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This blog is co-authored by

Soeren Balko

Alexander Dreiling

Kathrin Fleischmann

Gravity is a prototype developed by SAP Research in Brisbane, Australia and SAP NetWeaver Development providing real-time, cloud-based collaborative business process modelling within Google Wave. Google Wave is Google’s new real-time collaboration platform that combines features of e-mail, social networking, wikis and instant messaging in one integrated browser-based client. Google Wave offers rich developer APIs to extend the core functionality with custom components. We have embedded Gravity as a Google Wave “gadget” that can be added within the Google Wave client. Leveraging the collaborative features of Google Wave, all business process modelling activities get propagated in near real-time to all other participants of the Wave. In addition, participants of the Wave can use all other features provided by Google and its developer community to enrich the collaborative modelling experience.

In the demo we see how Gravity can be used to facilitate the development of high level process descriptions for two merging companies, BCD South Bank and FH Insurance. These two companies are merging in a tough economic climate and management need to quickly re-engineer their business processes in order to capitalise from cross-selling opportunities between banking and insurance products. In addition to the near real-time propagation of model content to all participants of a Wave, various features of true real-time collaboration are shown, such as different colour-coding for each individual modeller, history of a model, asynchronous and synchronous editing, and more. The demo also shows how robots (automated components that act as Wave participants) can be leveraged in order to syntactically correct the model on the fly. In the end, we will see how models are exported using BPMN 2.0 XML. They will then be imported into SAP Netweaver BPM for further refinement and execution.

The demo shows how new technology can be systematically leveraged in order to facilitate what Business Process Management is really about: business user collaboration within and across departments of one or more organisations.

Please check out the high resolution screencam by clicking on the Gravity screenshot above. If you experience problems with the Podcast, please click here for more versions including a low resolution of the screencam or view the embedded screencam below.

 

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52 Comments

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  1. Bernhard Escherich
    Thanks for sharing the prototype with us. I blogged some time ago about Google Wave and SAP but you really made it and you demonstrated the advantages.

    Will you come up with othe gadgets for specific industries (e.g. healthcare)?

    Thanks and best regards,

    Bernhard

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    1. Thomas Mocker
      Hi folks,

      this is a really great integration of process modelling into the SAP system. Do you know if it is possible to use this Google export to set up an SAP Business Workflow? That would be a really great feature.

      Thanks and take care,

      Thomas

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      1. Soeren Balko
        Hi Thomas,

        thanks! Exporting Gravity models into business workflow certainly is conceivable, even though some conceptual mismatches would have to be solved. That is, business workflow does not rely on BPMN but rather uses an EPC-like execution model which is not fully compatible to BPMN. The near-term focus is on getting the full roundtrip into NetWeaver BPM (aka “Galaxy”).

        Cheers,
        Sören

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    2. Alexander Dreiling Post author
      Hi Bernhard,

      Thanks! As described above this is a research prototype not an SAP product. So at this stage we’re interested in feedback and understanding where such a capability makes most sense. Perhaps it’s more suitable in certain industries, perhaps in certain generic use cases such as mergers.

      Do you have a potential gadget / scenario / use case for healthcare in mind?

      Regards,
      Alex

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  2. Darren Hague
    A really good piece of work – I can think of many uses for this kind of collaborative process design in geographically dispersed virtual teams.

    I trust we’ll be seeing this at a TechEd Demo Jam? 🙂

    Cheers,
    Darren

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  3. Alexander Grobe
    You have done an excellent job. I have always wanted to work this way if it’s not possible to bring all relevant people in the same room.

    Such an approach could be the answer to offerings like Software AG’s ‘AlignSpace’ and ‘Lombardis Blueprint’. By leveraging Google Wave you can use all the collaboration features and APIs of that open plattform and concentrate on the collaborative process modelling experience.

    Does your prototype already offer roundtripping so you can not only export but also import BPMN 2.0 models?

    Greetings,
    Alex

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    1. Soeren Balko
      Hi Alex,

      Thanks! We are currently working on getting the full roundtrip into the Galaxy Process Composer functional as soon as possible. Another push at DPC from your side wouldn’t hurt, though.

