RJS Unveils New Workflow Product, Cross-Platform Strategy
March 22, 2005 Alex Woodie
RJS Software Systems took the wraps off a pair of new products last week at the COMMON conference, including the upcoming Enterprise Workflow and WebSpool products that aim to simplify electronic document routing and viewing. Richard Schoen, the company’s president, also discussed RJS Software’s new Java development strategy that will enable the company to sell products that work across a range of back-office computer platforms, in addition to the iSeries.
From its headquarters in Burnsville, Minnesota, RJS Software has focused on developing affordable spool file and document management software for the OS/400 server, and providing support to customers on maintenance. This business has been good, but now the company is looking to expand beyond this traditional platform, especially with the advent of Linux and AIX support on the iSeries server.
“With the iSeries and pSeries hardware and software convergence during the past few years, we determined that now is the perfect time to begin delivering cross-platform solutions,” Schoen says.
Development of this next-generation of RJS products will be done in what Schoen calls “generic technology” of the day, which includes HTML, Java Server Pages (JSPs), and the Apache Web server. By no means is RJS entirely stopping all RPG or 5250 development, or support for existing products developed and delivered with those technologies. But going forward, Schoen sees more bang for the buck by standardizing development with Java.
The first of the next-generation RJS products to be released will be WebSpool. It is designed to access OS/400 reports and spool files from any Web browser. WebSpool will be delivered using Java servlets and JSP technology served from an Apache or WebSphere Express application server running on an iSeries, Windows, or Linux server, which will monitor output queues on the target OS/400 server.
WebSpool will simplify access to OS/400 spool file reports because it won’t require special software on the part of the users, RJS says, and will be ideal for providing remote employees with up-to-date reports from iSeries systems. The software will use existing OS/400 security settings, thereby restricting access to output queues, and will also integrate with spreadsheet applications, thereby eliminating rekeying of data.
RJS aims to ship WebSpool in early May, starting at a price of $4,995 for an unlimited user license. Immediately following the WebSpool roll-out will be the introduction of its second new product, Enterprise Workflow, which will ship sometime between mid May and June 1.
Enterprise Workflow, according to the RJS strategy, will enable small and medium sized businesses that can’t afford the high-cost of traditional workflow products, which often start in the six-figure range, to gain the benefits of automated document routing. “As we’ve been working with customers over the last few years, workflow has been a big topic of discussion,” Schoen says.
Automated workflow solutions offer companies the opportunity to implement business process management and rules-based routing for tasks that require the approval of management, such as processing claims in an insurance billing office. Companies often move up to a document workflow system as part of, or following, the implementation of an electronic document management system. In addition to reducing the reliance on printed forms, electronic document workflow can help speed approval processes, and boost security by implementing an auditable transaction procedure.
Like WebSpool, Enterprise Workflow will run on iSeries, Linux, AIX, or Windows servers, and will range from $5,000 to $20,000, Schoen says.
Over the next couple of years, RJS plans to widen its potential customer set by introducing new products, or retrofitting existing ones, using generic technologies like Java, HTML, and Apache. Of course, not everything will–or even can–be Web-ified. Not much can be done to improve on a batch e-mail generator on the OS/400 server, for example. And looking forward, most of RJS’ software will continue to be available on the iSeries. “There’s no way we’d ever abandon the iSeries,” Schoen says.