bpmNEXT 2016 demos: Appian, Bonitasoft, Camunda and Capital BPM

Last day of bpmNEXT 2016 already, and we have a full morning of demos in two sessions, the first of which has a focus on more technical development.

Intent-Driven, Future-Proof User Experience – Malcolm Ross and Suvajit Gupta, Appian

Appian’s SAIL UI development environment. Build interfaces with smart components that detect the capabilities of the runtime device (e.g., camera, Bluetooth) and enable/disable/configure components on the fly. Supports a variety of UI rendering architectures/frameworks for desktop, and generates native mobile apps for Android and iOS. Directly supports their underlying constructs such as Records and process models when building forms. Dynamic content based on selections and data on form. Fast rebranding of forms with color and logos. Full functionality on mobile devices, and offline support via caching data down to device, and saving any offline transactions to automatically synchronize when reconnected. Switch between design (tree/graphical) view and code view in IDE to support different technical capabilities of UI designers. Not a focus on BPM per se, since Appian is repositioning as more of a process-centric application development tool than BPMS, although used as the UI development environment for their process applications.

Continuous Integration: Tools to Empower DevOps in Process-Based Application Development – Charles Souillard, Bonitasoft

Embodying continuous integration for live updates of applications, enabling easier development and automated testing supported by Docker images. Demo of simple shopping cart application created using BonitaBPM, with a combination of forms, pages, layouts, custom widgets and fragments that can be rendered on desktop and mobile devices. Underlying BPMN process model with human activities connected to UI artifacts. Versioned using Subversion. The continuous integration functionality monitors checked-in changes to the application and integrates them into the dev/test repository to allow immediate testing; in the demo, a new input parameter was added to a process step; the updated code was detected and tested, with testing errors raised due to the unknown parameter. Potential to accelerate the dev-test cycle, since code can be checked in by developers several times each day, with the results automatically tested and fed back to them.

Combining DMN with BPMN and CMMN: The Open Source Way – Jakob Freund, Camunda

wp-1461259584764.pngCamunda’s “developer-friendly” BPM for developers to add process, case and decision capabilities to their applications. Their DMN decision tables allows changing decision tables at runtime for increased agility, depending on binding specified by process designer. Decisions executed as decision tasks from a process are logged as part of process history, and visible in their admin Cockpit interface to trace through decisions for a specific process instance. DMN engine also available outside decision tasks in a process, such as a REST API call from a form to dynamically update values as parameters change; when deploying a table, both a public ID for executing the table and a private ID for editing the table are generated for the REST access. Nice traceability directly into the decision table, and fast changes to production decision tables. Open source, with a free (non-production) DMN cloud version. Extra points for creating an online dungeon game using BPMN, and playing a round during the demo.

SapphireNow User Experience Q&A with Sam Yen

Wrapping up day 2 of SAPPHIRE NOW 2015, a small group of bloggers met with Sam Yen, SAP’s Chief Design Officer, to talk about user experience at SAP. That, of course, means Fiori: the user experience platform that is part of HCP and S/4HANA, and now the standard platform for creating user interfaces to SAP software. This means a shift for SAP developers (as well as customers’ developers), moving to an environment that includes disaggregated UI components and a responsive interface rather than the old-school monolithic static interfaces. It’s not just about learning some new tools: this also requires learning new design guidelines and interaction patterns. Although the new products (and customers) use Fiori for the application UI, there is a huge installed base of SAP customers using older UI platforms; as they migrate from the older Business Suite to S/4, they may not want to migrate all of their UI immediately, or they may want to modernize interfaces on the older suite using Fiori. SAP’s design efforts are focused on S/4HANA, but they can’t ignore the needs of the “classic” installations.

Version 2 of Fiori is in the works, and he showed us a demo video with more informative tiles that can scale from a tile within a desktop dashboard, to a smaller interface on a tablet, to a single tile interface on a phone or watch.

Yen talked about SAP’s journey in migrating the huge number of interfaces that exist for their products to Fiori, which is multiplied several times over for their customers’ custom interfaces. This is obviously not a 1:1 exercise since there is a lot of redesign of the entire experience, not just a straight migration, but they are up against the same modernization problem as any large software developer: hand-coding of these by experienced interaction designers can’t possibly scale to the size required to do a complete refactoring of the UI. He showed us [ALL THE COOL STUFF REDACTED BECAUSE I WAS STUPID ENOUGH TO ASK FOR PERMISSION RATHER THAN FORGIVENESS WHEN NO NDA WAS SPECIFIED].

A quick and informal Q&A rather than a prepared presentation, and my last session while on site in Orlando. I’ll be back in my own office by tomorrow morning, and will hopefully have time to watch Hasso Plattner’s keynote online to wrap up SAPPHIRE for me.

