Let’s define Alfresco meaning across its rich capabilities for document management and business process automation.
Learn more about the 20 benefits of the Alfresco platform and extra capabilities beyond the main features.
Open-source solution: does it cost something? Know the investment for the basic feature set.
These companies are on everyone’s lips, and they rely on Alfresco.
The present-day level of intensity of business process changes in companies leaves only two directions to move forward and not to prevent chaos: to integrate the efficient IT system of business process management (BPM) or micromanage the company’s processes with excessive control. That is the reason why BPM systems have a marked rise nowadays.
What is Alfresco?
Alfresco is a group of information and business process management software products with Java technologies at its core, offering a Digital Business Platform for enterprises for free and under license. If you are interested in digging deeper into details about Alfresco’s digital transformation in the company, you can read our previous article.
Before we delve deeper into Alfresco open source solutions’ advantages, let’s ensure everyone is on the same page with the generally accepted terms of Alfresco editions.
Community Edition (CE) is a free open community platform supported by Alfresco. It is supposed to be used for non-critical business processes or content needs, as it states officially. However, in our experience, it is feasible for enterprises of any level if they are enlisted the support of old hand-outsourced Alfresco developers to join together in teams. It is a good base for researching new features and means of application for the company. You can invent something new and implement it successfully with challenge-driven tech enthusiasts.
Enterprise Edition (EE) is a subscription version of the Alfresco platform for businesses sensitive to enterprise-grade features and ongoing updates, appreciated scalability, and high performance, which prefer support from Alfresco or certified partners. It differs from the service and support range of the CE but has the same feature set. EE is more recommended for commercial deployment because of the greater connectivity required—available on-premise and in the cloud.
Finding a synergic partner who wants to make headway and will support your growth is a big deal. Aimprosoft Alfresco developers contribute to the Alfresco open source community platform on a regular basis apart from offering custom development services. That is because our mission is beyond just doing our job well. We strive to advance and move up forward.
Overview of Alfresco capabilities
The business will have order if there is harmony in the safekeeping of documents. How we manage, the ways we store files, and how we work with them influence our productivity from year to year.
Next, we will recount to you how to make amends for all the bulks of folders with post-meeting audio tracks, video conference call records, brainstorm session notes, classified documents, and other critical information used to being stored in disorder on the intranet servers.
One of the exceptional features is the digital document management system which we will pay particular attention to. Other remarkable options are workflow and collaboration, where we dwell for a moment on these cases.
How can Business Process Management systems better your workflows?
To start, first of all, let’s agree on Alfresco’s meaning in terms of ‘workflow.’ According to Business Dictionary, workflow is a progression of reliably repeatable steps (sequential or parallel) that comprise a work process participated by several persons with a resulting value for the organization’s activities.
Workflow is an underlying term related to Alfresco’s prime cause — the automatization of daily business processes of the company. Hence, Business Process Management (BPM in short) is the instrument to arrange work efforts in a proper sequence of actions, information, and document flow within the collaboration environment. BPMs complement embedded CRM systems, CMSs, and accounting systems paired with Alfresco EDM systems allowing them to put in the order information processing and exchange.
Workflows are not something mysterious that we can’t comprehend. Everyone may launch and does move processes every day with email, communicating via smartphone (calls, messages, apps), and even by word of mouth. Yes, it happens in an Alfresco-free world. Let’s shine a light on the dark side of the moon – the tech side.
Each workflow is executed in its own sandbox. It prevents spoiling the logic or functionality of other ongoing flows in Alfresco. This work movement is visible to assignees and initiators, only keeping the confidentiality of information in progress.
Technically the system is running on Activiti to connect any Alfresco modules and components, streamlining the course of action. Business users can see visually how to deal with knotty, as often happens, if-then-else decision trees. The used workflow engine can be integrated with 3rd-party applications, APIs, and libraries that extend the facility of workflow process management enormously. But it’s not at all. The workflow designer (Activiti designer) allows users to create simple workflows without any line of code. In other cases, ask for help from Alfresco developers to give your most dared ideas a birth. Besides Alfresco storage, your content can be stored on websites equipped with individual dashboards for each made up of dashlets. Development and consulting services are in demand as the system is customizable to both core and Alfresco Share.
