Customize your BPM user interfaces with business spaces

An introduction to Business Space powered by WebSphere

Business Space powered by WebSphere® provides a unifying user interface to the products in the IBM® BPM suite, based on Web 2.0 technology. This article introduces you to the capabilities, features and functions of Business Space, and shows how you can customize and extend it to fit your needs. This content is part of the IBM Business Process Management Journal.

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Overview

The IBM Business Process Management (BPM) suite includes a variety of products that provide functions from business modeling to run-time to business monitoring. Across each of these functional areas, there is a need for a user interface for business users. When creating a business model, you might need to publish the model so that users can view it in a Web browser. At run-time, users need to see work that has been assigned to them, so they can perform their tasks. Business monitoring users need to view the key performance indicators (KPIs), to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

In this article, you'll learn about the features of Business Space, as well as how you can customize and extend it to meet your needs.


The need for a business space

Individual products in IBM's BPM suite have delivered Web-based interfaces, enabling users to interact with the products using a Web browser. For example, WebSphere Business Modeler Publishing Server enables publishing of business models, so that authorized users can view them and have online discussion threads to ensure that the models are correct and complete. WebSphere Process Server provides clients for human tasks, so that users who take part in a process can view their work lists, select work items, and perform the work itself. WebSphere Business Monitor provides dashboards to view metrics and KPIs for a process, enabling users to watch how a process is performing to ensure that it's running as the business expects. Each of these products has its own interface and its own Web application. The question is: how can you bring everything together, so the users don't have to navigate separate applications? And how can you do it with minimal IT involvement?

The solution is Business Space. Business Space is not a separate product, but is instead a capability delivered with each of the products in the WebSphere BPM suite. Business Space is the one-stop shop for all process activities and information, individually tailored to each of the process participants. For V6.1.2, Business Space comes with WebSphere Business Modeler Publishing Server (Publishing Server), WebSphere Process Server (Process Server), WebSphere Business Monitor (Monitor) and WebSphere Business Services Fabric (Fabric). It is delivered as a Web application, with a set of widgets for each product. If you install Process Server, for example, a Web application called BusinessSpaceManager is installed as an enterprise application, along with IBM_BSPACE_WIDGETS, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Enterprise applications in the Process Server administrative console
Enterprise applications in Process Server console

If you later install another BPM product such as Monitor, rather than adding another instance of Business Space, the additional widgets are simply registered with the existing Business Space, extending it to support the capabilities of Monitor. When a user logs on, they have access to any of the widgets from Process Server and Monitor.


What's a widget?

In order to understand how Business Space functions, you first need to understand what a widget is. A widget is a small GUI application, built to provide an interface to an application or function. For example, you might have a widget that shows you a clock, another with the current weather, and another one for your calendar. One popular place to download and add widgets to your computer can be found at Google Gadgets.

Business Space provides a set of widgets for each product that you can use to customize your own personal space. For example, if you've installed Publishing Server, you'll find a set of widgets to view and manage models. Figure 2 shows the widget for viewing a draft model and adding comments.

Figure 2. Viewing a published draft model
View published draft model

Widgets for Business Space are usually implemented as Ajax-style Javascripts, which communicate with servers using the stateless HTTP GET based protocol called REST. The payload is delivered using Javascript object notation (JSON).

Some widgets work by themselves, but some use a cooperative mode to work together. For example, when you select a task to work on from the My Tasks widget, the task details display in the Task Information widget and a diagram of the human tasks for the process appears in the Human Workflow Diagram widget.


Widgets provided with Business Space

As you install BPM products that take part in the business space, their widgets are registered, making them available for use. The Business Space widgets for each BPM product are described below.

WebSphere Business Services Fabric widgets

Business Variables - This widget shows a list of business variables from Fabric. The list can be filtered to show all, non-editable, or editable variables. For editable variables, you can perform an action to update the value.

WebSphere Business Modeler Publishing Server

  • Draft Manager - This widget enables authorized users to move draft projects into a released state.
  • Getting Started Publishing Server - This widget provides help to get you started with using the widgets for Publishing Server.
  • Inspect Released: This widget enables authorized users to view released projects in Publishing Server.
  • Publishing Server Access Control - This widget is used to grant rights to users to publish and view models in Publishing Server, as shown in Figure 3.
  • Publishing Server Status – This widget displays the status of WebSphere Business Modeler Publishing Server. You can view status of published projects.
  • Released Manager – This widget enables authorized users to manage projects which are in the released state.
  • Review Drafts – This widget enables authorized users to view draft projects in Publishing Server, and to add attachments or comments.

