feature overview Oracle9i Application Server:
Oracle ® Workflow

Oracle ® Workflow delivers a complete workflow management system that supports business process based integration.  Its technology enables modeling, automation, and continuous improvement of business processes, routing information of any type according to user-defined business rules.

Oracle Workflow Enables E-Business Integration

E-business is accelerating the demand for integration of applications within the enterprise as well as integration of a company's systems with trading partners and business-to-business exchanges. Oracle Workflow automates and streamlines business processes both within and beyond your enterprise, supporting traditional applications based workflow as well as e-business integration workflow. Oracle Workflow is unique in providing a workflow solution for both internal processes and business process coordination between applications.

The Heart of an E-Business

The quick changes required of an e-business place special demands on enterprise systems to manage business process that span trading partners, respond quickly to market innovations, support personalized business rules, streamline and automate transaction flows, and manage exceptions instead of transactions.  Oracle Workflow provides the capabilities to support these demands through an extensible process driven architecture.  Oracle Workflow automatically processes and routes information of any type, according to business rules you can easily change, to any person or system inside or outside your enterprise. Oracle Workflow is a scalable, production workflow system tuned for the high volumes associated with e-business integration.

Oracle Workflow allows you to provide all parties in a business process with all the information they need to make the right decision in an efficient manner.  Oracle Workflow can route summary and detail information to each decision maker in your workflow process, whether that process is a self-service transaction, a standard business document approval, or an XML document.

Oracle Workflow lets you model and maintain your business processes using a graphical workflow builder.  Unlike other workflow systems that simply route documents from one user to another with some approval steps, Oracle Workflow allows you to model and automate sophisticated business processes.  You can define processes that loop, branch into parallel flows and rendezvous, decompose into sub-flows, branch on task results, time out, and more.  Expressing business rules in the process model enables model-driven integration.  Oracle Workflow acting as a system integration hub can apply the business rules to control and route objects between applications and systems with minimal intrusion into those applications and systems.

Oracle Workflow extends the reach of business process automation throughout your enterprise and beyond to include any e-mail user, Web user, or system via standard internet protocols.  Oracle Workflow allows people to receive, analyze, and respond to notifications needing their attention via any standard e-mail system, or any standard Web browser. You can easily include your customers, suppliers, and prospects in your workflows using the power and convenience of the Internet.

The heart of Oracle Workflow is the rules-based workflow engine residing in the Oracle9i database.  Oracle9i transactional integrity guarantees consistency between your application and workflow, and Oracle9i Advanced Queuing guarantees delivery of messages between systems, while Oracle9i Real Application Clusters provide transparent application scalability. You get the same industry-leading performance and scalability that has made Oracle9i the database for e-business.

Oracle's E-Business Integration Solution

Oracle Workflow is a component of Oracle9i Integration, a comprehensive set of infrastructure and tools for integrating enterprise applications and enabling e-business marketplaces. Oracle Workflow leverages the Oracle technology stack, including the Oracle9i database and Oracle Advanced Queuing, to enable application integration at the business process level. Business event messages from Oracle Workflow can be placed on or received from Oracle9i Advanced Queues, providing support for Oracle Net as well as HTTP and HTTPS communication protocols. The Oracle9i Messaging Gateway feature enables integration between Oracle Workflow and other messaging solutions such as IBM MQSeries and TIBCO Rendezvous.

Oracle Workflow is also incorporated as part of Oracle9i Integration in the Oracle E-Business Suite, an integrated suite of applications for the enterprise designed to transform your business into an e-business. Oracle Workflow is embedded in applications including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS).

Workflow Means Continuous Process Improvement

Transforming your business into an e-business involves changing the technology and processes of your organization to quickly respond to market innovations.  Oracle Workflow gives you the flexibility you need to support your business.  Oracle Workflow allows complete process representation that can cross organizational as well as company boundaries.  You have the ability to incorporate the collection of management metric data to evaluate against your performance goals.  Workflow processes can be easily adapted over time allowing you to start now with the knowledge that your processes can be altered and refined.  Oracle Workflow maintains a complete audit trail of processing data for time and cost analysis.  You have the information you need to continuously refine the way your company does business.

Designing Business Processes for Change 

Oracle Workflow Builder provides a graphical drag and drop process designer.  You can easily evolve a business process to incorporate negotiated business practices with your customers or suppliers, improve message content for your decision makers, and re-deploy your people to "value added only" activities.  Oracle Workflow allows you to modify existing business processes without changing applications code - a clear reduction in the cost of change and ownership.

Oracle Workflow provides a clear representation of a business process. Designers can use Oracle Workflow process diagrams to communicate business activities and operation flows to users.

Oracle Workflow provides a clear representation of a business process. Designers can use Oracle Workflow process diagrams 
to communicate business activities and operation flows to users.

