Domino Workflow - effective key business processes management. Architecture (part II)

Katarzyna Olszewska



Presenting Domino Workflow, the first part of the article described the benefits resulting from implementing the Lotus Domino Workflow technology. Now, let us get acquainted with the software proper.

Domino Workflow is a self-standing product based on Domino platform which, having structure based on other services delivered by Domino, makes use of the entire infrastructure of Notes. It ensures effective management of business processes through monitoring and development. By inviting the programmers, end users, as well as process analysts to jointly work on the application, it provides the continuity of the course of process actions, thus eliminating any possible inefficiencies.
Domino supports Lotus Notes programmers in creating workflow across Notes databases accessible by the Web or Lotus Notes.

The major advantages of Domino Workflow, related directly with the software features

ADVANTAGE

FEATURE

close integration with Domino/Notes infrastructure and environment

Domino Workflow was built using services already included in Domino, utilising all its advantages such as security, message routing, replications, other services relating to group working

integration with Domino.Doc

Domino.doc and Domino Workflow are closely inter-connected, one can join the functionality of Domino.Doc for managing document life cycle with abilities of Domino Workflow for designing and managing workflow cycle, and defining the cycle track the documents are to follow in business-as-usual of the company

intuitive interface

allows swift modifications of processes by providing visual representation of each of the process steps, modified by indicating and clicking

uniformity of workflow processes

the great advantage is given by the fact that all workflow applications are designed and developed in the same way, this enables the modifications of existing processes to define and introduce new ones

information database

collection of information concerning business processes in a uniform way, analysis of this data by application, organisation, processes, locations

lower costs of proprietary rights

highly developed working environment allows for designing workflow solutions without necessary additional costs of programming expertise; saves time normally spent on storing and re-use of workflow components


Domino Workflow comprises three basic components and uses four main and two optional databases.


COMPONENTS

ARCHITECT is a separate Win32 application, supplies graphic interface which enables the designer to visually design and manage workflow processes (linking individual actions into logical course, assigning properties for each action
THE ARCHITECTURE OF DOMINO WORKFLOW

Fig 1 architecture :-)

– what it comprises, who is responsible to it). The intuitive interface allows those not familiar with programming to take part in process designing. Architect refers to the repository (The Design Repository database) for process definition, activity settings, and user specification.


ENGINE is heart of the workflow system. It stores and evaluates the process logic, directories, activities. It is able to interpret Notes elements such as subforms, agents, windows, views, as well as processes defined in Architect. The main databases it uses include the Process Definition, Application and Organization databases. Optionally, it can also use the Archive and Audit Trail databases.


VIEWER (a Windows program) is a tool used by end users to graphically view the designed processes as well as current activities, including details of each process steps. It is a separate file which reads the Application database to present the user with the relations, the way information is delivered, or where a document is currently in the workflow process. An indirect goal of using the Viewer is to increase user awareness of processes and activities in which they take part.


More on Engine...n.

The basic handicap and advantage of Domino Workflow over other application which address this area is the architecture, and specifically the structure of Engine. The starting point of its construction was the orthogonal model (used among other in complex signals analysis) The structural division into independent elementary layers allows for processes modification in single layer without altering other processes operating on other layers. Since business change on various levels and in various dimensions are very often today, using this model in business analysis has proved to fill the gap unfilled so far.
Namely, the separation of the three workflow application dimensions enables flexible modifications in a given area without affecting other areas. At the same time, it has eliminated the re-designing efforts other wise necessary in case of modifications.

The three basic dimensions of the workflow application:

The logic of the business process covers the activities that make up a process, ways of sequencing activities, responsibility, and business rules.
This dimension is derived from:
    • Organisation structure, which includes people, hierarchy, structure, roles responsible for authorising the structure. This dimension is derived from:
    • Information objects, which include applications and documents with which workflow users interact or refer to for activities.

By separating the three dimensions as much possible, one is able to introduce change to organisation model (e.g. new person hired) without affecting the logic of the business process or the application interface. Similarly separated modifications can be done in the business process logic area (e.g change in rules, activities) without affecting the organisation model or the application interface.

DATABASES

Domino Workflow uses four main databases - The Process Definition, Application, Organization and Design Repository databases - plus two optional databases: Archive i Audit Trail. Each of them is, in a way, assigned to particular components that make up the Domino Workflow architecture.


Application database – a Lotus Notes databases storing activities with binder (virtual 'container' document sent during a task in progress, from one activity to another), documents necessary to complete a task, activity status information, deadlines. It also contains forms and windows defined to present task information to workflow participants. Windows and forms can be customised to best fit the requirements of each organisation. It is possible to have more than one application database, depending on the purpose of use (e.g. separate databases for purchasing, technical reports, charity expenditure, customer service, etc.).
    • participants' interface. for interacting with the workflow system, finding their tasks and process steps.

Organization database – a Lotus Notes database containing data on organisational structure related with the workflow. The basic form of structure includes organisation units, people, departments, working groups, roles and formulas reflecting relationships between them (e.g. hierarchy). The database can also hold information on resources required for tasks such as Domino Workflow Viewer.

Process Definition database – a Lotus Notes database which stores all properties of processes and workflow elements: process steps, participants, sequences, business rules, routing conditions, etc. At the starting point of an activity, each workflow participant has indirect access to this database via the Application Database (usually direct access is not given to workflow participants).

Design Repository database – a Lotus Notes database that stores processes, elements and related formulas. It is accessible through Domino Workflow Architect as source of elements for deigned processes that can be re-used for designing another process. In connection with the Organisation Directory database, it forms the Workflow Business Object Library (area in Domino Workflow Architect that gives access to all elements designed in Design Repository database and to Organization Directory database – giving swift access to reusable elements, as part for creating a new process). Manual changes are not allowed in it since it holds coded information used internally by Domino Workflow Architect.

Audit Trail database – an optional Notes database that stores activities initiated during a task progression. Established usually along with Domino Workflow as an automatic 'mail-in' database. Workflow participants do not require direct access to this database.

Archive database – am optional database providing administrators with appropriate room for viewing information and statistics relating to accomplished tasks. Automatic archiving is its usual function, users do not require direct accessibility to this database.

The above brief description of Domino Workflow application projects only a general idea of the functioning of this tool, however provides a reliable overall summary view of it. The conclusion following it is as follows: in practise, the automation of business processes significantly facilitates change, enables efficient adaptation in a changing market environment, organisation, business processes - provides for quick response at low cost.


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