Long-established document management is full of shortcomings. Misplaced various files take uncountable time away from employees. A single employee is believed to be spending up to 5-6 hours a week to find the right document: continuous overwriting and overprinting of new versions of documents disorder a version control. Cluttered space with docs turns the office into the store and reflects expenditures on paper.
Electronic document management system (EDMS) with Alfresco straightens out issues by converting current documents copying, transferring, approving, and sending into a smart workflow transparently. Moreover, files of high importance, whether legal, marketing, or engineering documentation, can be found, shared, and secured with little effort.
That being said, Alfresco solutions are not limited to EDM. A complimentary element is an integration of intelligent file dissemination into the heart of the business process. As a result, the information gets into the hands of the right person in time via available applications and devices used by people. Amazon-like search allows calling tagged files in advance by the on-what-they-are way. Nothing worth in records will be lost, thanks to version control. Alfresco saved all modifications in the middle of the document journey, so you don’t have to don’t bulks of folders or email chains in the hopes of finding the changed details you need.
In short, ECM frees managers up to shift the focus and see the big picture rather than try on Sherlock Holmes’s deductive reasoning.
As always, there’ll be a demand for automation of any kind of collaboration. Gaining a firm foothold in the enterprise content management area, Alfresco C-levels undertook an exciting business move towards the niche of teamwork, which people long for these days.
You must have been got already a thoroughly tested BPM system. Now you want to have things done with a collective contribution both internally and externally across the enterprise. Popular Alfresco development processes like uploading, sharing, modifying, and approving documents must be safe and sound in the office and within reach of the enterprise intranet. Alfresco Enterprise Collaboration BPM solution is designed exactly to connect teammates in digital space within one business unit. As a bonus, it is open to external participants of the shared document or workflow due to Alfresco’s hybrid cloud configuration with sufficient security.
The process could be out of the box or custom. For example, a strategist on business development at the bank decides to open a tender for acquiring services for developing online banking. Alfresco Content Services will serve there as an excellent base for mutual access to the particular workflow of a group of interests. It would be a website with a familiar UI accessed by involvers from different points with personal login and password provided by a tender initiator. The permission management system allows for providing flexible access for participants.
Alfresco Activiti engine: process and document management
Alfresco Process Services and Alfresco Activiti are products of Alfresco solutions that diverge in purpose. Activiti is a standalone server to perform business process management. It is capable of operating independently. It can be integrated with other systems where the business workflow is vital. When a company needs an automated business process, Alfresco Activity can be combined with any web system (Liferay content management and collaboration system, e-Commerce omnichannel websites, etc.), which doesn’t include functionality for coordinating steps in a particular work process.
Let’s see the case. An administrative supervisor has issued an updated company policy sheet and wants each employee to get to know it. They initiate a workflow process with a clause “Everyone in the company has to acquaint himself with the document and inform about it.” After launching the movement, employees get the link in their email box, following which everybody falls into Alfresco in the particular task and can accept or reject the improvements.
Alfresco allows around five default primitive workflow types for an assignment activity with a modest feature set. Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t limit you: any original workflow can be created for diverse applications. Only tech addicts, who experience multifarious projects from different industries, are suited for this work perfectly.
Alfresco’s leadership made it possible for the product to make great strides toward enterprises with JBoss jBPM. Since version 1.4 was released, Alfresco repository content could be led through complex business processes. With the 4.0 version, it appeared Activiti with the Apache-licensed workflow engine. Then Alfresco 5.1 came with dropped jBPM. For those planning their first test of Alfresco perks, we’d like to advise Activiti for sure; the rest reflecting on the soon upgrade will leave jBPM, which is unwilled to change the jBPM license, in any case.
Mobile Content & Process Services
Adaption is imperative for businesses to flourish. It’s about mobile adaptation as well. Fascinations of the latest novelties in digital push enterprises to spice up their conventional business processes with mobile. Alfresco EE provides on-the-go content encryption for subscribers to secure sensitive corporate data on mobile devices. A cipher is a peculiar algorithm that scrambles text, making it unintelligible to deliberate criminals without the key.