Consolidated Inbox in SAP Fiori at SapphireNow 2015

I had a chance to talk with Benny Notheis at lunchtime today about the SAP Operational Intelligence product directions, and followed on to his session on a consolidated inbox that uses SAP’s Fiori user experience platform to provide access to SAP’s Business Suite workflow, BPM and Operational Process Intelligence work items, as well as work items from non-SAP workflow systems. SAP has offered a few different consolidated inboxes over the years — some prettier than others — but they all serve the same purpose: to make things easier for users by providing a single point of contact for all work items, and easier for IT by reducing maintenance and support. In the case of the Fiori My Inbox, it also provides a responsive interface across mobile and desktop devices. Just as the underlying database and transaction platform for SAP is converging on HANA, all user experience for applications and analytics is moving to Fiori. Fiori (and therefore the consolidated My Inbox) is not yet available on the cloud platform, but that’s in the works.

As a consolidated work list manager, My Inbox provides multiple device support including mobile, managing work items from multiple systems in a single list and fully integrated into the Fiori launchpad. It has some nice features such as mass approvals, full-text searching, sorting and filtering, and sharing tasks via email and SAP JAM; work items can have attachments, comments and custom attributes that are exposed in the work list UI or by launching the UI specific to the work item.

We saw a demo of My Inbox, with  a user-configurable view that allows workers to create filtered lists within their inbox for specific task types or source systems in order to organize their work in the way that they want to view it. Work items can be viewed and managed in the work list view within Fiori, or the work item launched for full interaction using its native UI. Tasks can be forwarded to other users or suspended, as well as task type-specific actions such as approve and reject. Attachments can be added and viewed directly from the work list view, as well as direct links into other systems. The history for a work item is maintained directly in My Inbox for viewing by the user, although the underlying workflow systems are likely also maintaining their own separate history logs; this provides a more collaborative history by allowing users to add comments that become part of the My Inbox history. Emailing a task to a user sends a direct link to the task but does not interrogate or allocate access rights; I assume that this could mean that a task could  sent to someone who does not have rights to open or edit the tasks, and the original sender would not be informed. Within any list view, a multi-select function can be used to select multiple items for approval; these all have to be approval-type items rather than notifications, so this might be most useful in a list view that is filtered for a single task type. There is no view of tasks that a user delegated or completed — a sort of Sent Items box — so a user can’t monitor the progress of something that they forward to someone else. Substitutions for out-of-office times are set in My Inbox, meaning that the user does not need to visit each of the underlying systems of record to set up substitution rules; these rules can be applied based on task groups, which are established by how task profiles are set up during the initial technical configuration.

A good demonstration of the new generation of SAP user experience, and how Fiori can be used in a production transaction-oriented environment. There obviously needs to be a fair amount of cooperation between the Fiori-based My Inbox and the systems of record that contribute work items: My Inbox needs to be able to interrogate quite a bit of data from each work item, send actions, and manage user substitution rules via a common task consumption model that interacts with gateways to each type of underlying system. There is likely still quite a bit of work to do in those integration points to make this a fully-functional universal inbox, especially for systems of record that are more reluctant to yield their secrets to other systems; SAP has published specifications for building task gateways that could then be plugged into this model, which would expose work items from any system in My Inbox via a compatible gateway.


(Image from SDN link above)

The next good trick will be to have a consolidated history log, combining the logs from My Inbox with those in the systems of record to build a more complete history of a work item for reporting and decisioning.

Innovations In AWD User Experience

To finish off the first morning at DST ADVANCE 2015, I attended the session on customer and work experience, which was presented as a case study of background investigations on a security-sensitive hiring process, such as for a government immigration and border control agency. This is a relatively straightforward case management scenario: create a case, uploading and indexing the initiating documents using a form; then case management from a case worker’s viewpoint, including tasks assigned to them or other people on the team, and an activity stream view of all case activity. They demonstrated a number of the new widget capabilities, including grid views of case tasks and investigation team members, and Google Maps integration with case data overlaid on the map. We also saw a field investigator’s portal view that limits the view to that user’s active case progress and the details of their assignments. The data entry forms regarding the person being investigated are reused from other parts of the process, plus forms specific to the investigator such as travel expenses.

This shows quite different interfaces depending on the user persona: the simple forms-based view for the case initiator; the full case management interface for the knowledge worker; a worklist-oriented case portal view for the field investigator; and a traditional internal worklist view for internal workers who are assigned specific tasks without visibility onto the entire case.

We didn’t see anything on how these interfaces are built, although there was some discussion of that; I think that there’s a more technical session on building interfaces using the widgets tomorrow.

Unfortunately, this session was in conflict with the Solutions for Tomorrow’s Workforce presentation about goal-driven design and some of the customer research that they’ve done; difficult to get to all of the sessions of interest here.