Introducing Flex for OnBase Podcast
The following is a transcription from Episode 21 of The Orange Chair Podcast, “Introducing: Flex for OnBase”
In this episode, we sit down with Chandler Coffman, Senior Integration Engineer for KeyMark. This episode introduces KeyMark’s new offering, Flex, and how to use the framework tool.
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Alex Frazier (18s): Welcome back to The Orange Chair Podcast. In today’s episode, we’ll be talking about KeyMark’s new offering, Flex for OnBase. We’ll be talking about what it is, how it works and why you need it today.
Our guest is Chandler Coffman, and I am so excited because he is live in the studio with me after a year and a half of doing virtual interviews with my guests. So this is a very exciting time. Chandler, thank you so much for being here.
Chandler Coffman (43s): Happy to join you, Alex. As you said, it is kind of weird being back in the office, but it’s been great to see everybody and great to be here in person. I think with the content, it helps when you’re in person and you can have the back and forth that you can’t quite get when there’s a computer screen between you.
Alex Frazier (1m 4s): Chandler and I just had a great conversation about Marvel theories about 10 minutes ago. So it’s nice to have somebody here in the office to talk about that with.
Chandler, for those of us who don’t know, can you introduce yourself to us?
Chandler Coffman (1m 19s): My name is Chandler Coffman and I have been working at KeyMark now for a little over five years. I started in our support department and have worked my way up since then. We have a very exciting thing to talk to you about today. It is something I’ve been working on for a very long time and I’m glad to be here.
What is Flex?
Alex Frazier (1m 40s): Well to kick things off, can you tell me what is Flex?
Chandler Coffman (1m 45s): In layman’s terms, Flex is built on OnBase WorkView. That is a module that Hyland has added to OnBase to help with case management systems and Flex is something I’ve built with that tool to streamline building other WorkView applications.
I know that can be a little bit confusing, but essentially it’s a tool and a way of thinking that allows me to build my projects more quickly and effectively when it has different components. No pun intended, but it is flexible. You can’t always have a one size fits all situation, but you can do the best you can. It is essentially a good jumping-off point for most case management applications if you’re going to need the functionality it provides.
Alex Frazier (2m 51s): When you and I talked about this earlier, you said that the first name was called framework. I can see where the name came from. When you use it as a jumping-off point, can you describe how it can be used as a framework?
Chandler Coffman (3m 6s): The first component I built for it, and essentially the main component, is a routing framework.
Most of the time when you’re dealing with case management implementations, you’re going to have a series of steps to complete in your contract, your plan, your ticket, your bug tracking, or anything like that. There’s going to be a series of steps that it has to go through before it can be considered complete or done. That is the piece that Flex gives you the ability to configure very quickly.
I’m kind of skipping ahead a little bit here, but I noticed when I started doing these projects, I was doing a lot of the same things over and over and over again, just to accomplish the same problem with slightly different little tweaks to it. I felt like I was reinventing the wheel every time I did it when I could make it generic enough that I could essentially start with importing my Flex package. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about building the routing framework anymore. I wouldn’t have to worry about how I get something from step A to step B to step C and so on because Flex is there and it is easily configurable.
That’s really where the magic of Flex comes in. You don’t need someone like me after it’s set up to come back and change your configuration. I’m giving the end-user the power to change the configuration themselves.
There is training involved so that we’re not just gonna cut you loose and expect you to know everything, but it’s pretty simple from an end-user perspective to go in and configure how you want something to flow through the process.
Evolution of Flex
Alex Frazier (5m 9s): How has that evolved from the first inception of Framework or Flex to where it is now?
Chandler Coffman (5m 17s): As I mentioned previously, the first component I built and really the basis for it all, is that routing framework. But since then, I do my best to pay attention when my customers are talking and I’m doing implementations for them because a lot of people want similar things. They just want it slightly tweaked for them.
Once I started getting asked the same question, multiple times on different projects, I started to have that thought again, as I did with the routing framework of, “okay, well, how can I take a step back and make something else generic enough? Just so that I can make this easier for myself or another engineer or a customer that wants to really take the reins and do this themselves.”
