SAP’s Gravity Prototype: Business Collaboration Using Google Wave

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Alexander Dreiling of SAP Research in Brisbane, Australia, has posted on a great prototype called Gravity that uses Google Wave to collaborate around business process.

Gravity is a Google Wave “gadget” that can be added within the Google Wave client. It lets participants in a wave use the business process modeling functionality of SAP Business Process Management collaboratively, in near-real time. David Cook called it “the best business example of Google Wave, period!”

The demo shows the result of a merger of a bank and an insurance company. They now need to restructure their business processes and capitalize quickly on cross-selling opportunities between banking and insurance, and a variety of different expertise across the new organization is needed to model the new process flows, both from business and IT.

As they build the model, the additions from each modeler are color-coded, and the process is documented using the Google Wave tools. A Google “robot” is used to check the model for syntax, and the result is exported in industry-standard BPMN 2.0 XML.

The prototype was featured at the SAP TechEd event in Phoenix this week, and one team at the Business Process Design Slam event have posted on their experience of using the tool, using it to automate business processes related to forming a virtual community-based power plant made up of resident’s personal solar wind generation.

The idea is to describe a process that allows a homeowner or business to come online as a micro generator within a township and the various steps (human and automated) that are required. Sustainability gets better over time, the more neighborhoods choose to generate power from green sources to supply the very power this neighborhood consumes – and in pretty much the same timeframe. This also reduces the losses of transporting power over longer distances.  Thus, power companies will more and more become brokers, and less actual suppliers of power.

…you are in a contract with the ‘virtual power plant’ and you can either be within the parameters of the contract and receive the good rates, or go above your contracted power consumption and must pay additional fees. (This can be due to a couple of things, you have bad weather and do not produce enough power and now must consume power at a higher rate. Or for certain reasons you must consume more power than previously contracted, because you have guests in town and must run your a/c on high). At this point, you can continue your contract, or go back and re-contract your plan. (Similar to a cell phone company where you can re-adjust your plan after several months of going over your minutes)

Here’s a glimpse of the process-building experience:

Phoenix - Wave Gravity attempt

More on SAP and Gravity:

And this is clearly only the start. Analytics, flexible business-oriented process modeling, and collaboration platforms makes for a very powerful combination. Every business process starts with conversations, and get improved through analysis and collaboration. When executives hear about “social networking”, it sounds to them like an expensive, time-wasting alternative to the company picnic, but it’s really about just about making the existing conversations and interactions of employees quicker, easier, and more productive. The Gravity prototype is clearly a great first step in that direction.

Finally, following on from a previous post on Google Wave and SAP, here’s Daniel Graversen duing a presentation about SAP and Google Wave, from the SAP Virtual Community Day sessions hosted by Craig Cmehil

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29 Comments
  1. Pingback: SAP’s Gravity Prototype: Business Collaboration Using Google Wave | CloudAve

  2. FAN-TAS-TIC
    very impressive that SAP picked this up so quickly. Is this a working thing yet or just a prototype??

    in my eyes, this is clearly what the future of collaboration should look like.

  3. Peter,

    Thanks for the comment… we’re taking a very web 2.0 approach, and sharing as much as possible, as early as possible, in the hope of getting feedback and improving future products. So: it’s a (working) prototype for now, and based on the reception, we’ll see where it goes…

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  8. Visionary move from SAP! Congratulations!

    I believe with this solution SAP together with Google traced out a roadmap for not only collaborative, but really user-friendly and efficient platform for business.

    Actually, I’ve got a hint from SAP couple months ago not to consider Aris anymore, that SAP is on a new path… Frankly, I did’t expect such a great move.

    Regards,
    GB

  9. Google gravity looks not promising at all.
    In my office I switched of the messenger, I do not want to be disturbed by messages. Gravity looks similar.

    And to this SAP solution.
    Who the hell needs this?
    You have ever tried to discuss anything like this? Complex issues in mail or on messenger? Which manager will draw pictures like this? And after that goes to sap bpm and continues work there. Nice dreams from another planet.

