Sunday, February 10, 2008

Workflow On The Weekend

It's a beautiful weekend in here Southern California. As I write this, I'm sitting on the deck in my backyard: shorts, t-shirt, barefoot, clear blue skies, 80 degrees with a light breeze from the West, some trop-rock playing on the iPod (just discoverd Jimmy Parrish and the Ocean Waves Band...good stuff). It just doesn't get any better than this, especially in February - this is why I live here. There just one thing I need to get off my chest before I can fire up the BBQ and cap off a perfect afternoon, so let's get to it...

Ever hear the phrase "no pain, no gain"? I'm convinced that Oracle Apps customers will realize some significant gain with the uptake of Fusion Applications: integration based on industry-standards, a richer user experience, more flexible reporting and business intelligence all come to mind. However, make no mistake, we'll need to experience some pain to get that gain. A good chunk of that pain involves Oracle Workflow.

It seems like everyone in the Oracle world is aware of the upcoming demise of Oracle Workflow. The 11g database does not ship with the Workflow engine. Workflow has been desupported, with one big whopping exception for E-Business users. Even the EBS folks will have to adjust to life without Workflow after Release 12.

Conventional wisdom says that BPEL Orchestration will replace Workflow. While that's partially true, it's really a bit more complex than that. The lastest knowledge I have indicates that numerous Fusion technololgy components will replace Workflow in more of a piecemeal fashion:
  • Process Navigator Flows and Page Flows will migrate to Applications Development Framework ("ADF") Task Flows
  • Simple Deferred Activities will be handled as database events
  • Business Processes will be implemented through BPEL Orchestration of system services and human-based tasks.
It's not a straight-forward migration from Workflow to BPEL, as the two technologies are very different. While the standard Workflow processes provided with EBS will be upgraded to BPEL as part of the upgrade process, most Oracle Workflow customers (EBS users or not) will need to manually recreate their Workflow processes as orchestrated business processes. There will be some guidelines for this effort, but those guidelines are still in the works within Oracle.

So, here is the upshot: the move forward from Workflow is not a simple, straight-forward task. It's complex. Nothing to be afraid of, but like most complex tasks, the key is good preparation. To get started:
  • Identify your Workflow processes, especially your custom Workflow processes
  • Consider replacing those customizations with "vanilla" functionality where possible
  • Where you absolutely must stick with your custom Workflow processes, start working out a strategy for moving forward with those processes after Workflow's demise.
Well, there you have it. Got the Workflow thing off my chest. The sun is setting in the west and the BBQ is calling my name - chicken thighs marinated in lemon juice and olive oil with a few seasonings, smoked over apple wood. The perfect end to a beautiful day...later folks.


Anonymous said...


Help me understand your enthusiam. I am running a global company that has deployed workflow and built it in both my packaged Oracle EBS instances and also in my custom developed extensions. It is the FOUNDATION of Oracle alerts, and supply line communications.

What possible value is there in in disrupting my customers, partners, and employees, and starting over from scratch ? WHO DOES THIS SERVE BUT ORACLE ?

This is a clear case of Oracle buying dozens of products, and then ending the foundation of several years to force my company to adopt them via the middleware. As you said, there is no push-button migration or even a 1:1 tool replacement.

The arrogance of Larry and the gang to do this at the expense of productive customers is only overshadowed by your ability to drink the kool-aid and go back to sleep (with chicken in your belly).

Some of us have to meet our growth goals, run our companies, and keep our employees paid. Oracle seems to care nothing for that at all and this is clear proof.

We are seriously considering how to NEVER be in this impossible situation you have any ideas on how to mitigate the cost and risk or the ongoing 'oops, sorry-we are remaking our global workflow processes cause Larry said so.' ????

Pulling what little hair I have left out---wonder if you will actually post this.

Global CIO of Frustrated Amalgamated

fteter said...

@Global CIO of Frustrated Amalgamated: Normally, I have a bias against posting comments from anonymous sources. In this case, however, I think you're voicing the sentiments of quite a few customers, so the discussion is worth having. Thanks for posting your comments.

I'm not enthusiastic about the need to change from Workflow. In fact, I'm viewing the migration with all the enthusiasm of a trip to the'll be a bit painful for many of us. What I am enthusiastic about is the move from proprietary technology to business process-based integration utilizing industry standards. I'm also enthusiastic about the shift toward greater reuse. I'm enthusiastic about seeing more loose coupling. I'm also enthusiastic about the lower cost of maintenance for integration and some customizations that will result from all this.

So, does this particular change serve Oracle? You bet it does! They're not in this business for their health, they're in it for the money. They'll make a bundle off the licensing and support fees involved in this change...even more as they weave their various acquisitions together. However, as I mentioned in the prior paragraph, there are also some significant value-adds for customers. Many of those value-adds will directly address the cost concerns you mentioned in your post by reducing the overall cost of providing IT...even after including the licensing and support fees for the new stuff.

BTW, congratulations on having hair to pull out. All mine deserted me several years ago, so when I get frustrated now my head gets all scratched up.

So, what does anybody else out there think on this subject? Have I gone bonkers from too much chicken and kool-aid? Or am I on the right track? Let's hear what you think...