From the technical aspect, you can wield three apps for content services, process services, and app development framework. The first one is designed to let you share and edit great-value content. Alfresco Process Services are run on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with Tomcat. It’s a means for users of any hierarchical level to cope with tasks, initiate collaborations, and upload files of any acceptable format (depending on implemented 3rd-party integrations). As for Application Development Framework, CE had no integration with ADF earlier, but now it is under development and testing and is totally compatible with public REST APIs. It is expected to have Activiti Community supported soon.
In Alfresco Mobile Services, security and governance issues are thought out well. Native iOS and Android apps put in force your corporate policies concerning access to data by permanent encryption of them. Demarcated management of personal and business files is done to respect the sake of user convenience.
Alfresco Mobile App communicates with the Alfresco platform via IP. Before using Alfresco on mobile, you should have your login and password to access the enterprise platform. After setting up the app on your smartphone, you’ll be asked to choose which community to join. All you have to do now is to input the IP number and access data.
Extra capabilities of Alfresco
Alfresco automation has been lauded for its content management solutions grappling with business processes. Let’s have a look at the following features worth using.
Document Scanning and Capture. Do you recognize yourself in the following lines, describing everyday manual actions that make your employees, the men, see red? When she takes a document of dozens of sheets and scans every page, which loses its new-paper appearance, it comes time to recognize the content and retype everything by hand to digitize. It’s very time-consuming, isn’t it? Assistants can contribute more with automated scanning. Don’t panic; this issue can be solved with Alfresco’s out-of-the-box features of integrated 3rd-party integration. We sorted out everything in the previous article.
Information Governance. The next big step is how to deal with all that content in a smart manner. No prizes for guessing if we’re just here hanging out about innovative thinking; therefore, information governance with Alfresco is subject to automation. The full information lifecycle ‘capture – active usage – archive – final destruction’ could be spruced up seamlessly out of reach of the human eye.
GDPR Compliance Solutions. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is expected to come into effect on May 25, 2018. As George Parapadakis stated in Alfresco’s blog post, GDPR deals inherently with the issues of sensitive information protection involving services like Digital Business Platforms.
20 benefits for business with Alfresco solutions
Higher productivity of employees
One significant business challenge faced by many organizations is the burden of exhaustive manual work. Tedious and time-consuming manual processes can hamper productivity, hinder efficiency, and result in potential errors. However, with Alfresco’s advanced automation capabilities, repetitive tasks can be streamlined and automated, freeing up employees’ valuable time and allowing them to focus on more strategic and value-added activities. With this newfound efficiency, businesses can experience a remarkable increase in productivity among their workforce, leading to improved overall performance and competitiveness in the market.
Synchronization of separate applications
In a scenario where your company deals with multiple separate applications, their integration and effective management can pose a significant challenge. However, by centralizing all applications and data in one place, the Alfresco platform ensures seamless synchronization and accessibility for users. This integration simplifies workflows, streamlines them, and eliminates the need to switch between different applications, ultimately increasing productivity and collaboration. With all data in one synchronized location, teams can work more cohesively, resulting in greater efficiency and overall organizational performance.
Administrative tasks automated
Managing a massive number of user accounts across multiple applications can be a complex and time-consuming process for organizations. Alfresco’s LDAP integrations simplify the user login process and effectively automate administrative tasks. Businesses get a centralized user management system to synchronize user data across different applications easily. This integration enhances security, optimizes user access, simplifies account management, and reduces administrative burden.
Increased speed, decreased shutdown of routines
The problem of inefficient business and operational execution has persisted for a long period, hindering overall efficiency and productivity. But by automating critical workflows, employees can work with incredible speed and agility. Routine and mundane tasks that used to cause delays and stoppages are now handled efficiently, resulting in smoother operations and improved order fulfillment.
Strong role hierarchy
One of the critical challenges companies face is the need for a strict hierarchy in supervisory processes. However, Alfresco’s collaborative task management solution can effectively address this challenge. Working with the Alfresco platform, supervisors get enhanced control over collaborative tasks. Managers can step in and provide guidance and support if an employee finds it difficult to accomplish their part of a task through a document or process. A clear role hierarchy in the organization where supervisors can actively engage with employees to ensure tasks are completed on time increases employee efficiency and synchronization.