Note: The widgets for Publishing Server only support Internet Explorer V6 and V7 at this time.

Figure 3. Publishing Server Access Control widget
Publishing Server Access Control widget

WebSphere Business Monitor

  • Alerts Subscription – This widget displays alerts from Monitor. You can configure different colors for new alerts and ones which have already been read. This widget can cooperate with the instances widget.
  • Diagrams – This widget displays the diagram for the monitoring model and monitoring context you specify. You can configure this widget to cooperate with the Instances widget.
  • Dimensions – This widget displays dimensions you've defined for a monitoring context in Monitor. You can select the row, column and page dimensions, and set the order of their relative importance. You can also limit the contents of the chart by selecting specific values for your page dimensions.
  • Export Values – This widget is used to export the observed metrics from Monitor so they can be imported into WebSphere Business Modeler.
  • Getting Started for Monitor – This widget provides help to get you started with the widgets for Monitor.
  • Human Tasks – This widget displays human tasks for a monitoring model and monitoring context you select. You can configure a sort order for the list of tasks.
  • Instances – This widget displays process instances for a monitoring model and monitoring context that you select. You can select metrics to show for each process instance, along with a sort order and a format. This widget can cooperate with the Diagrams widget.
  • KPIs – This widget displays KPIs from Monitor. You can configure this widget to select the KPIs you want to display, their layout direction, and the number of columns. You can also click to change how the KPI is displayed: as a table, half-gauge, full gauge, bar, or simple, as shown in Figure 4.
  • KPI Manager – This widget manages KPIs from Monitor. You can create a new KPI using an existing KPI definition as a template, or define a new KPI on the fly.
  • Reports – This widget displays reports from Monitor. It's configured by selecting an analysis type for a monitoring context and a dimension. You can select the time range for the report, the frequency of the data points, along with the measures for the report. Both modeled measures and reports view measures can be used. Once displayed, you can drill down to deeper levels of detail.
Figure 4. KPIs widget
KPIs widget

WebSphere Process Server widgets

  • Available Tasks – This widget displays a list of all task instances in the ready state, for which the currently logged in user is a potential owner. Both collaboration tasks and to-do tasks are supported. The list can be filtered to show only tasks that are high priority, overdue, or due today. The list can also be sorted by priority, start date, and due time. You can configure this widget to specify which field to use for the task identifier, which properties to display, and the boundary values for task priorities (which tasks are high, medium and low priority). You can select a task from the list and perform the Accept and Edit action, which opens the task in the Task Information widget.
  • Business Rules Widget - This widget enables you to view and change business rules, as you would in the Business Rules Manager Web application. However, there are two main differences. First, changes become effective immediately, unlike with the Business Rules Manager where they must first be submitted, then approved for deployment. Second, only rules that were created in Modeler can be used with this widget. Rules created directly in WebSphere Integration Developer are not currently supported.
  • Human Workflow Diagram – This widget, shown in Figure 5, displays a graphical representation of the business process. Only human tasks are displayed; any other steps in the process are hidden. You can click on a task in the process to display task details in the Task Information widget. Tasks are displayed with different icons to indicate their state, as well as summary status information. You can zoom in and out on the process. The user must have reader authority for the process in order for this widget to function.
  • My Tasks – This widget displays a list of all task instances for which the currently logged in user is the task owner. Both collaboration tasks and to-do tasks are supported. The list can be filtered, showing only tasks that are due today, overdue, high priority, or finished. You can also sort the task list by priority, start date, and due time. You can configure this widget to specify which field to use for the task identifier, which properties to display, and the boundary values for task priorities (which tasks are high, medium and low priority). There are three actions you can take on a task: Edit, which opens the task in the Task Information widget; Return, which cancels the claim action and returns the task to the set of available tasks; and Transfer, which enables you to assign a new owner to the task.
  • Tasks Created By Me – This widget displays a list of all tasks which were created by the currently logged on user. The list can be filtered by task state (draft, started or finished), and can be sorted by priority, start date or due time. Actions can also perform on the tasks in the list. You can delete the task, or open it in the Task Information Widget. You can also configure the widget to specify which field to use for the task identifier, which properties to display, and the boundary values for task priorities (which tasks are high, medium and low priority).
  • Task Creation Widget - This widget provides a list of all task templates that the currently logged on user is authorized to start. Both collaboration tasks and invocation tasks are supported.
  • Task Information Widget – This widget shows information for a task you are working on. When working with a collaboration or invocation task, you can create a task, or create and start it. Tasks that are created but not started can be viewed as a draft. When working with tasks, you can select a task then perform one of three operations: you can submit to indicate that you have completed the task; you can save your work for later completion; or you can return the task to the set of available tasks, canceling your claim on the task. Each task appears in a tab, enabling you to have multiple tasks open at the same time.
  • Team List – This widget displays a list of potential owners for a selected task in the My Tasks or Available Tasks widgets. The number of tasks currently owned is displayed for each user in the group.
Figure 5. Human Workflow Diagram widget
Human Workflow Diagram widget

Viewer widgets

In addition to the product-specific widgets, Business Space also provides the following viewer widgets.

