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Oracle Workflow Developer's Guide
Release 2.6.3

Part Number B10284-02
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Overview of Oracle Workflow for Developers

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.

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.

Routing Information

Business processes today involve getting many types of information to multiple people according to rules that are constantly changing. With so much information available, and in so many different forms, how do you get the right information to the right people? Oracle Workflow lets you provide each person with all the information they need to take action. Oracle Workflow can route supporting information to each decision maker in a business process, including people both inside and outside your enterprise.

Defining and Modifying Business Rules

Oracle Workflow lets you define and continuously improve your business processes using a drag-and-drop process designer.

Unlike workflow systems that simply route documents from one user to another with some approval steps, Oracle Workflow lets you model sophisticated business processes. You can define processes that loop, branch into parallel flows and then rendezvous, decompose into subflows, and more. Because Oracle Workflow can decide which path to take based on the result of a stored procedure, you can use the power of Java and of PL/SQL, the language of the Oracle Database, to express any business rule that affects a workflow process. See: Workflow Processes.

Delivering Electronic Notifications

Oracle Workflow extends the reach of business process automation throughout the enterprise and beyond to include any e-mail or Internet user. Oracle Workflow lets people receive notifications of items awaiting their attention via e-mail, and act based on their e-mail responses. You can even view your list of things to do, including necessary supporting information, and take action using a standard Web browser.

Integrating Systems

Oracle Workflow lets you set up subscriptions to business events which can launch workflows or enable messages to be propagated from one system to another when business events occur. You can communicate events among systems within your own enterprise and with external systems as well. In this way, you can implement point-to-point messaging integration or use Oracle Workflow as a messaging hub for more complex system integration scenarios. You can model business processes that include complex routing and processing rules to handle events powerfully and flexibly.

Major Features and Definitions

Oracle Workflow Builder

Oracle Workflow Builder is a graphical tool that lets you create, view, or modify a business process with simple drag and drop operations. Using the Workflow Builder, you can create and modify all workflow objects, including activities, item types, and messages. See: Workflow Processes.

At any time you can add, remove, or change workflow activities, or set up new prerequisite relationships among activities. You can easily work with a summary-level model of your workflow, expanding activities within the workflow as needed to greater levels of detail. And, you can operate Oracle Workflow Builder from a desktop PC or from a disconnected laptop PC.

Workflow Engine

The Workflow Engine embedded in the Oracle Database implements process definitions at runtime. The Workflow Engine monitors workflow states and coordinates the routing of activities for a process. Changes in workflow state, such as the completion of workflow activities, are signaled to the engine via a PL/SQL API or a Java API. Based on flexibly-defined workflow rules, the engine determines which activities are eligible to run, and then runs them. The Workflow Engine supports sophisticated workflow rules, including looping, branching, parallel flows, and subflows.

Business Event System

The Business Event System is an application service that uses the Oracle Advanced Queuing (AQ) infrastructure to communicate business events between systems. The Business Event System consists of the Event Manager, which lets you register subscriptions to significant events, and event activities, which let you model business events within workflow processes.

When a local event occurs, the subscribing code is executed in the same transaction as the code that raised the event. 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.

Workflow Definitions Loader

The Workflow Definitions Loader is a utility program that moves workflow definitions between database and corresponding flat file representations. You can use it to move workflow definitions from a development to a production database, or to apply upgrades to existing definitions. In addition to being a standalone server program, the Workflow Definitions Loader is also integrated into Oracle Workflow Builder, allowing you to open and save workflow definitions in both a database and file.

Complete Programmatic Extensibility

Oracle Workflow lets you include your own PL/SQL procedures or external functions as activities in your workflows. Without modifying your application code, you can have your own program run whenever the Workflow Engine detects that your program's prerequisites are satisfied.

Electronic Notifications

Oracle Workflow lets you include users in your workflows to handle activities that cannot be automated, such as approvals for requisitions or sales orders. The Notification System sends notifications to and processes responses from users in a workflow. Electronic notifications are routed to a role, which can be an individual user or a group of users. Any user associated with that role can act on the notification.

Each notification includes a message that contains all the information a user needs to make a decision. The information may be embedded in the message body or attached as a separate document. Oracle Workflow interprets each notification activity response to decide how to move on to the next workflow activity.

Electronic Mail Integration

Electronic mail (e-mail) users can receive notifications of outstanding work items and can respond to those notifications using their e-mail application of choice. An e-mail notification can include an attachment that provides another means of responding to the notification.

Internet-Enabled Workflow

Any user with access to a standard Web browser can be included in a workflow. Web users can access a Notification Web page to see their outstanding work items, then navigate to additional pages to see more details or provide a response.

Monitoring and Administration

Workflow administrators and users can view the progress of a work item in a workflow process by connecting to the Workflow Monitor using a standard Web browser that supports Java. The Workflow Monitor displays an annotated view of the process diagram for a particular instance of a workflow process, so that users can get a graphical depiction of their work item status. The Workflow Monitor also displays a separate status summary for the work item, the process, and each activity in the process.

If you are using the version of Oracle Workflow embedded in Oracle Applications and you have implemented Oracle Applications Manager, you can also use the Oracle Workflow Manager component of Oracle Applications Manager as an additional administration tool for Oracle Workflow. Oracle Applications Manager is a tool that provides administrative and diagnostic capabilities for concurrent processing, Oracle Workflow, and other functionality in Oracle Applications. For more information, please refer to the Oracle Applications Manager online help.

Also, if you are using the standalone version of Oracle Workflow, you can use the standalone Oracle Workflow Manager component available through Oracle Enterprise Manager as an additional administration tool for Oracle Workflow. For more information, please refer to the Oracle Workflow Manager online help.

Workflow Processes

Oracle Workflow manages business processes according to rules that you define. The rules, which we call a workflow process definition, include the activities that occur in the process and the relationship between those activities. An activity in a process definition can be an automated function defined by a PL/SQL stored procedure or an external function, a notification to a user or role that may optionally request a response, a business event, or a subflow that itself is made up of a more granular set of activities.

A workflow process is initiated when an application calls a set of Oracle Workflow Engine APIs. The Workflow Engine takes over by driving the relevant work item defined by the application, through a specific workflow process definition. According to the workflow process definition, the Workflow Engine performs automated steps and invokes appropriate agents when external processing is required.

The following diagram depicts a simplified workflow process definition that routes a requisition to a manager or set of managers for approval.

image described in text

We refer to the whole drawing as a process or process diagram. The icons represent activities, and the arrows represent the transitions between the activities. In the above example, new items are created for the process when a user creates and submits a requisition in the appropriate application.

This process contains several workflow activities implemented as PL/SQL stored procedures, including:

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