Business Rules Engine vs. Workflow Engine: A Comparison

An organization requires a business rules engine and a workflow engine to function efficiently. A majority of the working population and sometimes even senior managers assume both serve the same purpose. They couldn’t be more wrong as a business rules engine is completely different from a workflow engine.

Before getting into the technical aspects, here’s a simplified definition to help you understand the terms.

What is Workflow Engine?

A workflow is a streamlined flow of multiple processes which when completed leads to the finished state of a project. The workflow engine is time-bound and is designed to carry out a sequence of tasks in a seamless manner.

When you purchase a new smartphone with a popular e-commerce retailer like Amazon, it kickstarts a series of workflow processes which starts with order placement to shipping details, payment, and timely delivery.

workflow engine flow chart

A typical workflow process will look like this. The visual workflow editor used by popular software programs makes it easy for non-tech savvy users to utilize a workflow engine.

Traditionally, businesses relied on manual papers, invoices, and files to carry out a workflow which later evolved into spreadsheets and e-mails. A modern workflow engine also known as a workflow management software helps reduce human errors, easy to keep track of and is cost-efficient.

A workflow program is made for software users in an organization who may not have the ability to write code. Hence, the workflow software uses a process designer which allows users to create workflows using a simplified visual builder. An administrator can create linear tasks, assign rules based on data entered, specify conditions to be met besides other customization options.

How useful is a workflow engine in an organization?

When a workflow engine is introduced in an organization, it makes it easier for an administrator to schedule tasks, automatically trigger them to flow one step to another in a linear phase until it reaches the final stage.

A workflow engine refers to the brain in the back that is integrated into a workflow software program which forces the task to move from one step to another when certain conditions are fulfilled.

Important Note: A workflow engine can be used in any type of organization as it does not impose on how a task is accomplished but can streamline multiple tasks to complete a job.

What is a Business Rules Engine?

A business workflow engine primarily refers to software and the set of rules that guides its processes. An authorized employee in the organization can choose to customize it without any coding knowledge. The engine makes use of superior technology and computing power to make decisions that are difficult for the average human.

The purpose is to save time and to get the process going in an organization without any delay. The business rules engine, known as BRE is designed to make autonomous decisions based on set rules, unlike a workflow engine which is made to connect employees and make informed decisions every time a notification lands in their interface.

Do you need a business rules engine or workflow engine?

A simple answer is, yes you need them both. The workflow engine or the workflow automation software helps connect teams to streamline daily tasks. The workflow engine is a core and integral part of the workflow software. The business rules engine is an important component of a larger solution primarily for enterprises with a complex set of rules. Unlike the workflow software, the enterprise solution may exist by itself even without the business rules engine.

A Real Life Example at The Departmental Store

Imagine you are walking into a departmental store to buy some grocery and the monthly essentials.

You pick all the items you need, get the shopping cart to the billing section and wait in line. The billing assistant is expected to complete each customer’s bill before arriving at your cart. You get all your items billed, it’s verified at the exit using automatic sensors and you get to your car.

Everything sounds simple and easy, right?

It actually is because an enterprise solution is at work in everything that you did in the store from start to finish. Modern-day stores and organizations use complex business rules engine that checks the inventory of items as soon as they were scanned, automatically create new orders if current quantity falls below a threshold based on demand, season and so on.

You might go back home and file an expense claim on the business travel that you took a couple of days ago. You filled in a form, attached scanned receipts and hit submit. You probably received a thank you email and a note saying you will be notified when the claim is approved and credited to your bank account.

Behind the scenes, you submitted the form on a cloud workflow software similar to Cflow that automatically routed the request to your manager. Based on the expense claim amount, the request might be sent to a director or routed directly to the Finance department for final review and approval.

Comparison Chart – Workflow Engine vs Business Rules Engine

Business Rules Engine Workflow Engine
Automatically triggered when a set of conditions are met Triggered by employees in most scenarios to move a task from one phase to another
Can be used by people without any coding knowledge Can be used by people without any coding knowledge
Saves time spent in complex decision making Creates link between employees and teams to make informed decisions quickly
Capable of handling complex scenarios and check multiple rules before approval Simplified method to automate and move workflow tasks through different stages

Good luck and let us know what you chose at your company.

If you want a Workflow engine and want to make the leap into Workflow Automation to automate business processes, Sign up and start a free trial by visiting our Cflow application!

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