Planning workflow

Before you select the type of mailing features that suit a workflow application, you should carefully plan the actual workflow. One way to implement a workflow application is to collect information in a central, shared database and then distribute the information through e-mail to the appropriate people. Another way to implement a workflow application is to send documents automatically from one user to another for review.

Central shared databases

Users working in a shared database can create and edit documents directly in the database. Remote users must dial into the server database to contribute. Designers can implement automatic e-mail notifications to alert users to documents needing their attention. The automatic e-mail notifications can be built into forms or agents. To make it easier for users, the notifications often include document links. For remote users, however, you might include a copy of the document within the e-mail notification instead of a link to the document. For Web users, include a URL link in the e-mail notification.

Using central shared databases places the least burden on network resources and conserves server disk space. Users also get to see each other's review comments (if the form is set up that way). The disadvantage of using central shared databases is that users need network access or remote access through a modem.

Individual mail databases

If users work in individual mail databases, they can create and respond to documents and then route them to each other or to a central mail-in database. Automated, easy-to-use forms that are stored in documents are typical of such applications. Of course, if you are sending individual mail messages, you are increasing disk space because the form is stored with the document.

Using individual mail databases makes it easier for remote users because they only need to access mail instead of accessing mail and a remote database. The disadvantage of using individual mail databases is that workflow process may take longer since work is done sequentially. Also, replication times may be longer because of document size.