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Is a Workflow Engine Software the Same as a Business Rule Engine?

02.July.2022

Many people think that a workflow engine and a business rule engine are the same. Some even use the terms workflow engine and business rule engine interchangeably. But they are actually quite different terms, and you can run into a lot of headaches if you don’t know which one you are looking for.

What is a Workflow Engine?

A workflow engine is a software application designed to help users enforce a series of recurring tasks that make up a ‘business process‘ or a ‘workflow’. Workflow engine takes cues from the workflow’s design and guides the process through its various steps. This is done by task routing, also called workflow automation.


Workflow Engine

Let’s clear the fog around the two terms by looking at some real-world differences in their usage.

A workflow is a series of tasks that process data to a finished state. It’s a time-bound orchestration of tasks that are repetitive and predictive in nature.

When you buy a pair of jeans from your favorite online store, it kickstarts a workflow involving payment processing, order fulfillment, and dispatching to delivery.

Streamline Your Business Process Workflows

Most workflows are manually completed and carried out through email or paperwork for approval. But in recent years, modern businesses have used workflow software to automate their workflows for speed, accuracy, and cost efficiency.

Most of these workflow tools come hard-coded with a process designer, a feature that allows software users to run a workflow instance without coding. The workflow designer lets the admin route tasks in a linear sequence, assign tasks dynamically depending on data in the form, and add conditions, exceptions, parallel branches, etc.

So where does the workflow engine come in?

In this context, workflow engines are pre-coded script that takes account of a workflow design, i.e. how tasks should flow from one stage to another, and executes the step. A workflow engine is a code embedded in the software that pushes a task from one stage to another.

Notice that the workflow engine doesn’t influence ‘how’ a workflow should take place, but takes its cue from the design and runs the tasks.

Benefits of Workflow Engine

The gains of workflow engines are numerous, facilitating your business to be efficient overall. It ensures that your workflows are completed faster and better giving a positive impact on your bottom line.

Benefits of Workflow Engine

Many organizations often suffer from various confusion such as: 

  • Who’s responsible for this task?

  • Why is my reimbursement request taking so long?

  • Why isn’t the document approved yet?

  • Where’s the document I asked for?

  • Wait, am I supposed to do that?

  • Oh sorry, I might have missed the email!


And so on. The right workflow engine gives complete transparency to each task, making it easy for everyone to be accountable for their work and deadlines.

  • Workflow engines facilitate the seamless flow of data, documents, tasks, and events.

  • Everybody has visibility to the task information making it easy for them to complete the activities on time.

  • Operational bottlenecks can be easily identified and eliminated since each task and process is transparent. 

  • Legacy systems like emails, papers, and memos are massively reduced, thus saving money and resources, while ensuring that no data is lost.


Workflow Engine - Common Use Cases:

Employee Onboarding:

It is reported that 58% of organizations say that their onboarding programs are focused on processes and paperwork, making it informal, inconsistent, and complex.  

The more an organization relies on manual employee onboarding processes, the more frustrating the employee’s experience will be. With the help of a workflow engine, each onboarding task is guaranteed to be carried out smoothly.

All the steps right from employees uploading the documents to computer access granted by the IT department are automated. This way, no steps are missed, and the employees are provided with all the necessary items to get started. 

Approval Management:

As your organization expands on one side,  approvals can be very hard to manage manually. When approval requests are sent and tracked via emails, it can get cluttered, easily frustrating the employees. Also, important approval documents can get lost in the lengthy mail trails, putting the organization at risk. A workflow engine helps eliminate all the chaos by streamlining the approval process. Anyone involved in the process can seamlessly manage and track the progress of each task. Since the process is aligned, the task is automatically pushed to the next concerned person, ensuring faster completion of tasks. 

What is a Business Rule Engine?

A business rule engine is a set of conditions in a software that executes an application code if all (or a specified number of) conditions are met. It is about setting criteria for how a software should behave within certain parameters.

Business Engine Overview

The advantage of a rule engine is that it enables non-technical software users to change the software behavior based on their business requirements without having to change the underlying codes. They make decision-making quick and reliable based on a multitude of facts that is too large for humans to process through.

Business rule engines (referred to as BRE in enterprise parlance) are part of a broader concept that finds its scope outside of workflow management (workflow manager). Rule engines have no control over orchestrating tasks; they work as a guideline for software to infer decisions based on certain criteria. It can be used to emulate a workflow process given the conditions.

Here’s an example of how an e-commerce website can have one of the following rule engines applied to its payment gateway:

  • Apply 15% youth discount on the item if the buyer enters age 18 to 29.

  • Apply 20% discount on the item if the buyer chooses his age >59.

  • Apply no discount on the item if the buyer chooses age between 30 to 59.

A set of business rules engines combined together is called a ruleset; they are often represented in tabular form or a decision tree. Enterprise software uses business rule engines mainly to ensure operational consistency.

Benefits of Business Rule Engine:

One of the biggest advantages of the business rules engine is that the updates made to the rules need not be made to the rest of the application code as well. This helps the developers maintain their applications hassle-free and flexible as the requirements of the business change. The risk and cost of updating the application are significantly reduced, thereby freeing up the resources that can be instead used to innovate other business elements.

The load balancing feature of a business rules engine enhances the scalability of an application by unloading the execution of rules to multiple servers. This empowers the primary webserver to handle more volume of requests efficiently. 

Since the programming language is replaced with logical rules and decision tables, it enables you to develop logic without the need for complex coding.

Workflow Engines Vs Business Rule Engines

A workflow engine and a business rule engine both allow non-techy end-users to change a process behavior at runtime without the need to change the code.

Workflow Engine vs Business Engine

But they have more differences than similarities. As mentioned above, they are fundamentally different in their working and purpose.

Listed below are a few more differences between a workflow engine and a  business rule engine:

 

Workflow Engine

Business Engine

   Based on process    Based on rules
Specific to a workflow Enterprise specific
A program designed to run workflow instances based on the process model A program designed to help with complex decision-making
Inherent driving force in an automated workflow Works as a pluggable element that could be separated from the application code
Help with carrying out a business process Help with creating business knowledge

The Conclusion

An organization, to function efficiently, will require both a workflow engine and business rules engine. Although it is easy to mix up and assume both serve the same purpose, they are wildly different concepts with different motives. It is important to seek the best workflow engine while looking for workflow software.

If you have decided to go with the workflow engine and want to take the plunge into workflow automation, make sure to sign up and start a free trial by visiting Kissflow Workflow. It is your go-to process automation platform designed to effectively streamline your workflows of various processes, giving you the agility and flexibility to run your business operations hassle-free.