By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2004-11-15 Print this article Print

When eWEEK Labs was pitched a product described as a business process management solution provided as a hosted service, it instantly received consideration for a "worst product idea imaginable" award. Just thinking about the problems and risks inherent in trying to tie together vital, sensitive, back-end business systems over the Internet through an ASP filled us with dread.

Luckily for Nsite Software Inc., the claim of being a BPM service can mainly be attributed to marketing overexuberance. When we looked at Nsite 4.0 as a service that helps companies create and manage human-based business processes and workflow automation, it did a good job overall.

Click here to read about the BPM Standards Groups blueprint for launching BPM initiatives at enterprises.
Using the Nsite 4.0 service, which was officially released this month, we could easily fill out business process forms and carry out complex routing and workflows to complete processes. An especially nice new feature is the services ability to learn from previous processes and reduce routing work in subsequent tasks.

However, the Nsite service comes up short in its customer customization and integration options. Still, given the ease with which the Nsite service can be evaluated and deployed, companies looking for a solution to handle sales, billing and human-related processes will want to look at Nsite 4.0. Prices start at $400 per month for 10 users and one process.

One big weakness in Nsite is that there is no capability for companies to create their own forms from within the service. Instead, companies must work with Nsite to convert their paper and digital forms into an Nsite SmartForm.

To test this, we sent Nsite a sample form and went over the process with an Nsite rep. Whenever possible, Nsite tries to adapt forms it has already created to use for new customers. Most simple forms (including the sample we sent) can be created in a matter of hours, but more complex forms can take several days, an Nsite representative said.

Although this offline process worked in tests, a form-creation tool would be a welcome addition to the Nsite service.

The main Nsite user interface is simple and intuitive. The new My Nsite page lets users quickly see what processes and forms they were working on and also access frequently used forms and reports. The experiences of filling out and using forms were pretty much what one would expect from this type of Web-based application, and we appreciate that Nsite works with every current browser. But the real power in Nsite is in its routing and workflow capabilities.

Once we completed a form, we could carry out complex routing options and could build complex workflows on the fly. Besides routing to other users, we could assign rights, exceptions and notifications. Nsite provides quick reporting options for users and administrators and also allows data to be exported for use in more-robust reporting applications.

Administration of the Nsite service is limited to user management and defining the basic company information and service settings, such as which forms are available. In addition to the ability to create SmartForms, we would like to see Nsite more effectively integrate with company intranets and portals. Currently, users must go to the Nsite Web site to access forms and processes.

eWEEK Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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