Governing Process Data

Process Data Definition

Processes transform inputs (data) into outputs (data)

We have our BPMN process and if we only want to document our process, this is almost all the work we’ll need to do. However, Akino Fishing Co. wants to not only document, but also automate and execute the processes. For that, we need to define our process data.

A process governs data transformation

Process data refers to the entities that the process manipulates, or interacts with, during its life cycle. To put it simply, a process manipulates things. All these things must first be defined, so that the process does what it’s intended to do.

For our process, we’ll define the following data entities:

  • Request
  • Parking Space

Oracle BPM Composer allows you to define this in a fairly simple way. First, you create the data structure, that will specify what makes that “thing”. Let’s build an example to understand this better:

What makes a request? How is it defined? Think about it for 5 minutes…

5 Minutes

You should end up with something like this:

  • Requester – who made the request
  • Request date – when the request was made
  • Employee? – is the requester an employee?
  • Park date&time – when does the requester want to park
  • Fulfilled? – was the request fulfilled?
  • State – state of the request: open, closed, pending alternative

So, these set the characteristics, the structure, of our request. 

Business Objects vs Data Objects

We define a request as being comprised of these 6 elements, by creating a Business Object. In the BPM process composer select the option Business Object,

Add a new Business Object

Add a new Business Object

Add a new Business Object

Add a new Business Object

click on the “+” icon, and give it a name, like RequestBO.

Name your new Business Object. Tip: End the Name with BO, so that you know that it's a Business Object

Name your new Business Object. Tip: End the Name with BO, so that you know that it’s a Business Object

Now, add the 6 attributes we identified earlier. Pay attention to the attribute type: it should match the actual information you want to keep. So you have:

  • Requester- string
  • Request date – time-> date&time
  • Employee? – boolean
  • Parking Date and Time – time -> date&time
  • Fulfilled? – boolean
  • State – string
Set the name and the type of the attribute

Set the name and the type of the attribute

Don’t be afraid if the attribute types seem strange. The names are tech lyngo. To make it easier, I’ll explain it:

  • “String” – the same as “Text”. Attributes of this type will hold some text.
  • “Boolean” – used to keep one of only two values: True or False.
  • “Date&Time” – used to keep dates and time of day, in a numeric form. Because it is a numeric value, and not a string, allows calculations to be performed over them.

You see, they’re pretty easy to understand.

Your attributes all created. Just click on Finish.

Your attributes all created. Just click on Finish.

Attribute name have some rules: use only alphanumeric characters, start with a letter, the first letter can not be capitalized. The process composer will perform the necessary validations, but here’s the “heads up” notice.

Bad attribute name

Bad attribute name

Once you finish creating all 6 attributes, click Finish and you’re done.

Now that your RequestBO, your data structure, is created, you can use it as many times as you like. You do that by creating Data Objects. A data object is  the instantiation, the actual object that your process is going to manipulate. Think of if as if the Business Object is a cast and the Data Objects are the pieces that are created from it.

So, to create a data object that your process can manipulate, you go inside your process in BPM process composer, 

Access the Data Object definition window

Access the Data Object definition window

select the option “Data Objects”, specify that it’s a Process Data Object, not a Project Data Object (we’ll come to that later), 

Add a new process Data Object

Add a new process Data Object

give it a cool name like…  ehrmmm… “v_request” or whatever, select object type, and from there you should be able to see all business objects, including your “freshly made” RequestBO. 

Select the Business Object for your Data Object

Select the Business Object for your Data Object

Click on it and confirm the creation.

Congratulations! You’ve created your first process data object.

New Data Object added to the process

New Data Object added to the process

Setting up the remaining process data

Now that you know how to build your process data, it’s a good idea to practice, so I’ll let you try it out for the remaining data object that we identified previously: the parking space.

What “makes” a parking space, for the process we’re creating? 

Our solution for this exercise will be shown in the next article 🙂

A very special Data Object

Personally, I like having a special data object in all of my processes. I call it ProcessStatusBO, and it holds a set of attributes that typically help me manage the progress of my processes.

This object is comprised of a few string attributes: 

  • Last outcome – keeps the last response of a human task in your process
  • Last error – keeps the last known error
  • Current state – holds the current business state of a process 
  • Clipboard – a place to hold temporary values, that may come in handy

I use strings for all of these because they are the most versatile data type. If we need to transform it into another thing, Oracle BPM supplies a series of tools that allow you to do just that. We may cover that in the future, but for now, they’re not necessary.

So these are the basic steps to understand how to process data. In our next article we’ll be showing how to use this data inside our process to enable our business app to request a parking space. Be sure to tune in.

Post header image by Gavin Kealy