  • Web Site – This widget enables you to add a Web site to your business space.
  • Presentation – This widget enables you to show a PowerPoint in your business space. The presentation will be in slideshow mode.
  • Spreadsheet – This widget enables you to show an Excel spreadsheet in your business space.
  • Document – This widget enables you to show a Word document in your business space.
  • Web Feed – This widget, shown in Figure 6, enables you to add a Web feed URL to your business space. You can configure the time between refreshes, and the number of feed items to display. You can select whether to disable hyperlinks, and whether you want to open links in a new window.
Figure 6. Web feed widget
Web feed widget

Google Gadgets

You can also add widgets from Google Gadgets into your business space. This enables you to add in generalized widgets such as news feeds, stock quotes, the weather, calendar, and many other gadgets.


Organization of a business space

A business space is made up of any number of pages. You can select which page to view by clicking its individual tab. You can have any number of widgets on a page. Templates are provided for both business spaces and pages, so that you don't have to add and configure all of the widgets individually. Figure 7 shows the My Work page of a business space called Human Workflow Space. The My Tasks widget shows a list of all the tasks available for the logged on user. When a task is selected and an action performed, the Task Information widget displays the task information. In this case, the user can save the task for later, submit it as complete, or return it to the requester. In either case, you can mark your approval or add notes.

Figure 7. Business space in use
Business space in use

Set up your first business space

You can add a new business space based on a template or an existing business space, or you can create an empty business space and add the widgets you'd like to see grouped together. To create your first business space, do the following:

  1. Launch business space. If you're using Integration Developer, right-click the server and select Business Space. Alternatively, you can point a Web browser to the URL for your business space. The default address is http://host_name:port_number/BusinessSpace.
  2. Click the icon to create a new business space, as shown in Figure 8.
    Figure 8. Create a new business space
    Create a new business space
  3. Enter a name for the business space, such as My First Business Space. Use the default value of Empty for the type of space to create, as shown in Figure 9.
    Figure 9. New business space options
    New business space options
  4. The empty business space is displayed in the business space manager. Add a page to the business space by clicking the Create new page icon, as shown in Figure 10.
    Figure 10. Create new page
    Create new page
  5. Enter a name for the new page, such as Page 1. You can select to use the layout from an existing page, or select Empty. In this case, select Empty.
  6. Once the page shows in the list, you can click the page name to open it. Since you selected to create an empty page, no widgets were added. Click Add a widget, as shown in Figure 11.
    Figure 11. Add widgets to a page
    Add widgets to a page
  7. You'll see a list of available widgets. Widgets will show in the list only if their associated software has been installed. For example, if you haven't installed Fabric, the business variable widget won't appear in the list. When adding a widget, if you aren't authorized to use its function, you'll receive a warning message. Click on Add a widget, select My Tasks, then click OK.
  8. After a widget has been added, you can select options from its hidden menu. When you fly over the title bar for the widget, a downward arrow icon will appear. Click the downward arrow, and you'll see the menu for the widget, as shown in Figure 12.
    Figure 12. Access the configuration menu for a widget
    ccess the configuration menu for a widget
  9. Click Configure to access the configuration menu for the widget. Each widget has its own configuration menu. Figure 13 shows the menu for the diagrams widget. There are tabs for selecting the diagram, layout, and whether to enable cooperative mode.
    Figure 13. Diagrams configuration menu
    Diagrams configuration menu
  10. The configuration menu for My Tasks, as shown in Figure 14, displays a different set of parameters, relevant to displaying the list of tasks. Make any changes you'd like, such as which properties to display, then click OK.
    Figure 14. Configure My Tasks widget
    Configure My Tasks widget

Create a business space from a template

You can completely customize a business space page, adding any of the available widgets. For many common usage scenarios, predefined templates for a business space are available to use. Rather than creating multiple pages, each with their own set of widgets, you can simply create a business space based on one of the templates. If you select the Business Monitoring template, a set of pages are defined, each with the appropriate widgets, all in one step. Figure 15 shows the pages configured for the Business Monitoring template.

