about processes and engines

Business | IT divide

I’m writing an open source workflow / bpm package. I eat my own dog food, ie I use my engine to power solutions I write for customers, it’s somehow ‘project-driven’.
I’m just trying to provide the workflow engine I would love to work with. Different people have different expectation on what a workflow/bpm engine should be, somehow, my project is positioned within two poles :

– the pure java workflow approach, by and for the java software developer. BeanFlow might be the youngest of the contenders in the radius of that pole. jBPM and OSWorkflow seem to be the other players in the area.

– the pure business approach, Java, C#, Ruby ? They don’t care. Maybe the most radical view on that pole is given by the IT|redux blog zone.

Could the labels ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ get applied without a thougt to those two poles ? Or is doing so an overly gross simplification ? Bottom-up being the pure-java approach : “we have that workflow library, yes BPM stuff can be derived from it”. Top-down would be summarized by “we’ve got those process definitions, make them run”.

The first ‘pure java’ approach is simple, easily grokkable by the java-literate IT workforce. Users might be really happy with that for a while, but an IT guy is needed for any change.
It seems also to be project-centered : 1 engine embedded within 1 application (or 1 ESB, but that’s another story).

The second approach is about business users that need to get their job done and often, need to change how it gets done.
It’s also about having multiple processes living and interacting within the organizational process engines, with an almost invisible (remote?) IT workforce taking care of keeping those well oiled.
Of course, those guys would also be in charge for providing the various services as participants to business processes.

I’ve got a certain sympathy for the second approach, it’s about people seeking solutions with ‘change built-in’ and trying to get a viewpoint on the whole set/horde of business processes within (across?) their organization.
But the strength of open source might manifest itself more easily through the channel opened by the first approach… Wait, is there more momentum within the java open source movement or within the LAMP[R] open source movement ?

A last reflection : the word ‘process’ is better than ‘workflow’; a workflow/process engine is an operating system for business processes.

And finally, a “dessert“.

Written by John Mettraux

May 26, 2006 at 12:25 pm

Posted in blahblah, bpm, oss, workflow

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