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Why 2022 Is the “Year of the Workflow” at Practifi

BY conor curtis

Our Cinsault release is just about ready to leave the nest and venture out into the world, and as always with major releases, it’s an opportunity for us in the product team to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and how it ties into our broader purpose: to help our clients become high-performing advisory firms. 

High performance can be tricky to define, but ultimately a lot of it boils down to working on the right things at the right time and executing them effectively. This is why we built our workflow engine, and why it’s been such a cornerstone of our product over the years. We’ve taken huge steps forward in our workflow engine’s capabilities and overall experience this year, and I’m here to explain why that’s come about and what the road ahead looks like.

Which way, product team?

Being the lead designer for a product built on the Salesforce platform, it may surprise you to learn that I’m a massive Salesforce nerd 🤓. So when Salesforce Orchestrator was announced in June last year, I was conflicted. It was genuinely exciting to see how Flow Builder was moving beyond screen-based “wizards” and background automation in the long-awaited pursuit of holistic business process management, but our workflow engine already did that 🤔. We found ourselves at a crossroads: either make the leap over to Orchestrator and lean on Salesforce to provide this capability for us or double-down on the investment in our existing feature.

Naturally when you find yourself at a crossroads it pays to understand where on earth both paths are headed, and in this particular case, it paid to be a massive Salesforce nerd! So we dived deep into Orchestrator’s pilot to understand exactly how it worked and weighed that up against the roadmap we’d been planning for our workflow engine. Here’s what we learned:

  • Orchestrator lives in a universe completely separate to the tasks Salesforce otherwise captures, instead using its own object model comprised of Orchestrator Runs, Stages and Steps. This makes it challenging to manage Orchestrator’s work items, whether it’s because they lack the ability to track assignees, statuses and due dates, or because you lose the comfort of having all your to-do items in one place.
  • Orchestrations are created within a well-polished user interface, however each step is itself created using Flow Builder, and Flow Builder can be a very complicated tool for administrators to wrap their heads around (Training alone could require you to sit through over 10 hours worth of videos! 😵).
  • Orchestrator is a pay-per-use product, however we feel strongly that workflow automation is a core element of our platform, and we want to ensure firms have a scalable solution available to them as part of their Practifi subscription.

Scaling the maturity mountain

In the end, it was an easy decision to make to stick with our workflow engine, however our research on Orchestrator, as well as conversations with clients and others in the industry, had made it clear that there were some areas for improvement, such as:

  • Providing even clearer task instructions to team members and making it easy for them to capture data while completing those tasks
  • Moving beyond orchestration and automating the work around the workflow itself
  • Making Practifi the nexus for multi-system workflows by connecting to other business systems
  • Involving end investors and others outside the firm in the workflow

It’s a serious to-do list in itself, and one that set the scene for 2022 as the Year of the Workflow! 🎉 Since then, we’ve embarked on a journey to give our beloved workhorse of a workflow engine a complete and well-deserved overhaul:

  • Active Forms, which was released in Albariño, introduced forms that are tailor-made to the requirements of each workflow task, solving the data capture question and making it clear what’s required of the team member. Better yet, data captured in the form is leveraged by workflow actions, meaning it can be sent to wherever it needs to be stored all from the one location.
  • A fresh batch of actions was delivered alongside Active Forms to help realise the benefits of dynamic data capture, introducing new possibilities such as creating Deals and Events, or sending notifications to relevant team members. Our library of actions continues to get better in Cinsault as well, with support for creating Assets, People, Client Entities, Reference Documents and more becoming available.
  • The Checklist feature arriving in Cinsault provides the missing piece of the workflow instruction puzzle by surfacing “sub-tasks”, which can be anything from booking the catering for an in-person meeting to confirming that the advice you provide is in the best interest of the client, satisfying RegBI requirements come audit time. You can even automate checklist items to be ticked off only if certain criteria are met, such as when ensuring new accounts meet FINRA Rule 2111’s requirements regarding investment suitability.
  • Our investment in Active Forms continues in Cinsault with a fully dynamic form experience, including criteria-based fields that hide and show themselves as-needed, prefill logic to pull in information you’ve already captured elsewhere, and field sections that repeat themselves as many times as the person completing the task needs them to. All up, it means a form that grows, shrinks and changes to suit the needs of the team member at that exact moment in time, giving them everything they need to complete the task successfully and hiding everything they don’t.
  • In Cinsault we’ve also built a bridge from workflows in Practifi to paperwork in Quik!, with our Send to Quik! workflow action making it possible to push data from your workflow task’s Active Form to Quik!’s comprehensive library of industry forms, creating a truly multi-system workflow that offers up some serious efficiency gains. This is our first workflow-led integration, and sets the tone for how we’re approaching integration design from here on out: as an organic extension of your firm’s business processes, rather than something entirely separate to them.
  • Finally, we’ve brought all these new and improved capabilities to life with a suite of turn-key workflows that make account opening and key maintenance transactions like moving money a whole lot simpler by leveraging the full power of our workflow engine, and allowing you to do so yourselves without any additional configuration.

And that’s only touching on what we’ve made possible; there’s plenty more I could say about what we’ve made better, such as the way we’ve streamlined the task completion process itself, or how we’ve added a comprehensive Validation Check to ensure workflows are configured correctly, or how Task Setup Bundles make repeated configuration steps a thing of the past. But I’ve talked us up enough as it is! 😇

Where to from here?

You’re probably wondering what else we have planned for our workflow engine; after all, I did call it the Year of the Workflow, and it’s only September! Well, our next release, Petit Verdot, isn’t arriving until January, so I’m stretching the truth a tiny bit here, but I’m going to count it all the same! Petit Verdot will see us continue to deliver enhanced workflow capabilities on multiple fronts:

  • The debut of workflows for portals, our solution for making people outside your firm part of your workflows, via your Practifi portal. This feature will really deliver on the idea of “powering more possibilities”, whether it’s by allowing clients to update their contact details and request new accounts, or third-party advisors to initiate account transactions and review them ahead of processing. We’re taking special care here to ensure that people don’t feel like cogs in your machine, either; they’ll be presented with “forms to fill in” rather than “tasks to complete” and they’ll be hand-held and gently nudged through the process to maximise completion rates. On top of it all, you’ll have total control over the tone and language used to communicate with them.
  • Building on this theme of maximising completion rates will be a suite of usability enhancements for Active Forms designed with a greater focus on making forms usable (in addition to functional). After all, when someone’s not your employee you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do something for you, and we’re planning to realise that goal with features such as one-click picklists, address auto-complete, and editable tables for rapid multi-item capture.
  • Our partnership with Envestnet will benefit greatly from all the work we’ve put into the workflow engine, with integrated proposal prefill made possible using Active Forms and a dedicated Create an Envestnet Proposal workflow action. This will sit alongside a host of other enhanced proposal capabilities, making it possible to manage an Envestnet proposal’s life cycle from within a Practifi workflow.

Myself and the rest of the product team are really proud of what we’ve achieved with workflows in Practifi this year. We understand how crucial they are to your business, and we take that very seriously, so we’ve thought creatively and thoroughly about how to help you get the best out of them. I hope you share our enthusiasm for Practifi’s workflow engine, and our excitement for where it’s heading.

If you want to learn more about our workflow engine, or get some help building amazing workflows of your own, please get in touch with your Client Success Manager.

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