Workflow engine in software development: why use it

We already talked about workflow management, and its system and application in our blog. But, discussing software development: what is a workflow engine?

What is a worflow engine?

  • Designed to manage business processes, workflow engine is a software application. It differs from your everyday workflow application mostly because it uses a database server.
Pipefy development process.

This type of software manages and monitors the state of the activities in your everyday workflows. At the same time, it determines to which new activity you should transition according to your pre-defined processes.

The software development industry creates an unique set of challenges to be managed. Unlike any other industry, software development may present you with lots of different situations, and eventual problems that are far less common and distinct to work around.

For that reason, having a workflow engine in place can be really important in software development teams. By saving time with automated processes, you can work on reducing the actual problems you are going to face. By automating the easiest tasks, you’ll remove the occurrence of human error.

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Then, a typical workflow engine would work alongside your team to ensure that, with the help of your database server, all the “easy” stuff can be taken care of by the system

So, it ensures that you’re actually working towards meeting your business goals. How? By managing, and then improving the overall state of the workflow, and the activities that are being done.

Why workflow engine is awesome

The use of a workflow engine will ultimately “force” you to rethink the way you write software. It actually makes you separate your overall business processes from the actual software development ones. 

Don’t worry about these changes, though. The basic components of your logic system will remain even if the process undergoes some changes.

Deciding to use a workflow engine is useful in many ways. For example, it provides you solid documentation for your business process. So, a new developer will be able to understand it just by looking at it. 

Of course you’re able to document processes independently by hand. Yet, after a few releases, it’s less likely they’ll be kept updated.

Sure, at first, workflow engines will make software a tad bit more complicated and debuggers less easy to use — it adds moving parts and additional elements to deploy.

After all, when working with larger projects — with big and complicated processes — the newly added complexity becomes unimportant when compared to the benefits of having an actual detailed process rather than just something implied and distributed throughout your code.

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Workflow engine’s benefits

For many of those larger and complex projects, mapped and easier to visualize and execute workflows are fundamental. Workflow engine simplifies documenting and developer onboarding. In addition, it makes the maintenance process much easier.

These are a few reasons why using a workflow engine can be beneficial to your software development activities:

  • No need for recompiling – With your rules kept as data instead of code, you won’t have to recompile every time you need to test changes etc. This isn’t much of an advantage, if you didn’t have to recompile in the first place
  • Rules kept as data – Keeping your rules as data will enable the writing of tools just for visualization and data changing
  • Easier rule editing – You will be able to reasonably expect users to edit the rules. They will be able to change and “play” with them interactively in ways that aren’t quite possible when a programmer writes code for them
  • Meta-programming made easier – Keeping your rules as data will also enable easier meta-programming. You’ll be able to write code to analyze the data, and, further on, insert more in a complex way.
Written by
Isabelle Wuilleumier Salemme
Head of Customer Support @Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to help users make the best of Pipefy via support and writing informative content pieces. Besides being in charge of support, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover, and a professional photographer.
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