      Cheers,
      Sören

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  4. Clay Richardson
    Hi Alex,

    I’m the Senior Analyst covering Business Process Management with Forrester Research.  I recently did a blog post on this very topic:  “Social Technologies Will Drive The Next Wave Of BPM Suites” http://blogs.forrester.com/business_process/2009/09/social-technologies-will-drive-the-next-wave-of-bpm-suites.html.

    In our recent Forrester Tech Radar, we coined this combination of social, knowledge management, and process modeling as “process wikis” (http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/0,7211,53286,00.html).

    Excellent job to you guys for pulling together the first (that I’ve seen) prototype of Google Wave and BPM functionality.  My blog post also paints a picture of other ways Google Wave will likely be integrated with BPM suites.

    Cheers,
    Clay Richardson
    Senior Analyst, Forrester Research

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  5. Rick Bullotta
    Hi, Alexander.

    Great job on this.  As a fellow “early Waver”, I’m sure you hit the wall many times with limitations in the Wave API (and Gadget API) in terms of achieving what “could” be possible versus what was possible within the limitations of the current Wave sandbox implementation.

    I envision BAM/alerting scenarios as an obvious Wave fit. I can also see Wave as a natural language, interactive, and collaborative search/discuss/solve environment, with the simultaneous participation of expert “robots” and expert “humans”, tapping into the collective electronic and cerebral knowledge that’s available to help in real-time decision support.  That’s an area that we’re currently doing some work…

    Best,

    Rick Bullotta

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    1. Alexander Dreiling Post author
      Hi Rick,

      appreciate your feedback, you certainly know what it takes to go from nothing to something… 🙂 There are always hiccups, of course, and there are always limitations. It comes down to understanding how much of a constraint technology is to achieving the original vision. And that ratio is not too bad here. We do have a range of other prototypes that support some of the things you mention, watch this space…

      Cheers,
      Alex

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      1. Rick Bullotta
        Hi, Alex.

        From the discussions I’ve had with the Wave team, the JSON API that is to be released in the next few weeks should dramatically improve the ability for external apps to interact with Wave.  At that point we should start feeling like Wave is less “alpha” and more “beta”… 😉

        Stay in touch!

        Best,

        Rick

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  6. Mel Calucin
    I don’t have a working knowledge of SAP BPM or Google Wave.  After the BPM diagaram is hashed out, is there a way for it to be stored into folders so that all the BPM diagrams can be better organized and possibly serve as a framework for business process help documentation?

    Thanks.

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    1. Alexander Dreiling Post author
      Hi Mel,

      currently, the models are persisted through Wave. Additionally, you can export them as shown in the screencam (as BPMN 2.0 XML). It then comes down to using an appropriate tool for managing xmls in order to achieve what you suggest.

      Cheers,
      Alex

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  7. Aditya Palekar
    On Similar lines of “Gravity” which leverages collaboration tool like Google Wave for BPM Modeling, there are 3 exciting productized service offerings on the EcoHub by SAP Professional Services.

    These productized service offerings are implemented as customer specific tailored solutions where SAP integrates with powerful collaboration channels in the Social Media space such as: –

    Twitter Customer Service

    Leverage emerging social media channels like Twitter within SAP CRM to receive open feedback from customers, provide superior customer service, and monitor the sentiments from customers towards products or services

    Twitter Marketing Campaign

    Leverage emerging social media channels like twitter within SAP CRM to reach out to a broader network of customers, run more effective marketing campaigns and track them.

    Target Marketing via Facebook®

    With Target Marketing via Facebook® , organisations can connect with growing user/customer community on facebook driving customer demand, enhancing brand awareness and customer satisfaction. Users gain convenience to access their loyalty program membership details, view and enrol for marketing offers and recommend the same to their network of friends …all from the convenience of their Facebook account

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  8. Daniel Graversen
    Hi Alexander,
    I’m working on my presentation on SAP and Wave for the virtual community day. I hope we can find a way to demo your gadget during this presentation.

    /daniel

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  9. Ki Woong Nam
    Hi Alexander,
    I very impressed about Gravity.
    So I want to check about Google Wave but unfortunately Google requires Invitation to participate the Google Wave.