All critical information is shown in one place
Presenting critical information in one centralized location is a frequent challenge. Using the Alfresco platform, organizations can create comprehensive dashboards that bring together all essential data and documents in one place. Customizable dashboards further extend these capabilities by allowing users to customize the dashboard to display specific information relevant to their roles and tasks. Employees can easily access and control important information, streamlining decision-making processes and fostering collaboration.
Centralized document storage
A business problem is the large number of uncategorized documents and files that can hinder effective searching. With metadata, tags, folder hierarchy, and advanced search capabilities, Alfresco Content Management users can easily organize and categorize documents in the system. Adding metadata and tags to files allows content to be labeled and categorized for easy identification. A folder hierarchy provides a structured approach to organizing documents, facilitating intuitive navigation. In addition, advanced search capabilities allow users to locate specific files using keywords and filters quickly. With Alfresco’s comprehensive suite of tools, businesses can maintain an organized document repository, significantly reducing search time and increasing productivity for users across the organization.
Fewer mistakes caused by a human factor
The most important benefit of implementing Alfresco is the reduction of human error. By automating critical workflows and tasks, you can minimize reliance on manual data entry and decision-making, reducing the likelihood of human error. With streamlined and standardized processes, Alfresco ensures that critical operations are performed consistently and accurately, increasing overall efficiency and contributing to a more robust and error-resistant environment for the organization. By automating business processes with Alfresco, businesses can reduce human error, leading to increased productivity, improved data integrity, and enhanced customer satisfaction.
C-levels can measure the level of achieving KPI
One of the significant benefits of using Alfresco is that it allows senior executives to measure the achievement of key business objectives (KPIs). With Alfresco’s quick task timing capability, employees can record their working hours accurately and efficiently. This streamlined time-tracking process makes tracking the progress of key tasks and projects easy. C-level executives can gain valuable insights into employee productivity and performance, allowing them to make data-driven decisions and measure the success of KPIs across the organization.
Lessening time for work on the document
The problem associated with the long and confusing movement of documents within a company can be effectively solved with Alfresco’s automated document management. Utilizing the platform’s automation capabilities, documents go through the entire lifecycle – from creation to review, approval, and distribution – without unnecessary delays or manual intervention. This optimized approach ensures that documents get to the right stakeholders quickly, enabling faster decision-making and collaboration.
Full-fledged access to the data on-the-go
A significant advantage of Alfresco is full access to the data stored in the platform, even without a browser or smartphone. The problem associated with difficult access to data can be effectively solved with the Alfresco Mobile Content & Process Services solution. With this solution, users can access important data and documents on the go using various devices, including tablets and laptops, without being limited to a browser or smartphone.
Automatic tracking and keeping the documents over the years
One of the significant advantages of using Alfresco is the automatic tracking and archiving of expired files and electronic record keeping of key business processes and applications. The problem of managing a significant amount of files accumulated over the years can be effectively solved with Alfresco Governance Services. The platform can automatically track file expiration, ensuring that outdated documents are identified and handled accordingly. With convenient archiving, relevant files can be securely stored, preserving historical data and freeing up active workspace.
Everything is stored in one place
With Alfresco Enterprise Collaboration Solution, businesses can overcome the challenge of complex sharing and utilization of enterprise applications. By treating Alfresco as a centralized database of documents and data, all critical information is stored in one place for easy access and collaboration. This unified platform streamlines workflows and eliminates the need for multiple applications, allowing teams to work more efficiently.
Automated transformation into any format and recognition of scanned docs
Alfresco’s document scanning and capture solution integrated with Ephesoft enables businesses to solve the problem of manually converting paper copies into electronic documents effortlessly. A significant advantage is the automatic conversion of files into various formats such as doc, excel, and pdf, as well as the recognition of scanned documents. This eliminates the need for time-consuming manual typing, streamlining processes, and increasing productivity. Employees can now easily and accurately convert paper copies to electronic formats, reducing errors and manual operations.
