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This blog entry has been co-authored by

Soeren Balko

Alexander Dreiling

Kathrin Fleischmann

Thomas Hettel

A few months ago we released a screencam of a Gravity – Collaborative Business Process Modelling within Google Wave that enabled users to collaboratively design business process models. We also described some of the technical underpinnings Enjoy NetWeaver BPM - Part 2: A Gravity Wave Comes to Galaxy. In the meantime we have had many conversations with customers and partners on the usefulness, potential application scenarios and on feedback after test trials. Three public responses include The specified item was not found., Maarten Engels' and Niels van der Zeyst's blog on their experiences using Gravity, and Daniel Graversen's workshop summary of using Google Wave and Gravity in a large organization. In addition we were overwhelmed by the very encouraging and constructive feedback we received from the SDN / BPX community specifically and the BPM community in general.

We've learned that amongst the most appealing features were collaboration, ease of use and the abilty to include non-BPM experts in discussions on business processes. We’ve also learned that it's nice to have a business process model, but that at the end of the day we very often need an application to support it. The feedback led us to extend Gravity in two directions. The first is a functional extension. We took a significant body of existing SAP Research prototypes and concepts in the area of lightweight composition and applied it to business process management. Secondly, we implemented a new adapter to run Gravity on SAP's new collaborative decision making platform www.12sprints.com.

As a result, Gravity now is a tool to collaboratively develop and execute processes-centric applications across different organizations. As such it offers simultaneous modeling of the underlying business process and the corresponding user interfaces using drag and drop operations and drawing lines. Both perspectives are interrelated and changes to one are propagated immediately to the other. By switching between the perspectives users can gain a more holistic understanding of the business process and its corresponding application. The prototype continues to demonstrate the benefits of real-time and asynronous collaboration, but in addition to designing a business process model collaboration now extends into building a full-blown process-centric application.

Executing Gravity within SAP’s new www.12Sprints.com platform enables end users to use it in the context of collaborative decision making. 12Sprints also enables users to combine Gravity's strengths with a range of methods available on this platform. In the screencam below we can see how a range of employees within a purchasing department collaborate on a decision to switch mobile phone providers. They use a range of 12Sprints methods to collect and aggregate the responses from the tender process and to facilitate the necessary decision. After this, they use Gravity to solve the problem at hand: how to switch 1,500 users to the new provider with minimal effort and disruption. The screencam shows how three users collaborate to achieve this goal. Here's a screenshot of Gravity in 12Sprints:

 

Gravity in www.12Sprints.com

 

In addition to 12Sprints, a second scenario shows a few different capabilities of Gravity on top of Google Wave. In this scenario a range of users try to solve the problem of how to quickly and easily change a travel request process to include an additional approval step and integrate a new travel agent. We tried to focus primarily on showing the tight integration between the two different perspectives of business process modelling and application development and how changes in one lead to changes in the other. Here's a glimpse of what Gravity looks like in Google Wave:

 

Gravity in Google Wave

 

Both screencams have a different focus and show different capabilities so we recommend watching both. Let's start with the 12Sprints demo (if you do not have access to Youtube inside a Corporate Network, please click here to watch the screencam:

 

 

As we can see, in particular for small processes around the edges of more standardized processes that are not usually supported through ERP or other means Gravity can be used as an alternative. Now over to the demo of Gravity on Google Wave (if you do not have access to Youtube inside a Corporate Network, please click here to watch the screencam:

 

 

Obviously, Gravity does not target the design of mission critical high-volume processes, but rather low-volume or one-off processes that typically occur in smaller organizations at the edges of more standarized processes. For such processes, a classical implementation through an IT department is usually prohibitively expensive. Still, people require some degree of automation so they can focus on their really important tasks.

While we addressed a few of the problems in the BPM space so far we are also aware of the fact that we have left many others unsolved. Please give us some more time to dig deeper...

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