Kuali workflow tool can save campus time, money, effort

By Bill Buchanan

Imagine if every new restaurant had to make its own pots and utensils before it could open. The chore would distract from the bigger goal of getting the food right, and besides, how tedious to re-create the same basic cookware over and over.

Tech has similar head-scratching inefficiencies. This year Information and Educational Technology will help UC Davis solve one of them by adopting a workflow tool called Kuali Enterprise Workflow (part of a set of tools known as Kuali Rice) that could be used in any number of campus services and programs.

If use of the tool spreads, developers won't have to re-invent workflow tools each time they create or update a program at UC Davis. The campus will gain by not having to pay for the needless re-invention.

Workflow tools take a business process, such as paying a bill, and route it electronically through a series of people for review and approval, said Curtis Bray, technical architect for middleware in IET. It's a routine but vital piece of infrastructure, and invisible to users when it works.

The first application scheduled to use Kuali Enterprise Workflow will be MyInfoVault, which creates digital dossiers to support faculty promotions, this summer.

Kuali Rice--named after a Malaysian cooking wok--is overseen by the Kuali Foundation, an Indiana-based nonprofit that dates to 2004. It helps develop community-source administrative software for higher education. Its members comprise about 20 universities and colleges, including UC Davis and four other University of California campuses, plus several commercial affiliates, including IBM and Sun Microsystems. The structure resembles the Sakai Foundation, whose Sakai software powers the SmartSite course-management system at UC Davis.

\r us campus departments. Longer term, IET would like to help build a community of Kuali Rice users on campus.

MyInfoVault, a complex process, will use the workflow and identity management components in Kuali Rice. Departments that want to convert simple paper forms to Web-based processes might be drawn to a subset of Kuali Enterprise Workflow known as eDocLite.

"It's a simpler form, for simpler needs," Bray said. "We think that's the first thing other departments will be interested in."