Figure 15. Business Monitoring Space pages
Business Monitoring Space pages

The available templates and pages are as follows:

  • Business Monitoring Space pages
    • Alerts Subscription – Alerts Subscription widget
    • Analysis – Dimensions and reports widgets
    • Export Values – Export Values widget
    • Getting Started – Getting started widget
    • KPIs – Diagrams, KPIs and Alerts widgets
    • KPI Manager – KPI Manager widget
    • Operational – Diagrams, Instances, Human Tasks, and Alerts widgets
    • Viewers – Presentation widget
  • Human Workflow Space pages
    • Create Tasks – Task Creation, Task Information, Tasks Created By Me, and Human Workflow Diagram widgets
    • My Work – Available Tasks, My Tasks, Task Information, Human Workflow Diagram, and Team List widgets
    • Viewers – Presentation and Spreadsheet widgets
  • Initiating Business Change
    • Analysis – Dimensions and Reports widgets
    • Create Tasks – Task Creation and Task Information widgets
    • Draft Manager – Draft Manager widget
    • KPIs – Diagrams, KPIs and Alerts widgets
    • My Tasks – My Tasks, Task Information, Tasks Created By Me, Human Workflow Diagram, and Team List widgets
    • Publishing Server Access Control – Publishing Server Access Control widget
    • Publishing Server Status – Publishing Server Status widget
    • Review Drafts – Review Drafts widget
    • Viewers – Presentation and Spreadsheet widgets
  • Monitoring Human Workflow
    • Create Tasks – Task Creation, Task Information, Tasks Created By Me, and Human Workflow Diagram widgets
    • My Tasks – My Tasks, Task Information, Available Tasks, Human Workflow Diagram, KPIs and Alerts widgets
    • Viewers – Presentation and Spreadsheet widgets
  • Objectives Management
    • Business Configuration – Business Variables and Business Rules widgets
    • Business KPIs – Diagrams, KPIs and Alerts widgets
    • Create Tasks – Task Creation, Task Information, Tasks Created By Me, and Human Workflow Diagram widgets
    • Managed Team Tasks – Team List, My Team’s Tasks and KPIs widgets
    • My Work – My Tasks, Task Information, Tasks Created By Me, Human Workflow Diagram and Team List widgets
    • Operational – Diagrams, Instances, and Human Tasks widgets
    • Viewers – Presentation and Spreadsheet widgets
  • Reviewing
    • Draft Manager – Draft Manager widget
    • Inspect Released – Inspect Released widget
    • Publishing Server Access Control – Publishing Server Access Control widget
    • Publishing Server Status – Publishing Server Status widget
    • Released Manager – Released Manager widget
    • Review Drafts – Review Drafts widget
    • Viewers – Presentation and Spreadsheet widgets
  • Supervising Human Workflow
    • Analysis – Dimensions and Reports widgets
    • Create Tasks – Task Creation, Task Information, Tasks Created By Me and Human Workflow Diagram widgets
    • Managed Team Tasks – Team List and My Team’s Tasks widgets
    • My Tasks – My Tasks, Task Information, Available Tasks, Human Workflow Diagram, KPIs and Alerts widgets
    • Task Status – My Tasks, Task Information, Tasks Created By Me, KPIs, and Available Tasks widgets
    • Viewers – Presentation and Spreadsheet widgets

You can define multiple business spaces, then manage them from the business space manager. You can also navigate to any business space at any time from the menu of your currently open business space. Figure 16 shows how to access the menu to navigate to another business space, or to manage business spaces.

Figure 16. Business Space menu
Business Space menu

In the Business Space Manager, you can access any of the pages for your business spaces. You can also configure them, or manage their pages. Figure 17 shows the business space manager, with several business spaces defined.

Figure 17. Business Space Manager
Business Space Manager

After you define a business space, you can share the space with others. You can select users as viewers or editors, using the menu on the right side of the business space manager, as shown in Figure 17.

If you log off, the business space manager remembers where you were last. When you log back in, you start out at the same page you left off with.

Customize a business space

You can customize a business space by applying different themes. You can keep the default settings, or customize them to suit your tastes. Figure 18 shows the default theme for My First Business Space.

Figure 18. Default business space theme
Default business space theme

To customize the theme, do the following:

  1. Select Manage Business Spaces from the menu of your business space.
  2. Select My First Business Space by clicking on an empty area in its line as shown in Figure 19. Clicking on the name takes you directly to the business space. In the Theme area, click Change.
    Figure 19. Configure the theme for a business space
    Configure business space theme
  3. Select one of the available themes. When you select the theme, a preview is displayed, as shown in Figure 20. Select your theme, then click OK.
    Figure 20. Change a theme
    Change a theme
  4. Click My First Business Space to go to your updated space. Click Yes when prompted to save the changes. The business space opens with the updated theme, as shown in Figure 21.
    Figure 21. My First Business Space with updated theme
    My First Business Space with updated theme

When you have added multiple gadgets onto a page, you can also configure the layout for the gadgets. The default is to have one column for all gadgets. You can use the menu for the page to select another layout, such as multiple columns, or screen splits in various formats, as shown in Figure 22.

