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Hello everybody. I’ve been back in the office for a few weeks after an extended vacation but have been buried with with annual startup activities. I wanted to ask this community about how BPXers should collaborate with developers around executable process models, like those designed with NetWeaver BPM. In our next version, we plan to deliver an Eclipse perspective tailored for a business analysts. In future releases, we’re thinking about how we can give business analysts a world class modeling experience without all the overhead of the full Eclipse framework. Stay tuned on that one.

Anyway, I think we should look very seriously at embeddeding the collaboration experience in the IDE. Imagine a business analyst creating a BPMN diagram and  marking it up with rich annotations (probably richer than the simple annontation element defined today). I think of electronic stickies that provide guidance to the developer. I can even imagine these stickies supporting threaded discussions. The developer would open this diagram in more technical perspective but would, of course, see the comments left by the business analysts.

To me, the following features would need to be available for such collaboration features to have critical mass:

  • Associate rich content (at least rich text) with specific elements in the diagram, e.g., electronic sticky notes attached to an activity in a workflow diagram

  • Ability to have threaded discussions within the IDE

  • integration with real-time collaboration tools, e.g., chat

In the future, I can imagine other features line diagram red-lining etc. We also think about how we could enable workspace-centric scenarios like publishing a diagram and its metadata to a collaboration site where business users could provide feedback. We’re also looking into things like Mylan as we know that developing a composite process is itself a process!

Would really love to hear your thoughts on design collaboration.

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  1. Lee Chisholm
    So essentially the SAP’s business process platform will be a two-phase approach.  One with the business doing the modeling in a simple viewer including some notes etc to guide and explain things to the developer.  And two the developer taking this and churning out an executable from it, using all the notes given and engaging the analyst in discussion etc to help the process out (perhaps a nice way to get away from using email for these things).

    Sounds like a very good path.  Socializing the process design / development is the basic message.  Threaded discussions made me think of ESME (http://blog.esme.us/?tag=sap) right away.  While this isn’t threaded per say, it’s a linked conversation using popular and proven web 2.0 communication concepts.

    Also thought of Sig’s BRP:Barely Repeatable Process concept (http://thingamy.com) since each business process being designed will require tonnes of different discussions, notes, perhaps some meetings, attachments etc.  Adding social / collaborative features into the tools directly should definitely ease out the use of external wiki and email to communicate and collaborate.  Basically, the business does some work on an object, annotates and designs, and then throws that object to the developer to continue working on.

    Me like!

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    1. Gregory Prickril Post author
      Hi Lee,
      You describe above the first step in the bus/IT collaboration paradigm we’ll support. In the future, we hope to abstract data and services at a level that the business can create executable processes in some cases (always in collaboration with IT).
      I’ve seen thingamy and think it’s cool. Over time we’ll also provide more process flexibility and end user collaboration.
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      1. Lee Chisholm
        So the work that takes a modeled process and turns it into something usable will still be considered a developers task though?  It sounds like it could go either way right now?

        Perhaps it depends on the simplicity of the process and what services are available?  Simpler processes might be able to turned into executable code by a BPXer alone, while more complex processes will likely require a developer?

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        1. Gregory Prickril Post author
          For the foreseeable future, developers will have to create services, UIs etc. Going forward, we’ll look at ways for business analysts to “self serve” when possible (they can probably create simple UIs) and to consume artifacts created by developers (but abstracted so they can leverage them). Canonically, these two roles will work together. In some cases though, BAs may have the elements they need at the proper level of abstraction that allows the to compose a complete solution.
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  2. Richard Hirsch
    I think it is critical to discuss whether it is just the BPX and developer collaborating or whether there are more people involved (a trend in which I am in favor). If more than two people are involved, you have to look at the current tool environment and discuss whether a purely Eclipse-based platform is the best option for this type of collaboration.

    D. 

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    1. Gregory Prickril Post author
      I’m with you in assuming that, over time, more folks will be involved, e.g., system architects. We don’t limit our vision of design collaboration to the IDE, but I think it’s the right place to start (that’s where things get executable).

      Would be very interested to hear your ideas about where/how collab should take place.

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