Review: Teamplate

Teamplate 4.0
starting at $15,000
Captaris, Inc.
Bellevue, Washington
(425) 455-6000

I've written about Teamplate a couple of times based on briefings from the company. Since the last time I covered them, a couple of things have happened. First, the company was acquired by Captaris (though the Teamplate Web site is still independent for the moment). Second, they sent me a very spiffy Dell laptop with their version 4.0 preinstalled so that I could play with the software myself. (Just in case you think this editing job is TOO cushy, please note that they're expecting me to send the laptop back).

Teamplate is, at its heart, workflow software that's designed to integrate with a variety of Microsoft products. In use, Teamplate presents a graphic view with buttons you push to launch each stage of a workflow process; this view might be standalone or in a browser or in a Task Pane within an Office application such as InfoPath. Teamplate keeps track of which steps have been completed and won't let the user do something out of order; there are also business rules to control branching and actions (such as sending e-mail) that can happen automatically when a step in a process is completed. Behind the scenes, the product is integrating with most everything under the sun: Office, Outlook, Exchange, Visio, InfoPath, Active Directory, Microsoft CMS, BizTalk Server, IIS, SharePoint...the list continues.

Designing processes is a matter of working within the Teamplate IDE. You can string together predefined actions, create custom actions, build Web and Windows forms, and write code pretty easily -- though there's so much going on here that the whole process can get overwhelming for the new developer. Generally, though, the company backs up an installation with training to avoid this fate. Even without the training there are a good set of samples and tutorials available to teach you the basics. With just a bit of poking around I was able to load up a pre-build model and make some changes to it.

There are a lot of places where Teamplate just plain writes the code for you. For instance, drop a Word document that's set up for mail merge into a Teamplate model, and Teamplate can automatically extract all the merge fields and create an XML document to hold the information that they need. With just a little dragging and clicking you can build a form that creates an XML document of the appropriate structure. Hook the two together and you get a form that flows into the mail merge. Drag a stock action into the picture and you get an automatic e-mail sent when the process is completed. Of course, you can also write code behind everything when you need some bit of sophistication that's not in the automatic functionality, but for many business processes you won't need to do so.

With a serious price, this is not a system that you're going to use in a small shop. But if you're supporting a bunch of knowledge workers in a fairly large business, and you're committed to the Microsoft platform, Teamplate is definitely worth a look. By adding workflow capabilities to all the standard Microsoft Office applications, along with .NET customizations, Teamplate has the potential to let you truly automate processes, instead of just filling in documents. That can save a whole lot of money in the long run.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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