New Process Portal
The new Process Portal available in IBM Business Process Manager V8 has been modernized to take advantage of the latest Web 2.0 technologies. It implements social BPM to enable real-time collaboration among users working on the same task, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Social BPM enables collaborative task completion
The Process Portal includes the following new features that enhance the user experience and productivity, as illustrated in Figure 2:
- The ability to add comments and attach documents to a specific process or task.
- One-click subscription to process instances a user is interested in, providing process-related on-screen notifications and activity updates in the subscribed user's activity stream.
- Activity streams that display activity updates, such as task creation and completion, user comments and actions, and notifications that are related to tasks that are owned by a user or related to particular process instances that a user is following.
- Enhanced user profile information, including avatars and configuration of notifications.
Figure 2. Working with tasks in the new Process Portal
New Process Designer features
Automatic starting of the next task
Sometimes your process involves a sequence of activities that should be performed by the same person, one right after the other. You can configure these individual activities to start automatically if they are assigned to the same person as the previous task. In Process Portal, if the owner of the current task is the same as the owner of the next task, the next task starts automatically when the current task is complete.
Restricting ad hoc actions by milestone or participant group
You can configure ad hoc actions, also called user-initiated actions, to be available for only a particular phase of a process or for a particular user group by restricting the visibility of the associated ad hoc event to a particular swimlane or milestone in the business process definition (BPD), as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Restricting ad hoc task availability
Configuring activities for inline completion
You can configure user tasks that involve a simple decision, such as to approve or reject a request or to choose between a set of options, so that the business user can complete the task in Process Portal without having to open the Coach for the task, as shown in Figure 4. Instead, users simply click a button or select an option with a single click.
Figure 4. Three inline task completion patterns
Create reusable user interfaces and behavior for Coaches
In IBM Business Process Manager V8, the Coaches are completely redesigned to contain Coach Views. Coach Views are reusable user interfaces that you can create and customize. Coach Views can comprise one or more other Coach Views. Coach Views include data bindings, layout information, and behavior. If paced in toolkits, Coach Views are reusable, thus providing consistent user interfaces and behaviors throughout a solution.
Template Coach Views can be used as basis for other higher-level Coach Views, as shown in Figure 5. The Content Box feature allows for derived Coach Views to add their own layout information. Additionally, derived Coach Views can modify the behavior of base Coach Views, such as visibility (either directly by overriding exposed parameters or using CSS stylesheets) or runtime behavior (by providing or modifying associated AJAX services).
Figure 5. New Coach View derived from a Template Coach View
Figure 6. JQuery Button Coach View
All Coach Views appear on the Coach Designer palette and are ready for reuse when constructing other Coach Views.
Figure 7. JQuery Button Coach View is available for reuse
To maintain backwards compatibility, Coaches from previous releases are now called Heritage Coaches. You can continue to use and maintain existing Heritage Coaches.
Enhanced support for error handling and termination handling
You now have more options when throwing and catching exceptions using error events in BPDs, subprocesses, and services (including Advanced Integration Services (AIS), which prior to V8 did not support exceptions). You can throw a specific error object by selecting a variable, and you can catch specific errors and map the caught error data to a variable.
Figure 8. Exception handling
For process instances, you have more flexibility in defining the scope of a terminate end event. You can designate whether all activities in the process instance are ended, even the parent processes. In earlier versions, terminating the entire process instance was the only option. New in V8 is the ability to terminate only the subprocess where the exception was thrown.
Integration with Enterprise Content Management systems
Enterprise Content Management systems help you manage documents of all types, such as records, images, and web pages. By incorporating the new Enterprise Content Management service into your business processes in IBM Business Process Manager V8, you can search, view, and store documents on Enterprise Content Management systems.
- You can use new Coach Views to quickly build a user interface for listing, viewing, and storing documents, as shown in Figure 9.
- Using a graphical user interface, you can create queries to the Enterprise Content Management system without having to know the Content Management Interoperability Service (CMIS) query language syntax.
- Because the Enterprise Content Management integration is based on the industry-standard CMIS interface, IBM Business Process Manager can connect to any Enterprise Content Management product that supports CMIS.
Figure 9. New ECM Coach Views: Document List and Document Viewer
A business object can be identified as a shared business object, making the business object and its values accessible for update to other instances or in parallel threads in the same instance.
New Process Center features
Control the installation of process application snapshots with governance processes
You can apply a governance process that provides control over the installation of process application snapshots, as shown in Figure 10. When this governance is in place for a process application, all requests made from Process Center to install a snapshot of that process application pass through the governance process. The process application snapshot is installed on a process server only after the approvals that are defined in that governance process are completed.
Figure 10. Governance Process Controls deployment of Process Apps
You also can create a governance process that reacts to the status change of a snapshot.