    Would you kindly send me the invitation for Google Wave? Please let me know is it possible or not.
    My google accout is “haamee@gmail.com“.

    Anyway It’s very fantastic works!!

    Thank you in adavance for your helps.

    BRs

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    1. Alexander Dreiling Post author
      Hi Sergio,

      thanks for your feedback. At this stage Gravity is a prototype that is not publicly accessible. We’re working on it, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a bit longer.

      Best regards,
      Alex

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  10. Markus Held
    This looks great!

    I’ve been working on something similar for BPEL in the course of my PhD studies. A demo version of my collaborative BPEL editor is available here:
    http://www-sr.informatik.uni-tuebingen.de/~held/ria.htm

    I would find it interesting to exchange further thoughts on the subject.

    See also:
    M. Held and W. Blochinger.
    Structured Collaborative Workflow Design.
    In Future Generation Computer Systems – The International Journal of Grid Computing and E-Science, 25(6):638-653, 2009.

    M. Held and W. Blochinger.
    Collaborative BPEL Design with a Rich Internet Application.
    In Proceedings of the 8th IEEE International Symposium on Cluster Computing and the Grid (CCGrid’08), Lyon, France, 19-22 May 2008, IEEE Computer Society.

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  11. Genni Sanders
    Hi

    This looks really interesting as the collaborative aspect is very important. I don’t know anything about Wave or Gravity but the collaboration looks a lot easier than a lot of the tools I’ve come across.

    One comment I would make about the example is it’s not a good idea to have an exclusive split followed by a parallel merge.

    As a BPMN user for nearly 4 years I’m passionate about using it effectively. It’s important to have good practice and governance in place as the ease of modelling in BPMN can quickly result in a heap of poorly formed models that are difficult to maintain.

    I would like to know more about this project and am interested in collaborating.

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    1. Alexander Dreiling Post author
      Hi Genni,

      thanks for pointing that out, it certainly means that Marvin’s not perfect yet… 🙂 It’s actually correct in the screencam, where we’ve used an and split and join for the last block. The screenshot above sneaked its way in from a previous recording, we’ll fix it.

      Kind regards,
      Alex

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  12. Srinivas Kolli
    Its absolutely wonderful tool, both from Google and SAP.

    When the users type in the comments as they define the business process their messages have to be added on the top of the message pile rather than at the end of it. This change is needed from user experience point of view, so that users don’t have to scroll down to check an message update.

    Hope you read this message and reply ! 

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    1. Alexander Dreiling Post author
      Hi Srinivas,

      thanks! It’s pretty much up to the user where they add comments, Wave is pretty generic in this regard. We appended them, others may want to respond inline, yet other to put it on the top of the stack. Also, the Gravity can be added to any blib, not just the top one…

      Cheers,
      Alex

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  13. Rosann Collins
    I currently teach BPMN and SAP, as well as do research on the cognitive processes in process modeling.  If you are interested in pursuing a distributed cognition theory based study employing your new, exciting tool, perhaps we can collaborate.

    Rosann Collins

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  14. Niall MacMahon
    Are there any plans to convert this SAP developed gadget into a method for SAP’s own cloud based collaborative application 12Sprints(www.12sprints.com)?
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  15. Tim Barton
    Hi, Just wondering if there is a release date in mind for Gravity? I’m currently assessing Google Wave for suitability within my workplace and from what I’ve seen Gravity would add significant value.
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  16. Nida Fatima
    Gravity looks like a user friendly tool to model business processes. Interface & objects used can be comprehended by the business user as well therefore creating ownership of the final solution with the business rather than IT.
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  17. Tom Cenens
    Hello Alexander

    Gravity looks very intesting, definitely something I have to check out.

    It would be great if it was possible to make a connection to SAP Solution Manager 7.1 from SAP Streamwork and synchronize the business process model to the enhanced business blueprint which is part of a Solution Manager implementation project?

    It would even be interesting for a lot of other content that resides in Streamwork to be able to synchronize content to Solution Manager and include it in the Solution Documentation for example.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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