Business Process Based Integration 

The Oracle Workflow Business Event System provides a workflow enabled solution for your enterprise application integration requirements. The Business Event System is an application service delivered with Oracle Workflow that uses Oracle Advanced Queuing technology to communicate business events between systems. The Business Event System supports the following types of integration: 
  • message-based point-to-point system integration
  • system integration messaging hubs
  • distributed applications messaging

Business Event Driven Workflow

The Business Event System enables loose coupling of systems using Oracle Advanced Queuing for asynchronous messaging.

The Business Event System enables loose coupling of systems using Oracle Advanced Queuing for asynchronous messaging.

Model Driven Integration

Business event based workflow processes enable model-driven integration. Oracle Workflow can apply the business rules expressed in the process model to control and route objects between applications and systems with minimal intrusion into those applications and systems.

Business event based workflow processes enable model-driven integration. Oracle Workflow can apply the business rules 
expressed in the process model to control and route objects between applications and systems with minimal intrusion into those 
applications and systems.

Business Events Trigger Processing

The Oracle Workflow Event Manager lets analysts register interesting business events for their applications, including the functions that generate the XML event messages. Users of those applications can register subscriptions on events that are significant to their systems to trigger custom code, message propagation, or workflow processes. 

Analysts register business events in the Event Manager.

Analysts register business events in the Event Manager.

When a business event occurs, the Event Manager executes subscriptions on the event. For local events, the subscribing code can be executed synchronously, in the same database transaction as the code that raised the event, or asynchronously, deferring costly subscription processing to a later time in order to return control more quickly to the calling application. Events can also be received asynchronously from external systems. Subscription processing can include executing custom code on the event information, sending event information to a workflow process, and sending event information to other queues or systems. To minimize costly processing, the Event Manager checks whether event information is required by subscriptions on the event before producing the XML event message.

The Business Event System uses Oracle Advanced Queuing to propagate messages between communication points on systems, called agents, using a specified protocol. Events received from external systems are processed by an agent listener that runs on the agent's queue.

Include Events in Business Process Models

Workflow Engine event activities let you model business events within workflow processes. Event activities can be used to model content-based routing, transformations, error handling, and so on. A workflow process can be started or progressed by an inbound message, and can also send an outbound message or raise an event to the Event Manager. XML function activities give you access to event content data within workflow processes. 

Business event based workflow processes give you the most flexibility when implementing your integration solution. However, the Business Event System can run independently of the Workflow Engine to enable point-to-point messaging.

Business events are represented within workflow processes as event activities.

Business events are represented within workflow processes as event activities.

Perform Complex Transformations

You can perform complex transformations between different formats required for your business documents. Oracle Workflow allows you to apply a stylesheet to an XML event message. In addition, when queues are defined within the Business Event System, you specify the logic that is used to enqueue and dequeue messages. This logic, called a queue handler, can include transformations.

Oracle Workflow also allows you to take advantage of XML support in Oracle 9i. Oracle9i delivers native support for XML with a new XML data type, which makes the manipulation of XML data and documents in applications totally seamless and easier than ever before. Oracle9i offers unique capabilities to generate, massage, and transform XML data and documents inside the runtime engine itself for unprecedented scalability and high performance.

Additionally, Oracle Workflow is integrated with Oracle9iAS InterConnect. In the context of Oracle9iAS InterConnect, Oracle Workflow is used for business process collaborations across two or more applications. A business process collaboration is defined as the conversation between two or more applications in the context of a business process. Oracle9iAS InterConnect leverages the robust design time and runtime Oracle Workflow business process definition and execution support to make these business processes explicit and manageable. For each application participating in a specific integration, Oracle9iAS InterConnect attaches one or more adapters to it. At runtime, the adapters retrieve the metadata from the Repository to determine the format of messages, perform transformations between the various data formats, and route the messages to the appropriate queues in the Oracle9iAS InterConnect hub.

Oracle Workflow also supports integration with other tools for transformation through Oracle Advanced Queuing.

Accurate Information to All the Right People 

Oracle Workflow automatically notifies individuals and groups inside and outside your enterprise electronically.  Whether the message is to solicit their input or to alert them to some exception condition, access is easy using a standard Web browser or an e-mail application using a standard mail protocol.  Oracle Workflow sends the information inside your applications to the decision makers who use it.

You can synchronize the user information in your Workflow directory service with Oracle Internet Directory (OID) using Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). This integration is recommended because it enables you to manage and publish user information in a central location which various systems can reference. OID integration enables Oracle Workflow to participate in single sign-on through LDAP external authentication with Oracle Portal and Oracle9iAS Single Sign-On Server. With single sign-on, a user who is logged into any participating Oracle9iAS component is automatically authenticated when accessing any other participating component and does not need to log in again. OID integration also enables Oracle Workflow to synchronize with other external user directories that are synchronized with OID. 

