What To Expect From This Book

Summary #

In today’s IT architectures, microservices and serverless functions play an increasingly important role. But how can you create meaningful, comprehensive, and connected business solutions if the individual components are decoupled and independent by design? This book provides a framework through examples and practical advice, and reveals how you can design complex processes in such an environment to deliver true business value.

Therefore, this book dives into a developer-friendly view on process automation and explains how process automation can be applied in modern system architectures and software development practices.

It focuses on lightweight workflow engines as the core component to make this happen, which should be part of every developers tool belt.

The book also discusses typical misconceptions around process automation and orchestration.

Why You Should Read This Book #

  1. Digital transformation is happening everywhere and automation a must.
  2. Many processes are tailor-made to an organization’s needs, as this allows to differentiate from competition. Therefore they cannot be addresses by off-the-shelf application software.
  3. Automating these processes is complex and requires software engineering, but with specific characteristics and requirements.
  4. You will need a developer-friendly way to automate processes, leveraging lightweight workflow engine technology. This is exactly what this book explains to you.

Who This Book is For #

This book targets software developers, software engineers and software or system architects that want to learn about process automation.

If you are a software developer, you might want to use a workflow engine within your application, service or microservice to solve hands-on problems. This book will help you understand which problems a workflow engines solves for you, and how you get started.

If you are a system architect, this book will help you understand opportunities and pitfalls around process automation. It will guide you through some tough architectural decisions and trade-offs, including how using a workflow engine compares to alternative approaches or if a workflow engine should be operated centrally or not.

But you can also benefit, if you work in another role:

  • If you are an IT manager, the book can also help you to make better informed decisions and ask the right questions internally.

  • If you are a business analyst, this book can help you if you are motivated to think a bit out-of-the-box and understand the technical side of things.

You will only need some general experience in the field of software engineering, but no other specific knowledge.

Table Of Contents #

    Many Ways to Automate Processes
    The Scope Of This Book
    Who This Book is For
    The Architect Always Implements
    Accompanying Website and Code Examples

1. Introduction
    Process Automation
    Wild West Integrations
    Workflow Engines And Executable Process Models
    A Business Scenario
    Long-Running Processes
    Business Processes, Integration Processes and Workflows
    Business-IT Collaboration
    Business Drivers and the Value of Process Automation
    Not Your Parents’ Process Automation Tools

Part I: Fundamentals

2. Workflow Engines and Process Solutions
    The Workflow Engine
        Core Capabilities
        Additional Features of Workflow Platforms
    A Process Solution
    Executable Example
    Applications, Processes, Workflow Engines
    Typical Workflow Tools in a Project’s Life Cycle
        Graphical Process Modeler
        Collaboration Tools
        Operations Tooling
        Tasklist Applications
        Business Monitoring and Reporting

3. Developing Process Solutions
    Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)
        Start and End Events
        The Token Concept: Implementing Control Flow
        Sequence Flows: Controlling the Flow of Execution
        Tasks: Units of Work
        Gateways: Steering Flow
        Events: Waiting for Something to Happen
        Message Events: Waiting for a Trigger from the Outside
    Combining Process Models and Programming Code
        Publish-Subscribe to a Process
        Referencing Code in Process Models
        Using Pre-Built Connectors
        Model or Code?
    Testing Processes
    Versioning of Process Solutions

4. Orchestrate Anything
    Orchestrate Software
        Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Services
        Serverless Functions
        Modular Monoliths
        Deconstructing the Monolith
    Orchestrate Decisions
        Decision Model And Notation (DMN)
        Decisions in a Process Model
    Orchestrate Humans
        Task Assignment
        Additional Tool Support
        The User Interface of User Tasks
    Orchestrate RPA (Robotic Process Automation) Bots
    Orchestrate Physical Devices and Things

5. Championing Workflow Engines And BPMN
    Limitations of Other Implementation Options
        Hard-coded Processes
        Batch Processing
        Data Pipelines and Streaming
        Actor Model
        Stateful Functions
    Process Modeling Languages
        Workflow Patterns
        Benefits Of Graphical Process Visualizations
        Textual Process Modeling Approaches
        Typical Concerns About Graphical Modeling
        Graphical vs. Textual Approaches
    Process Automation With Blockchain?