Attach reference links to sources
Process documentation now includes rich text content and reference links so that you can attach links to content or other sources, as shown in Figure 11. The following examples are possible reference links:
- A web site or a wiki page.
- A change request that is stored in a change management system.
- A test case that is stored in a quality management system.
- Artifacts that are managed by Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC)-enabled content providers.
Figure 11. Requirement defined in IBM Rational Team Concert is linked to AIS implementation
This linking capability helps you achieve traceability or provide details about the changes to a business object or service interface. The links are created using the OSLC wizard, which automatically connects the target requirements system and, using the OSLC API, gathers the requirements management system data which the user can select for inclusion in the documentation view.
Manage changes with compare and copy
Using the new compare and copy feature, you can selectively bring changes from a snapshot to the tip of a current track or main branch. Using graphical compare tools, you can understand which components are new, updated, or conflicting when comparing a snapshot to the tip of a track, as shown in Figure 12.
Figure 12. Compare and copy summary of changes
To learn more about the exact details of the changes, you can see the two versions side by side, as shown in Figure 13.
Figure 13. Graphically compare changes between snapshot and the tip
Once you decide what work you want to bring to the tip, you can select changed components from one snapshot and copy them to the tip of a track that has associated dependencies.
If you are working in a disconnected mode and want to copy changes from a remote Process Center, you can create a new track when a process application is being imported. Then use the graphical Compare Copy capability to copy the changes
Sharing of content between Process Centers
You can now share and reuse toolkits authored in one Process Center with other connected Process Centers, as illustrated in Figure 14.
Figure 14. Provider Process Centers provide content for reuse to Consumer Process Center
Some of the key features that enable this capability are:
- Search for process applications, toolkits, and library items based on specified keywords.
- Filter results by type using the directed search capability.
- Administer the Process Center index, which is used to conduct searches on the Process Center repository. The index is automatically created and maintained. You now can manually re-create or update the index. You also can configure the index to be processed automatically.
- Preview individual results and view associated process documentation.
- Register to share process content with another Process Center. When you register two Process Centers with each other, you can share toolkits with other users or subscribe to toolkits that other users share, as shown in Figure 15.
- Share toolkits that provide common or exemplary content.
- Tag key library items as they are released so that subscribers know what to use.
- Publish individual snapshots and notify subscribers that a new version is available.
- Subscribe to shared process content (toolkits) from another Process Center.
- Receive notifications when new versions, or snapshots, become available.
Figure 15. Toolkits developed in one Process Center reused in another Process Center
Compare snapshots before instances are migrated to identify the potential locations of orphaned tokens
You can now use a policy file to compare snapshots before instances are migrated. Use the file to identify the potential locations of orphaned tokens (tokens that are associated with activities that were removed from a BPD), as shown in Figure 16, and specify whether each orphaned token is deleted or moved during instance migration.
Figure 16. Orphaned token policy files can be used to move or delete orphaned tokens
New Process Server and Integration Designer features
WebSphere eXtreme Scale primitives
New WebSphere ESB mediation flow primitives, as shown in Figure 17, provide elastic scalability with WebSphere eXtreme Scale, giving you cache content-enhancing connectivity for throttled backends and large binary data. Key uses include response caching, policy caching, and request persistence. The eXtreme Scale mediation primitives can be used only if WebSphere eXtreme Scale is installed.
Figure 17. New eXtreme Scale mediation primitives: Retrieve and Store
Service invocation-style simplification
Additional invocation-style options, shown in Figure 18, are available to control the invocation style for a service without the need to specify additional parameters and, in general, without the need to consider the invocation style that invoked the mediation flow. The new invocation styles are Async with deferred response, Async with callback, and As target.
Figure 18. Additional service invocation styles
Optimized XSLT transforms
The XSL Transformation mediation primitive is renamed the Mapping mediation primitive. To achieve improved runtime performance of an XSLT transform, you can specify the faster BO Mapper Java engine for runtime implementation.
Exchange information with CICS, IMS, or batch programs on z/OS
WebSphere-optimized local adapter (WOLA) is a new resource adapter in V8. Using WOLA, you can create and access external services to exchange information with COBOL, PL/I, C, and C++ programs that run on Customer Information Control System (CICS®), IBM Information Management System (IMS™) transaction systems, and batch programs on z/OS®. From the New External Service wizard, you can create services using WOLA that can make outbound calls from Process Server for z/OS to programs that run in an external address space on the same z/OS system. Existing, unchanged CICS programs and IMS transactions are driven using the WOLA CICS link server and the WOLA-over-IMS Open Transaction Manager Access (OTMA) interface. You also can target CICS programs and IMS transactions using the native WOLA APIs Host Service or Receive Request.
