A few weeks ago I became aware of Process Wiki (http://wiki.process.io/) when the founder of the wiki left a comment on one of my blog posts. I was curious. Without surprise, the wiki site contains a good collection of example business processes. You can join to be a member, and collaborate either by contributing more process examples, or by commenting on the existing ones. Processes can be uploaded & downloaded as XPDL files, and the site has a converter to visualize the processes as BPMN diagrams. Most sites have GIF files embedded in the page, but this is the first I have seen that you simply upload the XPDL file and it provides the visualization directly in the page.
I believe this is a trend to allow for sharing of best practices through collaborative technologies. Clay Richardson, an analyst for Forrester, recommended at the process.gov event in DC that all companies should have an internal “Process Wiki” which documents all their processes for employees to read and understand. This would, presumably, replace the typically outdated “process manual” that sits on the shelf with an on-line documentation generated directly out of the process automation efforts. My question was whether a public version of the same thing would work, since people often talk about how great it would be to “share” such things, but rarely go to the trouble to share.
I called the founder of the Process Wiki, Paul van Erk, a Dutch business process consultant, to find out what his goals for the site were, and how well he thought it was going. Paul started this venture earlier this year, and launched the site in March, preloaded with a collection of business processes that he has collected over time. It is organized around a kind of ontology of business processes so you can pick a category and refine to find the process that you are looking for.
What has worked well? At this point he claims about 40 members, and more than 20 example processes on the site. It is already proving to be a useful resource, as people have contacted him saying that the sample processes have been very useful as a starting point for projects they were one.
What has not worked well? The current site is built on Media Wiki, the same technology used for Wikipedia. He has extended it to provide metadata support, but it still is a little too difficult and cumbersome for business users to use. He is looking at relaunching the site soon with a newer technology. His goal is to be able to not only view, but also to edit the processes directly on the wiki pages.
Where is this going? He wants to see more in the direction of creating a RDF framework of business processes, so that activities could be classified according to a standard ontology. This would allow you to search for all the processes with particular activity in it. Collaboration on defining these standard activities is a key to making it all work.
He wants to make an easy way for people to not only share, but also to visulize and discuss processes. He made a comparison to YouTube which hosts videos which are then embedded into wikis and blogs. Perhaps Process Wiki is the place to host & edit processes, which then have displayable representations embedded in other blogs and wikis for discussion. Very compelling! He also has plans to develop an open source process enactment engine.
For all this to work, process portability is a requirement, and I wish to tip my hat again to those like Robert Shapiro and Bruce Silver who are working to keep process portability on our priority lists. I was disappointed to hear that Gartner cancelled a talk on model portability because they deemed it to be a subject that the public is not interested in. Those who think it important need to be more vocal.
The Process Wiki is one example of what will surely be a trend for non-vendor-specific process collaboration sites. (Lobardi, Fujitsu, Software AG, and others have had vendor-specific capabilities for a while.) If you haven’t already, check this site out, and keep you eyes open for developments in the future, soon to appear under his new name of “BPMGuide.com”. And while you are at it, if you do have a few process definitions left over from an earlier project, consider uploading them to the site to share with others.
http://www.bpmn-community.org/ – another public process wiki with a focus on BPMN, and a built in editor based on Oryx. This site includes tutorials on aspects of BPMN as well as many example processes.