I have a component that I’ve recently added to the Flex solution, and that is the template library. It sounds completely different from a routing framework because it is and it exists totally separately from the routing framework functionally because not everybody’s going to need that.
The idea is to keep adding these components and rolling them out so that one day it’s not just one tool that we have at our disposal, but a whole tool belt of things that we can do.
You want the routing framework and you want the template library, but you don’t care about these other components we have? That’s fine. We’ll give you what you need. And it’s still helping us with our efficiency when we’re implementing things. And customers like it when you tell them, “you can change this and you don’t have to call me to reorder how this is going to flow through your process. You can do this yourself.” Or in the case of the template library, “you don’t have to call me to get new templates into your system. You own this.”
We are going to give you the tools and the knowledge to use this effectively. Thus far people have seemed to like it from what implementations I have done. Those implementations are all over the map and kind of range from people using the basic Flex package to something that starts as a Flex import and then becomes an extremely tailored and custom application. Either way, I started from the same point.
The Template Library
Alex Frazier (8m 6s): I wanted to ask for a little more clarification on the template library. When you have the template library component, is that something that has already pre-configured templates in it, and you can add to it based on a customer’s needs and what they are trying to do in their objectives, or does it come blank as a template library?
Chandler Coffman (8m 28s): It just comes as the template library. That is because the idea here is that you have a word document that you use over and over and over again for a specific business process and you want the ability to be able to quickly go retrieve that from a repository and attach it to your contractor case, whatever you’re routing through the framework system.
You have complete control over what is in the template library. It is blank when it is given to you, but that is because we want you to fill it with all of your things.
Of course, if you give us the five templates you want while we’re implementing it, we can implement them for you. But there’s nothing that we’re doing differently than what the customer can do by creating a new template in the system, uploading the blank word document, and then that’s it. That’s all it takes.
Once you create the template and import it, it’s there and you can go attach it to your documents whenever you decide you need to do that for your business processes. It’s a very simple but very powerful component.
Hyland has other modules that will do complete document generation for you. One is called Document Composition and another has a display template functionality. A lot of times on projects, the cost to implement that kind of thing is very high. If you have very simple documents, no problem, but what if you don’t? What if you’re the customer that has 50-page word documents with crazy tables and formatted text, and just something that a computer is going to have a lot of trouble automatically generating it because so much went into it that a human did it?
The template library sidesteps that problem because it’s not going to fill in the data for you. It is meant to be a repository for you to go get the blank version of that document. Since we’re not doing that generation for you, the implementation cost of this is much lower.
However, this isn’t a one size fits all thing. If you don’t have complicated word documents and you have simple documents that don’t have a lot in them or many tables or things that a human has had to make, the template library is still for you, just as much as it is for the person with really complicated documents. From Flex’s perspective, it doesn’t really care how complicated your word document is. It is just going to store it for you so that you can go get and add your data to it as you go through the process.
Why Choose Flex?
Alex Frazier (11m 59s): I like how you’ve said how easy it can be for somebody who needs a storage part of it, but you can also use it for something that’s very complex and you need a starting point and you need to be able to configure that without having to go through the same step over and over and over again for all your different processes. Is that kind of what Flex is in a nutshell?
Chandler Coffman (12m 21s): With Flex, we’re trying to teach you to fish instead of just giving you the fish. A lot of times when I walk away from project implementations, I feel like if there are any changes that have to take place, be it simple or extreme, they are going to have to call me or someone else who can do what I do to come in and pull the levers on the back end.
While you’re never going to truly escape from that completely, we can make it better. That is what the goal of making Flex was. We need a better way to give power to the end-user to manipulate certain aspects of the business process without having to come back and do another full-blown engagement with us.
Alex Frazier (13m 16s): Which takes time and money and all of these things.
Chandler Coffman (13m 21s): By all means, we love doing work for our customers. It’s not that we don’t want to do work for you. It’s just that we understand that that’s not always an option. We don’t want you to just be dealing with problems that we could potentially give you a more generic, simple tool that is very powerful when used in the right way. And you own it.
That is the most important part of this, that I can’t stress enough is that we want the customer to own their Flex solution. We want them to go in and manipulate the configuration themselves because that is why it was built the way it was built. We want them to come back and say, “Hey, we love this about Flex, but we also think A, B, and C would be good things to add.”
