in one case and in the other the EAI module. What is happening in detail is completely irrelevant for the workflow system. It merely processes information using pre-defined rules and relationships so it can also be applied to arbitrary processes and industries.

3. EAI on the Front-End

When the user interfaces on a client machine are connected to each other, we talk of front-end integration. This is for example the case when part of a program is to be mashed up into another, or one is called from another.

This is somewhat useful if an employee receives a task in the workflow system and then has to complete this task in another system with part of the data, such as an order in the ERP system or a search in the archives. With the CTWS EAI system, the external application can be opened with one click, so that the appropriate screen is immediately filled out with the right data. Then a subject-specific task can be performed in the external application. After completion of the task, all the information is available to the workflow system for further handling in the process.

The front-end integration is easier with Web-based systems, but also goes well with locally installed programs or complex client/server systems (C/S) such as SAP GUI for Windows.

In general, the EAI front-end module distinguishes between the following types:

  • Type of application (web, local, C/S)
  • Incoming/outgoing call
  • Uni/bi-directional information exchange
  • Insertion of external information
  • Stateless or stateful call (cookie, session)
  • With/without single sign on (SSO)

SSO allows secure calling of all interfaces to third-party applications without re-authentication, so that the workflow is fast and comfortable for the user. Different LDAP servers, Active Directory, SAP, etc. can be used.

The front-end integration is often composed of a set of integrated interfaces, which can be easily defined via the EAI module, thereby hiding the actual complexity.

Because normal EAI systems do not show a GUI to the end-users, these features are also available only in the CEITON system.

4. Monitoring and Recording

If processes are to be controlled, one usually also wants to monitor them, to intervene based on status, etc. and if required, to reschedule. In the workflow system, we perform process monitoring of machines and systems (machine data acquisition), but no system monitoring via SNMP (operating data logging).

Since all data and interfaces in a workflow are individually modeled through an application process, the monitoring screens and sub-workflows for escalation are independently model-able. All the options of messaging, graphic interfaces, lists, external logging, and so on are available.

The Advanced Media Workflow Association is an open collaborative forum about the creation of modern, innovative and business-oriented specifications and technologies for networked media workflows.
Broadcast Metadata Exchange Format is a producer-neutral class model for the exchange of metadata which supports the TV production process for the planning of programs from production planning, through production, exchange to publication, including documentation. It describes the meaning of and relationships between information, which is relevant in the context of television production and enables the integration of IT systems through the standardization of data exchange.
Broadcast Exchange Format is a metadata format, which standardizes communication between program planning and creation and facilitates the flow of information. BXF allows the exchange of coupled content-related metadata between systems and also enables the communication of content movement instructions.
In client/server architecture, one computer (client) passes a query to another computer (server) in order to get content or information. The server makes the information available and client processes the received information.
A Content Management System is a system for the collaborative creation, editing and organization of content.
Customer Relationship Management is a company-wide business strategy, with which a systematic formulation of the interaction between the company and its customers improves customer satisfaction and loyalty. Software is often used for the organization, synchronization and automation of communications.
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 Application Integration is a concept for the company-wide integration into the value stream of business functions, which are distributed across various platforms.
Enterprise Resource Planning is the task of deploying resources (capital, raw materials or personnel) as efficiently as possible for operating processes and thereby optimizing the control of business processes.
A GUI, graphical user interface, is the usual means by which information is presented for computer-users using elements such as tables, menus, buttons etc.
Media Object Server is an XML-based protocol for transferring information between Newsroom Computer Systems and other systems like media servers.
Quality Control is a collective term for various methods for achieving quality, often involving inspection of work in progress or finished goods.
Service Oriented Architecture describes a design concept of informatics in which a modular breakdown of the implementation is postulated in such a way that the sub-modules can be reused for various business processes.
With the help of XSL Transformations, XML documents can automatically be transformed into a required target format.