Figure 22. Set page layout
Set page layout

Add a Google gadget

You can expand your business space by adding widgets from other providers. Having access to Google gadgets enables you to customize your business space with a wide variety of information. For example, if you're a frequent traveler, the weather forecast may be important to you. To add the weather forecast to your business space, do the following:

  1. In My First Business Space, click Add a widget. Select Google Gadgets, then click OK.
  2. Click the title bar for Google Gadgets, then click the down arrow to access the menu, and select Configure.
  3. Click Select a Google gadget. Under the Popular category, select Weather Forecasts. When prompted whether you want to add this gadget, click OK.
  4. The default forecast is for New York. To change the city, click Edit. When prompted, enter your zip code. You can also select Fahrenheit or Celsius.
  5. Click OK. The gadget displays in your business space, as shown in Figure 23.
    Figure 23. Weather forecast gadget
    Weather forecast gadget

Send widgets to other users

In business space, you can send a widget to another user in an ad-hoc workflow as a human task. The receiver sees the widget, along with a message including instructions. For example, perhaps a user notices that a KPI is close to going over its limit. To send a widget, do the following:

  1. Log on to business space using the ID bdaniel with a password of wid. Navigate to the KPIs widget in a business space page. If no pages already exist for bdaniel, you can add a new page using the Business Monitoring Space template.
  2. Hover of the KPIs widget or select its title bar. Click the downward arrow to show the menu for the KPIs widget, as shown in Figure 24. Select Send Widget.
    Figure 24. KPI widget menu
    KPI widget menu
  3. In the Send Widget dialog, enter the user ID jjames, along with a subject and a message, as shown in Figure 25, then click Submit.
    Figure 25. Send the KPIs widget
    Send the KPIs widget
  4. In another window, log on as jjames with a password of wid. Navigate to a page with the My Tasks widget. If no pages are configured with My Tasks, create a new business space using the Human Workflow template. The widget with the subject line you used appears in My Tasks, as shown in Figure 26. Check Widget Message, click Select Action, then click Edit.
    Figure 26. Widget Message in My Tasks
    Widget Message in My Tasks
  5. The Task Information widget is populated with the message that bdaniel sent, along with the KPIs widget itself, as shown in Figure 27.
    Figure 27. Edit widget message
    Editing widget message
  6. Type a response, and click Save.
  7. In the My Tasks widget, check the task again, then click Select action and Transfer. For the new owner, enter bdaniel, then click Transfer.
  8. In the window where you are logged on as bdaniel, navigate to a business space page with the My Work widget. If one is not configured, add a new business space using the Human Workflow template. In My Tasks, check Widget Message, then Select action, and Edit. The Task Information widget shows the task, including the response comments, as shown in Figure 28.
    Figure 28. Returned task with response comments
    Returned task with response comments
  9. Click Submit to complete the task.

Create JSPs for human tasks in Business Space

When creating processes with human tasks in Integration Developer, one of the options for generating a user interface is Business Space, as shown in Figure 29. If you associate a Lotus Form with a human task, the form is used in Business Space, rather than a generated JSP.

Figure 29. Generate clients in Integration Developer
Generate clients in Integration Developer

Summary

In this article you learned all about Business Space powered by WebSphere. You learned that a business space consists of pages with widgets from products in the IBM Business Process Management suite. You learned how to configure a business space, configure a page, and configure a widget, as well as how to use the widgets to enable different business scenarios.

Resources

  • Business Space Overview: An overview of Business Space in the WebSphere Process Server Information Center.
  • Managing tasks and business processes using Business Space powered by WebSphere (developerWorks 2008): Learn how to create WebSphere BPM V6.1.2 Business Space dashboards using the run-time artifacts from the WebSphere BPM V6.1.1 Clips and Tacks tutorial. You'll create a business space to manage the tasks and business forms input, run some processes that use forms, and finally create a business space you can use to monitor the process and tasks.
  • developerWorks BPM zone: Get the latest technical resources for IBM BPM solutions, including tutorials, technical articles, downloads, webcasts, and more.

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ArticleTitle=Customize your BPM user interfaces with business spaces
publish-date=12042008