Frank's Blog

State of Workflow Part II: The Shifting Environment 

Still out there? Are you ready to continue the theoretical discussions? This time I want to talk about the State of Workflow Part II: The Shifting Environment.

While in the good old days the environment in which a workflow was enacted was quite static and manageable (e.g. a department, a single company) one can easily recognize a shift this time. All major players praying the support for change today. Some even sell you change! (If you don't believe take a closer look at SAP. They sell you a product called SAP NetWeaver that is "Providing the Foundation to Enable and Manage Change". An ever closer look reveals: "Can your company adapt quickly enough to respond to new challenges or seize new opportunities? With SAP NetWeaver, it can.". Wow!)

But where does the need for change arise from (besides making money)? One major point is a shift from closed to open environments. This requires the fast adaption of workflows, or nowadays called "service orchestrations". In a service orchestration, tasks are executed by services and the routing between the services is then called orchestration. In my observation there are four major shifts in the environment that lead to this situation:

  1. The environment is shifting from an accessible to an inaccessible one. In an inaccessible environment, there is no complete, accurate and up-to-date information available. If we expand the environment to the whole internet, there is much to be left in the dark which could be useful for our business, however we are simply unable to find and incorporate it.
  2. Executing a task in an open environment is more uncertain then in a closed one. There are way more possibilities to foresee and handle. However, if the environment is complex enough you can't enforce everything.
  3. Open environment tend to be constantly changing, in large parts regardless of our actions. However, our actions depend on some states of the environment.
  4. Furthermore, the number of services which can be invoked to perform a certain task is rising fast as the environment opens to the world. Even the decisions on which we base the selection of a certain service have way more input data to compute.

Think a bit about closed environments - your department, a workflow inside a company - and then about open environments. Interactions between several companies in the real world. Interactions between companies in the virtual world of the internet. Interactions between virtual companies in a virtual world?
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