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Is an Open Source Workflow System Right for You?

Team Kissflow

Updated on 21 May 2024 4 min read

An open source workflow solution is one where the codebase of the workflow tool is readily available for the buyer or end user to copy, make modifications to, and use as they see fit. 

Judging by what exactly your organization’s workflow management needs looks like, you might want to look into open source workflow solutions and what difference they offer from packaged SaaS solutions. This article goes in-depth into the key differences between both and which you should use depending on your situation.

Difference between managed workflow system vs. open source workflow system

In order to determine which is best, it’s important that we place open source workflow systems side by side with packaged workflow solutions to see their key differences and how they go about meeting users’ needs.

Customization and integration

With an open source workflow system, users can pay a one-time licensing fee which gives them access to the codebase of the app. With that, you can begin building out a solution that works with whatever apps you use.

On the other hand, a managed workflow solution requires recurring payment and offers only packaged integrations with popular apps and tools demanded by users. Packaged workflow solutions are often limited in the app integrations and customizations they support.


Managed workflow tools are offered on a recurring pricing basis where the buyer has to enter a contract and sign up for monthly or annual payments to use the tool. Open source workflow systems are either free or typically charge a fixed price that gives the buyer long-term access to the software.


Unlike packaged workflow solutions where you have to make do with whatever the developer offers, open source workflow solutions offer access to the codebase. With that you can start to customize to your heart’s desires, build whatever you want, and generally, just manipulate to solve any unique problems you may have.

Top features and benefits of open source workflow system

Placed beside managed workflow solutions that are more secure and easy to set up, why would anyone even want to use an open source workflow solution? It turns out, there’s a lot to it.

Open source workflow solutions are typically cheaper, offer more robust customization and a nearly infinite level of integration with lots of the tools in your stack.

Robust integration

Open source workflow systems are designed to integrate well with a wide range of tools where you may be handling other parts of your systems and processes. This way, it’s easy to make data and resources flow through once it’s all set up.

On the other hand, managed workflow solutions can only be integrated to the level where the developers have built them up to. As a result, if you’re using a large number of in-house tools that don’t integrate with packaged SaaS tools, you might opt for an open source workflow solution and build around it.

Infinite customization

Open source workflow systems are often intended to serve as foundation for building and customizing to your own needs.

As a result, with a significant amount of IT experts on your team, open source workflow tools allow you to build whatever you need from scratch, to solve a varied range of problems, even out of the way ones that package workflow solutions may not support.

Significantly cheaper pricing

Unlike package workflow solutions that are maintained by entire companies working 40 hours/week to continually offer you the best service possible, support for open source workflow solutions is often limited to a handful of developers.

As a result of the significantly less overhead, they can offer their open source solution at significantly less price than a packaged, managed workflow solution would cost.

Disadvantages of using open source workflow systems

Despite the many perks that might swing your opinion towards open source workflow solutions, it’s not all fun and games. Here are some obstacles you might have to negotiate if you decide to go the open source route.

IT complexity

Open source projects are typically intended to serve as a skeletal framework you can build on and tailor to your own needs. Which is nice—if you have an unusually large IT arm for your organization. Otherwise, this is the bane of open source workflow solutions.

Open source software solutions allow you to make almost infinite configurations, but to do that, they require you to have massive IT resources to build each solution your organization needs from scratch, debug raw code, launch, maintain it, and to add additional features as the need arises.

Lack of security

Open source software systems like Linux are notorious in the software community for one thing: they’re unhackable. With thousands of experienced engineers around the world, contributing their effort to building Linux to what it is, bugs and loopholes for hackers are closed even before they’re discovered.

On the other hand, open source workflow solutions are a different kind of animal. Unlike operating systems like Linux that’s gotten thousands of developers freely offering their labor to keep it cutting edge, it’d be hard, if not impossible to find an open source workflow solution with more than a few hobby developers who built it long ago and update it intermittently.

As a result, losing sensitive data or having your entire workflow management system hijacked by low-grade hackers is all too possible, simply because there’s not enough IT firepower supporting your open source workflow solution in an increasingly hostile world.

Poor, unfriendly user interface

Open source workflow systems are often never built with the same attention to user experience as SaaS workflow solutions.

This might be a huge issue if your team is quite non-techy and you’re looking for a friendly interface everyone can use with minimal friction, and still get their job done.

Why Kissflow Workflow Management System may be better for you

Our verdict? Unless you have an eager IT team and a healthy budget, open source is just not the sauce. While open source software tends to look shiny on the pricing and customization angles, when you factor in the security overhead and the lack of standardized solution for everything you need, it might not be worth it.

Or simply, if you don’t have a world-class team of IT geeks ready to mess around with code, break stuff, and generally try to create solutions from scratch, open source workflow tools are going to be a huge nightmare for you. Even if you have such a well-endowed team, open source workflow tools are generally more prone to breaking, requiring intermittent repairs that are sure to hold up entire departments across your organization for hours.

A better option? Use Kissflow Process.

Kissflow Process is an intelligent workflow solution designed for forward-thinking organizations—especially when you want to focus more on doing your best work vs. wrangling complex lines of code that break constantly.

Kissflow Workflow offers:

  • Responsive forms for collecting as much information as you need at every stage
  • Intuitive workflow designing that functions like you expect it to—with zero coding required
  • Insights and analytics that show what’s getting done and what’s not
  • Simple communications to keep your team on the same page

You need more time to do your best work, not twisting code around. Try Kissflow Workflow for free.