12 Replies Latest reply on Apr 16, 2014 12:20 PM by sperry

    Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?

    Nathan Heick

      I'm looking for ArcFM users who might be using the ArcGIS Workflow Manager Extension instead of Session Manager in Desktop.  I would also be happy to hear from anyone who would like to comment on the differences between the two or whether or not the ArcGIS Workflow Manager extension is fully compatible with ArcFM Solution.

        • Re: Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?
          Neil Batchelor

          I know Eagle in New Zealand was looking into the possibilities a few years ago.  Maybe DAN CLARK can help here.

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          • Re: Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?

            Nathan,

             

            We fully configured Esri JTX (now Workflow Manager) at MLGW (Memphis) and they use it for some fairly advanced landbase workflows along with more basic gas, electric, and water workflows. I am happy to share some opinions on it vs. Session Manager and we might also solicit input from Arnisa Davis, Andrew McColgan, and Steve Veltman as they are the primary GIS admins for Esri WFM. Overall I would say it worked "ok" and is functional. In some ways it may have advanced functionality but in others it missed major benefits from Session Manager.

            • Workflow Visualization - Esri WFM has a pretty cool presentation of workflow in the format of a decision (UML style) diagram. This makes configuring workflows closer to using Visio and is relatively intuitive for a GIS admin. However, this same diagram is then accessible to the end user and after training many users on it I feel like its almost too much detail for the end users of the app in some cases because it allows them to see the entire workflow as opposed to just the next available tasks or statuses like you do in Session Manager. It also allows you to skip steps, etc which can be viewed as a positive or negative based on the situation.
            • Map Template Usage - Esri WFM allows you to take MXDs and configure them to be used when opening a job in ArcMap. Kinda like an ArcFM Stored display but not quite as elegant. We found that whenever we updated a Stored Display we then had to save it as an MXD and re-upload it into Esri WFM. Esri WFM then essentially stores a copy of the MXD in the database for each job (like the option to store a stored display along with a design or session). But there is no option in Esri WFM to NOT store the mxd and that can make the database large in a big system. ArcFM provides a configurable PX setting that allows you to set the DB to not save the stored display which vastly improves performance at larger utilities.
            • ArcFM Integration - Esri WFM was a bit clunkier to get it to integrate with ArcFM. We essentially had to create separate WFM tasks to Open ArcMap and allow the user to log into ArcFM and then a separate task to load the MXD and initiate a versioned edit session. Not nearly as seamless as Session Manager.
            • Target Tab Retention - It may seem like a small item but I found myself missing it big time with Esri WFM. When you save a session or design, ArcFM will actually save the current state of your targets tab (on the ArcFM Attribute Editor) into the db. Then when you reopen your session later on, that data is all still there. Esri WFM doesnt know anything about the targets tab and every time you open your job you have to reload all your targets, favorites, templates AND reinitialize any attributes you may have set in the previous session. Definitely a time impact when editing in multiple jobs over more than a single day.
            • GDBM or BRP Integration - Session Manager has out of the box integration to Geodatabase Manager (GDBM) and many prior Batch Reconcile and Post applications. Esri WFM didnt have this and we had to build new custom approaches to get it to work with these standard Schneider tools. We also had to write custom clean up routines to get rid of the Esri versions after posting (this is included in ArcFM Orphaned Version and GDBM implementations).
            • Standardization - If you are a heavily invested ArcFM Shop, Session Manager will provide a better integrated experience in general for your users. If you are not, Esri WFM may be a good option.
            • Work Order Map Location - Esri WFM has the concept of an "Area of Interest" (AOI) which essentially allows the user to set a polygon on the map that defines where the work is occurring. This is VERY similar to the work request polygons we use in Designer except it extends the concept to all jobs including maintenance, blanket, and as-built jobs. Session Manager doesn't have this concept OOTB.
            • Work Order Related Info - Session Manager provides some pretty basic ability to capture information about a job - name, description, status, create date, assigned user, etc. Esri WFM has a lot more capability OOTB including the ability for tracking notes, job holds/delays, attached documents, dependencies, etc. All in all Esri WFM is closer to a true work management system in this case. If that's what you need it might be beneficial. Session Manager was not really intended to be a work management system but is instead meant to be a configurable way to manage work within your GIS with some additional basic workflow management.
            • Reporting - there is a better OOTB reporting engine with Esri WFM but this is because it acts more like a true Work Management System. And you can add reports as well. In Session Manager you can add reports but there is a bit more custom work associated with doing so. Also when Sessions are closed out in ArcFM, by default they are deleted. This can be changed but this is the default behavior. Esri WFM keeps the jobs around for historical and reporting purposes which I think is a good thing. We've added some Session Manager tools in the past that do the same thing though... so really just different approaches.
            • Both systems have the ability to use filters to query jobs.
            • Both systems can be extended programmatically both for custom fields and subtask type executable which fire code based on an event in the workflow.
            • Both systems can be used in ArcMap and outside ArcMap - though Esri WFM has an ArcGIS Server plugin to make it accessible via the web (though I have not implemented or played with it). Session Manager is more or less desktop bound out of the box.
            • Both systems have configurable workflow and can handle assignment, approval, posting, etc. Esri provides a bit more ability out of the box to prompt the user to answer questions or confirm steps. BUT I actually like the way Session Manager interacts with the user - its simpler and easier to train users on.