    SAP (as all the other companies) is trying to find ways to stay in double digit growth range. Management should realize sometimes that the core SAP ERP (or Bus. Suite) is the only application which is successful at SAP. ERP is a great software. All the rest costs money and brings nothing. Like platform or developing services. Or this one.
    BPM (or Galaxy) can perhaps replace workflows. Like BAPI’s replaced by services. No revenue generated vs. a lot of investment.

    But at least looks nice.

  10. I guess I wouldn’t have this blog if I didn’t disagree with you! I’m glad you like SAP’s ERP, but it’s not the only thing that’s successful at SAP — my area of expertise is the BusinessObjects suite of products, which accounted for the majority of the (healthy double-digit) growth in the BI industry last year.

    I believe that all the elements you see on this site are the foundations of the “next wave” of business applications, which will be more people- and information-centric, for “barely repeatable” processes (Sig Rinde), like a product launch, a company acquisition, a product recall, strategic decision-making, etc., etc.

    The future will absolutely see an ability for business users to create new business processes collaboratively, in some way or another — it may not be with Google Wave, but the Gravity prototype is a glimpse of what the future looks like…

  11. I did not consider Business Objects. I have very limited knowledge about BO. I even do not know which products Bo has and which one is the main revenue driver.

    I have doubts that alone BPM will be a successful product. As I said before it is an enhanced workflow. e.g How do you use it in Logistic? I do not see too much opportunities here.

    May be I’m wrong, but this is how I see.

  12. I have been seeking a good BPMN tool for quite a while. This is an amazing piece of work. Does it export to BPML? There are a number of tools, including Microsoft’s BizTalk that can use BPML, which is a great advantage to those of us that are very visual.

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  14. I am very impressed with this application and am sure it is a forerunner of many more. It may help establish the baseline business processes before major changes are implemented. Building a process model that reflects current practice is very difficult and involves numerous meetings. At the end you have a process that is missing key transactions and compliance requirements. Collaboration like this should make it easier for everyone to give their input and have clear understanding of the required inputs and objectives of each transaction or decision.

    Would love to be able to try it out and I believe it would help multi site implementations and the use of outside resources.

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  16. I think this is all a waste of time because a BPMN flowchart does nothing alone. You need a huge amount of implementation to actually make it work. And once it is implemented the flowchart becomes irrelevant. if it is just used for discussing the process it is fine.

    What is needed is a collaborative environment that lets business users actually work with the processes without needing ANY DESIGN interaction and adapt them to their needs on the fly. Only that is the future.

  17. Max,

    I absolutely agree that we need a more flexible approach to creating processes. BUT I don’t think it’s as simple as either/or — I think we need at least three levels that work together: (1) automatic discovery of process, by looking at what people are doing, (2) lightweight ways of allowing business people to “connect” parts of what they do with other parts of what they do, and (3) collaborative flowchart creation. E.g. a process could be created “on the fly”, but the system would then look at what’s happening, aggregate it across multiple peoples’ inputs, and then propose that as a flowchart that could be validated, extended, checked for missing parts, etc….

    The next version of Gravity includes more business-user oriented process flow, by connecting different widgets. I’ll post it as soon as I can.

    Regards,
    Timo

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  19. I find gravity absolutely fantastic. In my opinion, this is clearly the way business processes should be mapped out (at least at the high level), with instant collaboration, incredible ease-of-use and great look! I was particularly amazed of how “smart” the shape layout was and how quickly you can select the right shape. Google wave seems to be robust enough for collaborative BPM and I guess this leads the way to other collaborative visual management. Until today, I didn’t know that SAP was that innovative and from now on, I will have a closer look about what you guys are doing.

    Regards,
    Thom

  20. Hi there !

    I’m from france, and I really would like to try Gravity, because this is for sure an excellent tool to be used in small and agile company ! The question for me is really to understand how small companies will be able to get this service and get their process in the cloud ? What is the plan ? Can we test ? Can we use ?

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Kind regards.

    Julien

  21. We’re now in the process of productizing this, but it may take a little while, I’m afraid — I’ll follow up to see if we’ve been able to put it on a public server…

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