On the Radar: Comindware

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Comindware offers a novel, unified work co-ordination and management platform that allows customers to manage work through a variety of approaches – spanning structured workflow, case management and project management. These approaches can be blended together to suit particular scenarios, with tasks and resources monitored and managed seamlessly across the piece.

Who?

Comindware (www.comindware.com) is a small but fast-growing software company with headquarters in the US and R&D in Europe, that offers a novel unified platform for supporting multiple different styles and approaches to work co-ordination.

What does it do?

Comindware offers a set of three closely-related products, each of which is focused on enabling a particular style of work co-ordination. All are built on a common development and infrastructure platform, and can be used seamlessly together:

  • Comindware Tracker – a focused workflow platform that uses state machine semantics and a proprietary workflow notation to enable clients to build flexible workflow applications quickly. Comindware Tracker is designed to be very easy to use in the development and configuration of workflow applications, and Comindware targets its use at subject-matter experts in business teams rather than at IT specialists.
  • Comindware Project – built on the extended core software platform first used for Comindware Tracker, but optimised to support teams and organisations wanting to organise work using project definitions that comprise multiple stages, milestones and tasks – and then track the progress of projects with respect to defined resources (people’s time) and budget.
  • Comindware Process – sharing the core software platform first used for Comindware Tracker and Comindware Project, it implements the BPMN standard for process modelling, and expands the core platform functionality relating to key areas of data management and reporting. There’s support for dynamic processes in the platform, enabling exploratory work scenarios to be well supported (with ‘case management’ style applications). Deployed together with Comindware Project, it provides seamless process-project conversion and unified centralized tasks and resource management across processes, cases and projects.

The underlying application development platform on which Comindware Tracker, Comindware Process and Comindware Project are built has some notable features that it delivers into all three of these products (as well as applications that you might choose to custom-build or have Comindware build for you):

  • Data management – using its own proprietary ElasticDB graph database technology, the Comindware platform can natively manage business data. There are importers for Microsoft Excel and Access, and data in the platform is not restricted to being managed according to relational data management structures or semantics.
  • Forms – a visual form builder makes it easy to design and build web-based data entry and display forms that attach to any data managed in the platform (not just process or case specific state data).
  • Document management – documents can be stored in the underlying graph database and associated with (and retrieved in the execution of) tasks, processes and projects. Document versioning and metadata management are implemented, too.
  • Centralised task management – regardless of where an activity originated (a manual task, a case, a business process, a project or even an external system) – Comindware’s unified task management system presents all tasks in one place.
  • Resource management – your applications can account for all resources with tasks assigned (or to be assigned) to them, and use both task information (start date, assignee, due date, expected duration) and resource allocation information (tasks assigned to specific assignees, assignee calendars and assignee capacity (in terms of hours of work per day) to detect and help resolve conflicts; and to optimise resource load and expected tasks completion times for all tasks in the system.
  • Social collaboration – team discussions and workspaces can be quickly created and associated with documents, tasks, projects, cases or process instances using the Comindware Team Network module of the platform. Discussions can be controlled and secured based on users’ profiles and roles, ensuring that external contributors can be safely included where relevant. User profiles link into skills definitions, organisation charts and resource definitions – so it’s easy for staff to explore their networks and find colleagues with the tools and availability to assist in particular situations.
  • Action auditing – it’s easy to configure the underlying platform to log all actions and changes that occur in the operation of a specific application, and then create queries and reports that provide post hoc auditing.
  • Configurable, responsive user interfaces – by default, all the user interfaces you create for your Comindware applications are responsive across device types; in addition Comindware provides free native apps for iPad, iPhone and Android devices. There’s a Microsoft Outlook plugin for Windows users, too, that enables Outlook to be used as a task management front-end. User interfaces are configurable per person’s role and likely responsibilities, both by administrators and by users themselves.

Comindware also provides number of quick-start business application templates to help customers tackle scenarios relating to approval management, IT service management (ITSM), claims management, HR processes (and others).