Central Worklist

Review and respond to your business process notifications from one central window - the worklist - using any standard Web browser.  You have the flexibility to query which tasks to work on now and to define sort criteria, giving you freedom to organize your work the way you prefer.  Group notifications by the same type or subject to avoid jumping from one context to another.  Or sort by priority or due date to focus on time critical tasks first.  Oracle Workflow is fully integrated with the Oracle E-Business Suite, providing the ability to drill down to any URL or Oracle E-Business Suite screen to research or complete a transaction.

Users review their tasks using the Worklist.

Users review their tasks using the Worklist.

Drill down to any URL or Oracle E-Business Suite screen to research or complete a transaction.

Drill down to any URL or Oracle E-Business Suite screen to research or complete a transaction.

Personalized User Experience

Accommodating the preferences of your enterprise users and partners is a key element of operating as an e-business.   Workflow notifications can be viewed through a standard Web browser or through e-mail.  Notification messages can be summary or detail, plain text or HTML.  Message content can be dynamically generated from your Oracle-based application data and personalized to each recipient.

Save Time and Prevent Decision Bottlenecks

Oracle Workflow notification routing rules save you time and give you flexibility to assign responsibility for notifications in a variety of circumstances.  Maybe you have front line support to review certain requests to make sure that all information needed is present before making a decision. Oracle Workflow can automatically forward these notifications to your front line.  Perhaps your assistant executes your decisions on routine matters.  Why not delegate those messages automatically and focus your attention on the exceptional requests that come your way?  Or perhaps you are going on vacation and want certain notifications to be handled by your backup support while you are gone. Oracle Workflow can transfer some notifications while allowing others to wait in your worklist until you return.  Handle the time period in advance, specifying a fixed window or leaving it open-ended.  By using notification routing rules you can give the appropriate level of coverage to all your business-driven notifications, preventing process bottlenecks.

Easily Shift Your People to New Roles

Oracle Workflow supports the quick role changes necessary in an e-business.  As the members in a group change, the individuals in that group receiving notifications also change, without modifying the business process or applications code.

Manage Exceptions, Not Transactions

With Oracle Workflow notifications you are alerted to the business and process exceptions that need your attention.  Whether from the Oracle E-Business Suite or your own Oracle-based applications, the Workflow Notification service sends you the information you need to manage your business, not your transactions. 

Web Administration and Review of Business Processes 

The Oracle Workflow Monitor gives you freedom to work from anywhere. All you need is a standard Web browser. The ability to review and administer your business processes from any part of the world has powerful ramifications in terms of increased productivity and control.   Workflow administrators have the control they need to keep your business processes running smoothly.  Workflow users have the knowledge that their business processes are on target for successful and timely completion. 

Monitor Progress of Your Processes 

The Oracle Workflow Monitor provides a graphical Java applet to review your business processes.  In a single picture you can see which activities have completed, which are active, and which are yet to be performed.  If you need more detail on a task it is available through detail status tabs.  You use the point-and-click interface to select the information you need.   For every business process, the Monitor provides a succinct listing of the decision makers.  The Monitor also includes a summary of key activities based on user-specified filter criteria.  You get increased understanding, oversight, and throughput of your business processes.

End users view the decision makers in their process.

End users view the decision makers in their process.

Administer Processes from a Single Site 

As a Workflow administrator, you view additional process details and gain additional controls using the same Workflow Monitor available to the workflow business user.  The Workflow Monitor allows easy manual intervention whenever necessary.  You can stop or pause a process while you investigate a processing issue.  You can retry or skip any activity.  You can "rewind" a business process to an earlier state and re-execute.  You get the centralized control and simplicity of administration that are key to cost-effective operation.

Administrators have the ability to review and control any business process through the Workflow Monitor.

Administrators have the ability to review and control any business process through the Workflow Monitor.

Reduced Costs of Change and Ownership With Workflow Processing 

Using workflow to change the way your transactions are defined and controlled is a key element of operating as an e-business.  Oracle Workflow lets you easily customize workflow-enabled transactions to reflect your business practices.  You can create alternative processing paths to accommodate trading partner rules or introduce new procedures.  You can modify message content for improved decision making or communication.  You can extend a process to include external system processing.  Workflow supports your modifications without changing applications code.  Some workflow products force you to stop their workflow engine to make changes or to introduce new process definitions to the system.  Oracle Workflow introduces your modifications without interrupting active processes while the Workflow engine continues to execute. 

E-Business Integration 

As part of Oracle9i Integration, Oracle Workflow helps integrate applications, streamline business processes, and enable collaborative commerce with trading partners and marketplaces over the Internet.

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