Part II: Process Automation in the Enterprise

6. Solution Architecture
    When to Use a Workflow Engine
    Architecture Tradeoffs
        Running The Workflow Engine
        Decentralized Engines
        Sharing Engines
        Ownership of Process Models
        Using The Workflow Engine As Communication Channel
        In-House Workflow Platforms
        Performance And Scalability
        Developer Experience and Continuous Delivery
    Evaluating Your Workflow Engine

7. Autonomy, Boundaries and Isolation
    Strong Cohesion And Low Coupling
    Domain Driven Design, Bounded Contexts and Services
    Boundaries And Business Processes
        Respect Boundaries and Avoid Process Monoliths
        Foster Your Understanding Of Responsibilities
        Long-Running Behavior Helps You to Defend Boundaries
    How Processes Communicate Across Boundaries
        Call Activities - Handy Shortcuts Only Within The Boundary
        Crossing Boundaries Is An API Call
    Decentralized Workflow Tooling

8. Balancing Orchestration and Choreography
    Event-driven Systems
        Emergent Behavior
        Event Chains
        The Risk Of Distributed Monoliths
    Contrasting Orchestration and Choreography
        Introducing Commands
        Messages, Events and Commands
        Terminology and Definitions
        Avoiding Event Chains By Using Commands
        The Direction Of Dependency
    Finding The Right Balance
        Deciding About Using Commands or Events
        Mix Commands And Events
        Designing Responsibilities
        Evaluate Change Scenarios To Validate Decisions
    Debunking Common Myths
        Commands Do Not Require Synchronous Communication
        Orchestration Does Not Need To Be Central
        Choreography Does Not Automatically Lead To More Decoupling
    The Role of Workflow Engines

9. Workflow Engines And Integration Challenges
    Communication Patterns For Service Invocation
        Synchronous Request-response
        Asynchronous Request-response
        BPMN and Being Ready-to-receive
        Aggregating Messages
        Poisoned and dead messages
        Synchronous Facades Hiding Asynchronous Communication
    Transactions and Consistency
        Eventual Consistency
        Business Strategies to Handle Inconsistency
        Saga Pattern and Compensation
        Chaining Resources by Using the Outbox Pattern
    Eventual Consistency Applies to Every Form of Remote Communication
    The Importance of Idempotency

10. Business-IT Collaboration
    A Typical Project
    Including All The People: BizDevOps
    The Process Automation Lifecycle
    The Power of One Joined Model
    Who Does the Modeling?
    Creating Better Process Models
        Extract (Integration) Logic Into Subprocesses
        Distinguishing Between Results, Exceptions, and Errors
        Increasing Readability

11. Process Visibility
    The Value Of Process Visibility
    Getting the Data
        Leverage Audit Data From Your Workflow Engine
        Model Events To Measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
    Status Inquiries
    Understanding Processes That Span Multiple Systems
        Observability And Distributed Tracing Tools
        Custom Centralized Monitoring
        Data Warehouses, Data Lakes And Business Intelligence Tools
        Process Mining
        Process Event Monitoring
        Current Market Dynamics
    Setting Up Process Reporting And Monitoring
        Typical Metrics And Reports
        Allow For a Deeper Understanding

Part III: Get Going!

12. The Journey to Introduce Process Automation
    Understanding The Adoption Journey
        Failures You Want to Avoid
        A Success Story
        The Pattern of Successful Adoption Journeys
        Different Journeys For Different Scenarios
    Starting Your Journey
        Bottom-up vs Top-Down Adoption Motion
        Proof Of Concepts
        Presenting The Business Case
        Don’t Build Your Own Platform
        Do’s and Don’ts Around Reuse
    From Project to Program: Scaling Adoption
        Perception Management: What Is Process Automation?
        Establishing a Center of Excellence
        Managing Architecture Decisions
        Decentralized Workflow Tooling
        Roles And Skill Development

13. Parting Words
    Current Architecture Trends Influence Process Automation
    Rethink Business Processes and User Experience
    Where To Go From Here

Praise #

Weaving together ideas from microservices, event-driven systems, and Domain-Driven Design, this book describes when, why, and how to effectively leverage workflows within a modern software architecture. Taking a pragmatic practitioner’s approach, it uses real-world examples and explores the pros and cons of multiple alternative patterns in detail. It should be on every architect’s bookshelf.

Randy Shoup, VP Engineering and Chief Architect at eBay

Bernd has championed and delivered developer-friendly process automation tools for the best part of the last decade. Now, in this pragmatic new book, Bernd brings that wealth of experience to show how process automation models, methods, and tools can be applied to tame the complexity of microservices and cloud-native architectures which are becoming ever more prevalent in today’s technology landscape. I highly recommend this book for architects and developers who want to add process automation thinking to their design toolkit.

Richard Tarling, Digitization & Workflow Engineering Co-lead at Goldman Sachs

Process automation has often been viewed as the antithesis of modern, agile software development: snazzy “doodleware” demos that don’t scale to real use cases, poor testability, and version control only for the fortunate ones. No one better than Bernd to show us that this perception has little to do with workflow and process automation but merely with past implementations. Seeing process automation as an extension of well-established software development methods and architectures breathes a much welcome breeze of fresh air into the field.

Gregor Hohpe, author of Enterprise Integration Patterns and The Software Architect Elevator