Confirmation of documents quickly and legally
Integrating Alfresco with DocuSign offers a powerful solution to the problem of cumbersome document approval processes. A significant benefit of this integration is the ability to quickly and legally validate documents using electronic signatures. DocuSign’s secure and legally binding electronic signature capabilities simplify the document approval process by eliminating the need for manual paperwork. This integration enables organizations to expedite the document approval process, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and improving overall efficiency.
Provides effective search mechanism
Alfresco’s efficient search engine allows users to easily and efficiently find the documents and information they need. Alfresco’s comprehensive and user-friendly search functionality enables users to perform quick and advanced searches based on various criteria such as document title, metadata, content, tags, etc. Alfresco’s search engine can be customizable, allowing users to filter search results by specific file types, date ranges, authors, or other relevant attributes. In addition, Alfresco supports full-text search, meaning users can find content based on the text of documents.
The platform enables enterprises to define standardized processes and workflows using standard models such as Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) or other process definition languages. With Alfresco’s process standardization capabilities, organizations can create reusable templates for standard processes, ensuring tasks are performed consistently and efficiently. This reduces errors, ensures compliance with regulations and best practices, and improves operational efficiency.
Higher versioning capability
Alfresco provides enhanced versioning capabilities, enabling efficient versioning and revision management of documents. When multiple users collaborate on documents, it is vital to maintain a clear version history to track changes and ensure data integrity. In Alfresco, a new version is automatically created with the previous version intact each time a document is edited or updated. This versioning capability allows users to access and restore previous versions when needed, providing transparency and accountability for document changes.
There are two reliable types of Alfresco developers in the market: certified and outsourced. The difference between them is in cost only. For years, outsourced developers have proved their strong qualifications in this area due to their enthusiasm to contribute, reinforced by their experience. Aimprosoft’s portfolio illustrates the range of Alfresco development and consulting services.
Let the figures take this case. Below is a rough estimation of the deployment of the basic and advanced feature sets of Alfresco EDM:
Installation – 4h;
Create user accounts manually – 15 accounts within 1h;
Creating sites (include permissions) – 10 sites within 1h;
Data uploading (depends on the bandwidth of the server) – 10 gb per 1h;
Configure additional services (CMIS, inbound and outbound email, FTP, LDAP, SSO) – up to 1 day.
Based on our experience, clients order basic setups and some necessary customizations, which usually take up to 1 week compared with three working days (24 hours) for basic ones. Enterprise clients will have a system done in half a year of the Alfresco development process to meet all their requirements concerning complex custom workflows and content management.
Being initial, document management is inextricably linked with business process management because the latter is launched on data. The default package of the BPM solution can be available to use in 8 hours, undertaken by one Senior Alfresco Developer and DevOps. More complex business process automation systems are developed starting from 4-6 months.
What are some real-world examples of businesses using Alfresco successfully?
There have been several real-world examples of businesses successfully using Alfresco for content management and business process automation. Let’s look at them closer.
NASA: Enterprise collaboration
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) integrated Alfresco into its custom collaborative portal, aeroCOMPASS, with over 800 sites. Using Alfresco’s capabilities, NASA enhanced collaboration and document management across its various departments and teams, facilitating the exchange of critical information and improving workflow efficiency.
Cisco, the world’s largest networking company, faced the challenge of its sales and partner teams spending significant time searching for critical information to support customer conversations. This content chaos cost the company over $375 million annually in lost productivity. By implementing SalesConnect, a centralized sales content and training platform powered by Alfresco, they provided users rapid access to relevant information, enabling sales teams to focus on customers and deliver comprehensive solutions.
National Academy of Sciences, the U.S.: Web Content Management Platform
The Division on Earth & Life Studies (DELS) at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) faced significant challenges managing its homegrown content management system. This led to broken functionality and a need for Web-publishing tools for staff. DELS achieved complete editorial control while maintaining site quality and performance, combining Alfresco and another content management platform. The decoupled content delivery approach supported multi-user content production, flexible content modeling, multisite and multichannel publishing, and improved scalability and performance.