Figure 19. WOLA adapter tools in IBM Integration Designer
Control over system retries for SCA components and service invocation in mediation flows
You can set the retry count on the properties page of your module, or you can change the retry count for more than one module using the Configure Asynchronous Retry Count wizard, shown in Figure 20. When a system error occurs, asynchronous invocations retry until the specified retry count is reached. In earlier versions, modules were created with a retry count of 4. Now new modules are created with a retry count of zero. Modules from earlier versions keep existing retry settings during migration.
Figure 20. Asynchronous retry count settings
Unlike in previous versions, the retry behavior of mediation primitives overrides the asynchronous retry count, even if you do not specify retries. Before this release, the retry logic of these primitives was not integrated with the underlying asynchronous retry logic, so that retries could have happened when you defined no retries, or retries could have happened from both the mediation primitive and the service integration bus destination at the same time. Now the behavior defined in these mediation primitives is honored and overrides the service integration bus destination retry logic.
Because the mediation primitive overrides the asynchronous retry count, failover situations, such as when you have an issue with an application server or a messaging engine, might cause failed event manager messages. In previous releases, these messages might have been handled by the service integration bus destination.
New installation and configuration features
In a typical or custom installation using embedded IBM DB2® Express, and in a custom installation using a local DB2 database server, the installation catches more problems earlier and provides information about how to fix problems before starting the installation process.
The default passwords are removed from the custom installation. For a typical installation, the passwords are changed to comply with the password policy on all operating systems.
When you install Process Server, select Production for production use, or Non-production to use Process Server only for test, staging, or development. Separate licensing is now available for non-production Process Server use.
The Interactive Installation and Configuration Guide is a new form used to generate a set of installation and configuration topics that are customized to your precise installation needs. In the Interactive Installation and Configuration Guide form, shown in Figure 21, select the options you need for your installation scenario. As you select each option, the tool automatically removes options that are ruled out by your previous selections. For example, if you indicate that you plan to install the Express configuration, it removes Network Deployment as a potential topology. This form is available in the IBM Business Process Manager Information Center.
Figure 21. Custom IBM Business Process Manager Installation Guide
Improved database functionality and reliability
IBM Business Process Manager now supports Oracle® Data Guard, a high-availability, disaster-recovery, and data-protection mechanism that is used to create, manage, and monitor one or more standby databases, ensuring that Oracle databases for production can survive disasters and data corruptions.
You can now scale your database solution using the IBM DB2 pureScale® feature. Multiple database servers, known as members, process incoming database requests; these members operate in a clustered system and share data.
Improved flexibility for database password changes
You can now reconfigure the database password as needed after your database configuration is completed. Reconfiguring the database password provides flexibility if new users take on the database administrator role, or if your company has a policy of changing passwords regularly.
A new mobile application available from iTunes® for use with the Apple® iPhone® and iPad® provides access to both IBM Business Process Manager and Blueworks Live. It enables users to kick off, collaborate on, attach photos to, and complete work items on the go with IBM Business Process Manager.
Figure 22. IBM Business Process Manager mobile app available on iTunes
You can download the source code for the IBM Business Process Manager mobile app from the BPM Samples Exchange. The Samples Exchange hosts IBM business process and decision management samples and provides a community-enabled framework that fosters sample development and sharing.
Figure 23. Mobile Business Process Manager iOS Sample in the BPM Sample Exchange
IBM Business Process Manager continues to provide extensive REST/JSON APIs that are now used by the new version of the Process Portal and the new Business Process Manager mobile app. A test tool is provided with the Business Process Manager REST APIs. You can use this tool to learn about the REST APIs, and to test those APIs that you are planning to use in your application.
IBM Business Process Manager V8 is a major release that offers significant new capabilities for authoring and executing your BPM processes. This article gave you a high-level tour of many of the new features and enhancements. The following summarizes the new highlights in IBM Business Process Manager V8:
- Revamped IBM BPM Process Portal, delivering a highly collaborative work experience with increased social capabilities and visibility for knowledge workers.
- New Coach Designer with the ability to create and reuse custom user-defined Coach controls, sections, and templates.
- Enhanced governance capabilities including user-defined processes for snapshots and deployment events and managed links to artifacts managed by Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC)-enabled content providers.
- Support for multiple Process Centers, including the ability to search and share content between Process Centers.
- Built-in ability to interact with documents in Enterprise Content Management systems via Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS)
- New mobile app for use with iPhone and iPad extends process applications to process participants on the go.
- Expanded REST/JSON API for mobile application development.
The author is grateful to the IBM Business Process Manager information developers for their permission to use information that was helpful in this article.
- IBM Business Process Manager V8 announcement summary
- developerWorks BPM zone: Get the latest technical resources on IBM BPM solutions, including downloads, demos, articles, tutorials, events, webcasts, and more.
- IBM BPM Journal: Get the latest articles and columns on BPM solutions in this quarterly journal, also available in both Kindle and PDF versions.