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For the past week or so, I’ve been given the chance to play with the new process design Google Wave gadget “Gravity” created by SAP Research. Gravity – Collaborative Business Process Modelling within Google Wave is a tool that allows Google Wave users to design processes collaboratively It was an interesting experience in that it made me think about how we respond to new technology and the assumptions that we bring to such meetings.

When I first started working with the tool, I compared Gravity to existing process design environments and found it was missing certain features (swim lanes, etc.). Of course, one reason is that Gravity is still a prototype and being further developed as we speak.

I then paused and asked myself “Is the comparison of Gravity and existing process design tools valid?” Google Wave has as its foundation a new style of collaboration that is based on a union of the best characteristics of various existing technologies. Gravity reflects this new style of collaboration; thus, how is it possible to compare it with tools that are based on an old collaboration style (the debate on which collaboration style is more effective is an entirely different discussion)? The more interesting question is what Gravity should include in its featureset that best exploits this new manner of collaboration.

If you try and define this new collaboration style as it relates to process design, you’ll have a tough time pinpointing exactly what it means – which is one of the reasons that the subject is so exciting. There are some parts of Gravity (and Google Wave itself) that reflect typical Web 2.0 tools. For example, the ability to playback the changes in a design is similar to that of a process wiki (for example, the BPMN community) where it is possible to step-through changes that have been made by different users. One difference here is that Gravity is in real time – so the collaboration takes on a different quality (more rapid pace?) than in wikis.  

Another aspect of this new collaboration style is the use of robots in a wave.

Robots are an automated participant within a wave. They can talk with users and interact with waves. They can provide information from outside sources (i.e. Twitter()) or they can check content within a wave and perform actions based on them (i.e. provide you a stock quote if a stock name is mentioned). (taken from Mashable blog about Google Wave)

This functionality would mean that bots have the ability to access the process design itself and respond accordingly. I sat down and tried to figure out some possible process-related bots:



Process mistakes bot

This bot checks your design for common mistakes ala this How to avoid modeling errors in Netweaver BPM? Part 1: Gateway fun! or the BPM Trouble-Shooting Guide in the wiki

Similar process bot

This bot looks for similar process designs to improve reusability.

Suggestion bot

This bot makes design suggestions to improve the design. Similar to process mistakes bot but focus more on design style ala Bruce Silver

Processer tagger bot:

This bot automatically tags your process / wave based on its contents. This is critical when searching for similar designs

Expert Finder

Based on the contents of your design, this bot attempts to find process experts who might be able to help if necessary. The places to mine for this information might be Twitter or an internal microblogging system (ala ESME)

ES suggestion bot

This bot looks for the appropriate Enterprise Service based on the process design.

UI suggestion bot

This bot looks for the appropriate / pre-existing User Interfaces based on the process design

Business rule suggestion bot

This bot looks for the appropriate / pre-existing business rules based on process design.

Corporate style-guide bot

This bot checks to make sure that UI elements (maybe process design as well) meet the corporate style guide

GRC bot

This bot makes sure that the process means GRC-related corporate policies

Sustainability bot

This bot makes sure that the process means sustainability-related corporate policies

Converter bot

This bot converts the process to various output formats (PDF, BPMN, etc.)

Deployment bot

This bot deploys the process to the next process design environment (SAP NW BPM, etc)

Of course, some of these bots seem pretty far-fetched but that is what makes Google Wave so interesting in that gives you the chance to dream and have crazy thoughts. These ideas are just a starting point. I’d be curious as to what sort of ideas others have.

Note: I was given the chance to experiment with Gravity based on my participation in this year’s BPX Process Slam at this year’s TechEds. If you’d like to see Gravity in action and join in our discussions of process design with this new environment, then I’d suggest coming to the event.

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  1. Daniel Graversen
    Hi Richard ,
    It would be really interesting to have some bots to help with the process design in different ways.

    At the moment robots cannot interact with gadgets, but that is likely to befixed when the robots is done with development.


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