U.K. Power Networks: ECM implementation
Apart from achieving a cost avoidance of £1.5 million in license fees and gaining productivity and efficiency benefits from improved information sharing and collaboration, the ECM implementation played a crucial role in improving customer service while reducing operational costs for U.K. Power Networks. Through Alfresco, U.K. Power Networks continues to deliver reliable, safe, and sustainable electricity while driving innovation and cost efficiency in the electricity distribution industry.
University of Westminster: ECM system
The University of Westminster sought to replace its first-generation intranet platform with an integrated enterprise content management (ECM) system to manage complex information efficiently. Alfresco ECM solution turned out to be ideal for supporting internal collaboration among academics and professional staff teams while enhancing partnership capabilities with external bodies through web-enabled services. The ECM system, integrated with the University’s web content management system, supports document, record, and knowledge management, enhancing search, find, and content linking capabilities for 2,500 users accessing 195,000 documents.
The ultimate result
The BPM boom has indeed transformed the world business experience. Today it is an underlying term related to the Alfresco solutions prime cause. It makes Alfresco a synonym for the flow of business processes and document flow. As you can see, Alfresco is a document storing system, automated workflow, and collaboration system in one. You might be seeking one solution to improve your business. And you have been casting around a proper software.
When you make up your mind to take the plunge and start to enjoy Alfresco Content Services, having solved one issue, you may resolve a minimum of two more correlated complex problems. Scanning, smart storing and archiving, and much more will come as a pleasant bonus up to your wish. Our Alfresco flagship crew is ready to take a task on.
How can Alfresco benefit my business?
Alfresco can benefit your business in several ways. It provides a robust and scalable document management system, streamlining your organization’s content and facilitating easy access and collaboration among team members. Alfresco’s advanced search capabilities, version control, and document workflows enhance productivity. Additionally, it integrates well with existing applications, reducing the need for complex data migrations.
Can Alfresco be customized to fit my specific business needs?
Yes, Alfresco can be fully customized to meet your specific business needs. It offers a flexible platform that allows you to tailor the system to match your organization’s unique processes, workflows, and branding requirements. Whether it’s adjusting metadata fields, designing custom interfaces, or creating specialized workflows, Alfresco’s open architecture provides ample customization possibilities.
Is Alfresco a cloud-based solution, or does it require on-premises installation?
Alfresco offers both cloud-based and on-premises installation options. This versatility allows businesses to choose the deployment method that aligns with their preferences, resources, and security requirements. The cloud-based solution is ideal for companies seeking hassle-free maintenance and scalability, while the on-premises installation provides greater control over data and infrastructure.
Is Alfresco suitable for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) or is it more geared towards enterprise-level organizations?
Alfresco caters to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and enterprise-level organizations. Its modular architecture and customizable features suit various companies, regardless of size. SMBs benefit from their cost-effectiveness and scalability, while larger enterprises appreciate their ability to handle complex content management requirements.
How does Alfresco ensure the security of my business data?
Alfresco places a strong emphasis on security to protect your business data. It incorporates security features like access controls, encryption, and audit trails to safeguard sensitive information. Regular updates and patches ensure the system remains resilient against emerging threats, giving you peace of mind when managing critical business data.
Does Alfresco offer any collaboration features for team-based projects?
Yes, Alfresco offers collaboration features to enhance team-based projects. Its platform enables real-time collaboration, allowing team members to collaborate seamlessly on documents, comments, and track changes. Versioning capabilities prevent data conflicts, ensuring everyone is on the same page, improving efficiency and team productivity.
Does Alfresco offer any workflow automation capabilities?
Alfresco provides robust workflow automation capabilities. It allows you to define and automate document-centric processes, optimizing repetitive tasks and ensuring consistency in business operations. With Alfresco’s workflow automation, you can reduce manual interventions, speed up approvals, and enhance overall business efficiency.
Can I migrate my existing document management system to Alfresco document management?
Yes, you can migrate your existing document management system to Alfresco. It offers migration tools and services, facilitating a smooth platform transition. Whether you are moving from an on-premise solution or another cloud-based system, Alfresco’s migration capabilities help preserve data integrity and minimize disruptions during the migration process.
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