Anyone who works in the software world will tell you, everything works great in a vacuum and the moment you hand it to a real person that didn’t design it and that doesn’t know how it works on the backend, the moment you give it to them, they’re going to figure out things that are wrong with it and things that can be improved.
Another goal we have at the end of the day is that we always want this to keep evolving. We want it to continue to be this flexible -pun fully intended -piece of software that we give you one Flex implementation and then you are able to go do another Flex implementation for another business process.
Of course, we will always get involved if that is wanted or warranted when you want us to help you do the things that you don’t feel quite comfortable doing yourself. We don’t just want to implement software for you. We want to teach you how like we are teaching you to fish. We want to teach you to be able to go back out there and be effective on your own without having to call KeyMark, but don’t forget, always call KeyMark if you ever want to.
Alex Frazier (15m 43s): We’ve been talking a lot about the great things about Flex, and you’ve mentioned that you guys are continuously evolving the solution and the tool and making it better, taking feedback, and improving upon that. I’m wondering if there are any limitations that are with the system right now?
Chandler Coffman (16m 1s): It is just configuring a series of steps that an object is going to go through, and that object could be anything. You can use it for contracts, issues, whatever you need to go through a series of steps. This will work for it, but you do have to be able to essentially put on paper what controls there are and how this object is going to move through the system.
For example, if every invoice under $10,000 should go through steps, A, B, and C, but then we have another invoice that is above $10,000, and that needs to go through steps, D E and F, you need to be able to have those kinds of parameters. If you can’t put that kind of parameter or those kinds of parameters around your steps, Flex will have a little bit of trouble doing what you ask it to, because it does rely on rules to be able to determine where it needs to send something along in the process.
The only exception to that would be is if you only had one series of steps that everything needed to go through. In an invoice example, if they don’t care about the invoice amount and just want it to go through a series of steps, then you get around that problem.
We have this questionnaire that we’ve built that we will send to the customers to help them think through this. You can usually tell when someone starts going through this questionnaire with you if it’s going to actually be a good Flex solution or not, because if they can’t say, “if this, then this, or it’s all going to be one thing” we can have trouble applying Flex to it.
Another limitation that comes with Flex is it is built on an OnBase module. It is going to have all pluses and minuses that come with OnBase, just because of that. If you don’t have OnBase, or if you are new to OnBase, then it’s could be more challenging because you now not only have to learn how to use this Flex solution, but you now have to learn how OnBase works as a whole.
Most implementations I have done thus far have not been the customer’s introduction to OnBase. They are usually not the first project that they have done in OnBase so they are a little more familiar with how it works and essentially what they need to do to make OnBase itself functional and not just the Flex solution that we are attempting to put in place.
Alex Frazier (19m 29s): As our time comes to a close today, are there any final thoughts that you have? Is there anything that maybe I didn’t ask that you’d like to talk about, or maybe is there something that you’d want to elaborate on?
Chandler Coffman (19m 41s): I think what I’d like to leave you all with is I hope that this has been informative. If you are sitting there asking yourself, “Is Flex the right fit for me?”, I hope that my explanations have given you a clue in either direction that, yes, this is for me or no, it’s not.
Obviously, I hope the former, but we understand that it’s not going to be for everyone. That’s just the name of the game in our industry. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to us at KeyMark. I’m sure that we have many people that would be very interested to talk to you about it and set up a demo if you are very serious about potentially getting us involved.
I did allude to earlier that we have some exciting things in the pipeline, but unfortunately, I’m not really at liberty to discuss those yet.
Alex Frazier (20m 54s): Thank you for joining us on The Orange Chair Podcast. This podcast is brought to you by KeyMark and it’s produced by Clay Tuten and me, your host, Alex Frazier. For more information on OnBase by Hyland, please visit our website at www.KeyMarkinc.com/OnBase-software. Never miss an episode by subscribing to our podcast channels, wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, like and follow us on Instagram and Facebook at The Orange Chair Podcast. Want to get in touch? Send us an email at TOC@KeyMarkinc.com.