Oracle WebCenter BPM Comment Scope and Actionable Emails
By: John Schleicher | Sr. Technical Architect
With the introduction of BPMN (Business Process Management Notation) workflow in the Oracle WebCenter portfolio the concept of BPM (Business Process Management) scope for user comments was introduced. This means that user comments with BPM scope will last throughout the workflow for any task within the BPMN process. If the application’s workflow maintains five independent tasks, then there is no need to pass the previous comments to subsequent tasks in order for these to be seen by the new task assignee. This contrasts to TASK scope, where the comment is only relevant to the single task and carrying these comments to subsequent tasks involves providing application level development to provide schema support within the process flow and assignment of these comments at the output of the tasks and again at the input of the new tasks. The overhead to maintain this inter-task capability is measurable and BPM scope speeds the workflow solution.
Actionable email is another workflow related capability which allows assignees to approve workflow tasks directly from their notification email without logging into the workflow system. The assignees get an email with a representation of the task form and can, as an example, select the Approve or Reject link in the email to relay their action back to the workflow system. As part of the capability, the user can enter comments to their activity. These comments are then associated with the task as if they were entered within the workflow system itself.
There is a wrinkle, however, with the combination of BPMN workflow scope and actionable emails. Oracle actionable email comments haven’t evolved to the new BPMN paradigm and are defined as task-based. They will not show up in subsequent workflow tasks unless application programming passes them between tasks (copying them out to inter-task process flow on task exit and inserting into the tasks structure on new task input).
Does this mean that workflow designers using actionable emails are relegated to using the old paradigm of TASK-based comment scope? No, but they do have to accommodate comments in the schema to pass the TASK-based comments from one task to the next (when those TASK-based comments exist), and they have to be ready to filter BPM scope comments out before new task input (when BPM-based comments are part of that set). If BPM scope comments are passed between tasks, they will appear as new BPM scope comments and be repeated. It becomes a bit of a design consideration on how to best handle the BPM versus TASK scope of comments which can impact the user experience within the Oracle BPM Workspace or BPM Worklist.
As a personal preference, I like to leverage BPM scope comments when I can, allowing the UI comment data entry to specify BPM comment scope and provide a filter task on output. The filter task can even go to the extent of resetting the scope of the TASK-based comment scope to BPM which has the potential of eliminating further management of comments if no further actionable email interactions occur. I have applied the following transform to post TASK scope processes to filter existing BPM scope comments and then re-apply BPM scope to further processing:
The transform that processes outbound comments looks like this:
Logically, every comment that comes in with a commentScope of “TASK” will be passed through to output (and allowed to be inserted into the next task) and its scope will be reset to BPM. Also the taskID is cleared to ensure it can be appropriately processed by a new task.
Another option of course is to leave all commentScopes as TASK and maintain the pre-BPM scope paradigm through-out. This will definitely impact process schema, inter-task passing of comments, and the overall testing of those touchpoints.
Finally, be aware of the actionable email paradigm and incorporate the appropriate handling in your design when integrating with BPM scope comments. I have offered my integration technique and have managed to successfully integrate the two options when using BPMN with actionable email tasks.