Clients can license Comindware products and deploy on-premises, or use Comindware’s cloud platform (hosted using AWS). In either case, licensing is via annual subscription.

Who is it for?

So far, Comindware has principally done business with corporate customers in the US, Germany, Russia, and Central and Eastern Europe – with some of its marquee customers (e.g. Anthem, Southern New Hampshire University and Sheetz, a convenience retail chain) based in the US. Comindware positions itself as particularly able to support clients who want to undertake quick digital transformation in a part of their business; its platform, which enables clients to take an evolutionary approach to work digitisation, supports this positioning.

Anthem’s use of Comindware technology demonstrates Comindware’s value relating to simplicity and agility: it deployed a Comindware application to assist in healthcare claims processing, and delivered a solution in three months (in comparison to the incumbent provider, which is reported to have estimated 24 months to deliver).

Why is it interesting?

What’s particularly interesting about Comindware and its portfolio of platforms is the ways that support for different work co-ordination styles can be used together:

  • You can create systems-of-systems that co-ordinate work in different ways to support different areas within end-to-end business processes. You can model high-level enterprise processes visually (using a dedicated process architecture tool that ships with Comindware Process), and associate particular work co-ordination styles (projects, processes, cases) with particular process stages. There’s one unified platform providing task management, resource management, and collaboration features underneath.
  • It’s possible to start an effort to digitise a given area of work in a very lightweight way – using any of Comindware Tracker, Comindware Project or Comindware Process to create simple form-driven transactional applications. Then, it’s possible to incrementally add task assignment and management features; refine further with richer workflow and case management capabilities as requirements become clearer; and then, over time, if a clear structured process evolves from your explorations, create a well-defined process template that will be used by default to ‘run the work’.

Through these capabilities Comindware provides one unified environment for managing and improving work that enables you to evolve your approaches over time.

How established is it?

Comindware was founded in 2010 by a group of executives with history at software firms like Acronis, Kaspersky Labs and NetCracker. The company now has approaching 100 customers, including Volkswagen, ExxonMobil Aviation, Anthem, UNSOA, Captron, WGZ Bank, Sheetz, United Card Services and Gazprom Avia. Around 70% of Comindware’s revenue comes from license sales; the remainder from professional services (consulting, implementation and training). Comindware doesn’t disclose its revenue, but says that revenue has been “roughly doubling” each year for the past few years.

How open is it?

From a design perspective, Comindware Process supports BPMN 2.0 well. In operation, Comindware makes extensive use of a comprehensive set of SOAP- and WSDL-based web services APIs that are available to third parties, as well as being used by the platform’s own user interface layer to access back-end functionality and data. These APIs are equally available for use by customers and partners with on-premises installations of Comindware products, and those using cloud-based deployments.

Who does it partner with?

From a technology standpoint Comindware’s principal partners are Microsoft and Amazon Web Services. The company is currently developing a partner program focused on systems integrators and consultancies.

Are there areas for improvement?

In building a single technology platform that enables clients to build traditional workflow applications, case management systems, project management systems, collaborative task management systems and more – and to mix and match multiple work co-ordination approaches in one installation – Comindware is breaking through a number of existing product categories. In doing this, of course, Comindware has to work doubly hard to make it clear to the market what it does, and what it doesn’t do. The Comindware Platform can in theory be used in thousands of ways; but this isn’t necessarily a strength for a company that’s pitching itself principally to businesspeople rather than technologists. Comindware has more to do to identify a specific set of market segments, simplify its proposition and make its value more obvious.

What’s next?

Comindware’s next development priority is to build out an application marketplace, within which Comindware and its partners will offer commercial business applications for installation on the platform. Some of the priorities in terms of business applications include lightweight IT Service Management, CRM, and some resource- and request- management capabilities.

Should I consider it?

Comindware’s customers commonly regard its products as platforms for rapid experimentation and deployment. If you’re on a path to digitally transform an area of your business that requires you to do more to automate work co-ordination, and if you have a mandate to explore novel technologies (rather than being restricted to traditional enterprise technology stacks), then Comindware’s platform and applications are definitely worth exploring.

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