             

            That's about all I can think of at the moment. I'm sure there are other differences I'm not listing. After having done both implementations my recommendation would be to use Session Manager for the most seamless implementation. If you need additional functionality you can add just about any functionality you need to Session Manager. But hopefully the above items will give you some better info to think about when comparing the solutions.

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              • Re: Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?
                Nathan Heick

                Thanks, Skye.  Your detailed response is greatly appreciated.  As a municipality, we will have ArcFM/ArcGIS users and ArcGIS only users.  We are planning to use Workflow Manager for parcel editing and non-utilities datasets.  I did take the training two years ago on Workflow Manager and was very impressed by it, but was afraid to use it for everyone without understanding Session Manager more.  We are in implementation right now.  Good comments!  Exchange is becoming very useful for me.

                • Re: Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?
                  Nathan Heick

                  Hi Skye,

                   

                  I'm evaluating your comments in great detail.  They are very useful.  Since you reference JTX, I think that some of the problems you encountered may have been addressed in recent versions.  Here are some updates regarding Workflow Manager functionality:

                   

                  Workflow Visualization - There is an option now to allow steps to be skipped or require them to be completed.

                  Map Template Usage - "Custom" (most are OOTB) steps are available that are similar to ArcFM subtasks.  There are options to not save the map document with the job and to delete it later on in the workflow.  So, the issue of database bloat can now be managed.

                  ArcFM Integration - It looks possible to use automated step execution to automate the login and change version process.

                  GDBM or BRP Integration - Custom steps can be used to cleanup the versions using OOTB configuration.

                   

                  Your notes and other research are helping me visualize how the two compare, which you summarized well at the end of your notes.  Session Manager is simpler, which is a virtue or a flaw depending on who you are.  It appears that you can only have one Esri-style workflow for each node type.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.  Esri's WFM would let you make different WFM workflows to go with your different real-world workflows.  AOIs, reporting, email notifications, and the ability to run any geoprocessing tool are nice OOTB functionalities in WFM.  Data Reviewer batch jobs could be run.  Session Manager is better integrated OOTB with ArcFM's targets tab, geodatabase management functionality, and QA/QC tools.    Both can be customized as much as you want.  Session Manager probably makes complete sense for most ArcFM clients.  For us, where we have significant non-ArcFM workflows, Workflow Manager is necessary for our parcel fabric editing and non-utilities users.  I think now the decision is whether or not to use Session Manager for ArcFM editors and Workflow Manager for other editors, or to use Workflow Manager for all users for simplicity like MLGW.  I don't know if that would create any conflicts.  I think we will have to implement both and then make a decision after we get more first-hand experience.

                   

                  Your comment on how Session Manager saves the Targets Tab was extremely valuable.  I can see how that might be a significant productivity issue which would lean us towards sticking with Session Manager for ArcFM editing.

                   

                  I appreciate your help.

                    • Re: Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?

                      Nathan, happy to help!

                       

                      You are correct that you can only have one Esri-style workflow per PX node type in session manager. You could certain handle many sub-workflows based on throwing in some "custom" decision points but you are definitely correct that this approach would be more work than just configuring Esri WFM.

                       

                      Best of luck implementing both - should be a truly educational experience!

                  • Re: Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?
                    Kevin Brown

                    I don't know of any reason why you couldn't use Workflow Manager to manage as-built editing.  We're a Designer shop so we use WFM "as intended" but there have been times where someone just wanted to make corrections to the GIS and used WFM because they were familiar with it, instead of Session Manager.  The posing process will still work like in Session Manager - work functions are not required to make edits.  WFM does require a Designer license to use, however.

                    • Re: Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?

                      One final note on this one... the person at Esri who I found knew the most about Esri WFM is Tom DeWitte. He's not on Exchange but his email is tdewitte@esri.com. With the recent re-org over there Tom is now the lead sales engineer for the SE territory. He is always happy to talk about Esri WFM and is very sharp if you need further intel.

                        • Re: Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?
                          Nathan Heick

                          Hi Skye,

                           

                          Based on your experience, would you recommend Workflow Manager for the landbase workflows and Session Manager for the ArcFM workflows?

                            • Re: Esri Workflow Manager Extension - Are you using it?

                              I think it works well at MLGW for land because they have such complex land editing workflows. They are significantly more complex than any other utility I've ever worked with because they manage the authoritative addressing data for the county instead of the other way around. Usually the county provides the landbase to the utility and it's much less of an issue. So, if you have a VERY complex landbase workflow with lots of document attachments, holds, and decision points then Workflow Manager would work well for you. If not, I'd probably just recommend sticking with Session Manager for all your workflows for consistency. Just my opinion of course.