Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Human Centric Processes: A Fresh Perspective

Anant Gupta, SOA Practice Director

With BPM gaining so much attention, any workflow product worth its salt provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to definition and execution of processes specifically when it comes to human centric processes, both structured and unstructured. This flexibility however comes at a cost, cost both in terms complexity and clarity of definition of processes and performance in runtime. Also, making changes to workflows always remains a challenge. Simple changes like making steps execute in parallel instead of sequentially are a nightmare to implement and are most often simply not taken up.

It does not really need to be that complex if we take a somewhat hybrid approach to structured and unstructured processes. There are certain steps that have to happen in a particular order and then there are others that can be done at any time if certain pre-requisites are met. We have to start thinking of processes as steps where each step has a set of pre-requisites. These pre-requisites could be related to the steps in the workflow or can be content / context related. Instead of workflows, human centric processes can be defined as a set of steps with pre-requisites. For eg, a step X can be executed only when Step A and Step D are completed, when the status of a document is accepted and if the flow was initiated by a gold client.

This approach should be extended with user experience simulation to come up with the typical paths the workflow will take and this should be visually depicted. This will provide both clarity in terms of the definition and flexibility to change the workflows in an extremely simplified fashion.

Call it pre-requisites or workflow rules, the idea is to provide extreme dynamicity to human centric processes, an area that has not been addressed by most of the so called dynamic BPM products which cater almost always to system centric processes.

Anant Gupta was recently named the SOA Practice Director at Prolifics after serving as a Senior Business Integration and J2EE architect Anant has with extensive experience in IBM's SOA software portfolio and specializes in delivering business integration and business process management solutions. He has worked for major clients in the banking, insurance, telecommunications and technology industries.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Service Versioning in WSRR

Rajiv Ramachandran, Practice Director, Enterprise Integration / Solution Architect

We had heard the word “Change” used a lot in the recent months and I have to agree that “There is nothing more permanent than change”. In the services world, “Change” brings about a unique challenge – “Versioning”. As I enhance my service to add new functionality or update existing logic, I need to create a new version of the service. The reason - Most often, I need to support multiple versions of the same service in my environment as I might have different clients who would like to use different versions of the service.

WebSphere Services Registry and Repository (WSRR) is the place where I store all my service definitions. WSRR allows me to define a version number for a service, i.e. I could have multiple versions of the same service in WSRR.

However what is missing in WSRR is the ability to connect multiple versions of the service. However what WSRR does provide is the flexibility to add metadata to service definitions. I have created two such relationship attributes called – nextVersion and previousVersion and have used them to build a custom way to link multiple versions of a service.

Such a custom relationship allows me to do an impact analysis in my registry to see the following results:

Rajiv Ramachandran first joined Prolifics as a Consultant, and is currently the Practice Director for Enterprise Integration. He has 11 years experience in the IT field — 3 of those years at IBM working as a developer at its Object Technology Group and its Component Technology Competency Center in Bangalore. He was then an Architect implementing IBM WebSphere Solutions at Fireman’s Fund Insurance. Currently, he specializes in SOA and IBM’s SOA-related technologies and products. An author at the IBM developerWorks community, Rajiv has been a presenter at IMPACT and IBM's WebSphere Services Technical Conference.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why Move to Portal 6.1?

Samuel Sharaf, Solution Director West Coast

We recently proposed a WebSphere Portal 6.1 upgrade to one of our very important customers. Their environment is currently running on Portal 6.0.x. The customer’s first question was, “What value does Portal 6.1 provides over version 6.0? And how it would benefit us?” To answer their question, we developed a simple table which lists the features available in the latest version of Portal and a brief description of these features.

These two columns, in table 1.0 below, can be used as basis for developing an ROI model for a customer who wants to upgrade to Portal 6.1. For example, most likely, a customer has developed custom AJAX functionality to enhance the user experience. Yet with any custom code, there is cost associated with code maintenance and enhancements. With Portal 6.1’s Web 2.0 support, most of the Portlets have built in AJAX support.The customer was happy to see how these new features in Portal 6.1 can help reduce the on going code maintenance and administrative costs and help improve the overall site and user experience.

WebSphere Portal 6.1 Features and Descriptions

UI Improvements

  1. Themes and Skins Wizard
  2. Themes and skins no longer part of wps.ear. Updates are applied without restarting Portal

Web 2.0
  1. AJAX enabled Portlets
  2. Supports JSR 268 which provides for improved inter-Portlet communication
  3. Portal REST services and integration with Collaboration Services

Administering Portal/Web Content Management
  1. Portlet Resource monitoring (out of box)
  2. Simplified administration of sites
  3. Greatly improved security configuration

Web Content Management Improvements
  1. Security:
    1. Inherited security support
    2. User and contributor roles
    3. Active content filtering
  2. Performance:
    1. Changes to WCM node structure for better authoring experience/performance
  3. Presentation:
    1. Improved UI tags for content rendering
  4. Authoring/templating:
    1. In line editing, Authoring tool enhancements, EditLive RTE 5
  5. API:
    1. JSR286 Portlets to enable Web content pages and directing links to right WCM Page

Samuel Sharaf is a Solution Director at Prolifics on the West coast with real world customer expertise with Portal implementations, Dashboard, Forms and Content Management. Sam also has expertise with migrating applications from non-IBM platforms to IBM WebSphere Application and Portal Servers.