Rania Khalaf of IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center presented a paper on enabling community participation for workflows through extensibility and sharing, specifically within a hosted BPM system.
She is focused on three areas of collaboration: extension activities (services), collaborative workflow modeling, and collaboration on executing workflow instances. There are two key aspects to this: method and technical enablement, and the business and security aspects.
This is really about the community and how they participate: developers who create extension activities, process designers who create process models and include the extension activities, and participants in the executing workflows. For extension activities, they’re leveraging the Bite language and runtime, which uses REST-based interaction, and allows developers to create extensions in their language of choice and publish them directly in a catalog that is available to process designers. Workflow designers can provide feedback on the extensions via comments. Essentially, this is a sort of collaborative SOA using REST instead of WS-*: developers create extensions and publish them, and designers can pull from a marketplace of extensions available in the hosted environment. Much lighter weight than most corporate SOA efforts, although undeniably more nimble.
Process models can be shared, either for read-only or edit access, with others both within and outside your organization in order to gather feedback and improve the process. Once created, the URL for instantiating a process can be sent directly to end users to kick off their own processes as designed.
This is part of several inter-related IBM efforts, including the newly-released BPM BlueWorks and the still-internal Virtuoso Business Mashups, and seems to fall primarily under the LotusLive family. This is likely an indication of what we’ll see in BlueWorks in the future; they’ll be adding more social capabilities such as process improvement and an extensions marketplace, and addressing the business and security issues.