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Very Quick Thoughts on Gravity: BPM / Google Wave integration

I’ve been thinking a lot about Social BPM and the Gravity – Collaborative Business Process Modelling within Google Wave touched a nerve. I admit I was entranced by the screencam / blog and the ease and speed in which wave participants created a process model – I let it resonate a little bit and I had a few ideas / comments. Although this blog focuses on Gravity, I think this innovation can also help us understand wave-based collaboration in BPM projects in general.

Note: I’m not a Google Wave Beta User, so I can only speak indirectly about this innovation and I’ve only seen the Gravity screencam, so I haven’t played with it either.

Here is my knee-jerk reaction as a list (not really in any order) of ideas/questions:

  • The screencam ends with the model being imported into the NWDS. There is obviously a break here regarding process artifacts. What happens when the model changes while being further developed? Would the model in the wave be updated as well? Should the initial participants in the wave be informed of such changes? What about some sort of NWDS plug-in / bot that informs the wave participants of the changes?
  • The screencam centers on the part of the process design that is focused on modeling. As seen in the screencam, the process analysis that proceeds the actual modeling is very very unstructured – it is just a conversation. How does this new style of collaboration fit with SAP’s BPM methodology with its structured approach. Would wave-based collaboration take place in the process analysis phase of a process improvement project?
  • There are often metrics associated with process improvement projects. How would these metrics deal with wave-like collaboration where the collaboration style is very flexible?
  • I’m not sure if a process model could be created based only on a single wave. Based on the screencam, I have no idea if the individuals have worked together in another context (wiki, WinWord, etc.) and are now just continuing their “conversation” where a process happens to be modeled.
  • In general, I like the wiki-like characteristics of the modeling gadget where contributions from different participants are in different colors and users can annotate the model with comments.
  • What I’m missing from the demo are other artifacts necessary in process analysis. What about a wiki page in the wave where details about existing processes are kept?
  • I’d like to see wave gadgets where collaboration in different parts of the process improvement project might be supported. What about developers talking about the UI elements that are necessary in the process? Would such changes mean that wave gadgets for all phases of a process improvement project must be supported?  For example, a wave gadget for UI models (ala Visual Composer) would be perfect.
  • This gadget is also a step towards Shadow-IT where the design of processes is moved out of the hands of Corporate IT and more towards business users. In such scenarios, such business users work very rapidly on their own to develop an initial process model that is then given to corporate IT to develop.
  • What about existing sub-processes or process components? How would these be used in the wave gadget? Should there be an ability to link to some sort of repository of existing processes? Or should this be done at a later time in the process improvement project. In the screencam, Tom “a solution architect” is added to the wave and changes a human task to an automatic task. I’m not really sure if Tom’s inclusion at this stage was correct or whether he should have gotten involved later. I’d expect Tom do that later in the NWDS.

Gravity with its wave-based collaboration can’t replace Galaxy – it is like comparing apples and oranges. I could envision Gravity complementing the current SAP BPM Networking product line, especially for the initial phases of the process modeling and design where business users are involved and the level of process abstraction is still high without a lot of implementation details.

By the way, I think Gravity would be perfect for this year’s Process Slam – hint, hint.

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  • … as you’ve explained in your first bullet point, the final step into NWDS leaves us all with some questions. Of course we’re talking about a prototype here, but thinking through the modelling process even further can be helpful for all parties involved to make Gravity a success.

    The gripe I have (similar to your point) is that by the end of the video the “real work” is about to start. It’s not like as if the people involved in the initial process modelling steps are now not needed anymore. Far from it: once detailed tasks, UI and mappings need to be defined, the BPXers are required more than ever.

    I guess that’s the point you’re trying to make: Gravity needs to reach out even further into BPM and development steps that follow once the model has been agreed on.

    But, wow… what a great usage proposal for Google Wave Gravity is!

    Kind regards,

    • I think that the possibilities are rooted in the initial stages of process analysis where things can be “fast and loose” without spending any development money. Business users can work together to figure out the general direction they wish to take and then call in the “technicians”.