By Maarten Engels and Niels van der Zeyst.
What is Gravity?
Google Wave has been around for a few months now and though the hype is fading away we are seeing more and more practical use-cases in the enterprise. One excellent example is SAP’s Business Process Modelling tool gone collaborative; Gravity. We have been fortunate to work with a prototype version of Gravity with access to the minds behind the concept. Gravity is a Business Process Modeling tool which can be accessed as a gadget in the Google Wave client. This integration in Google Wave allows for collaboration over time and / or near real time, on business processes. This model is exportable to Netweaver BPM via BPMN 2.0 XML, thus making it a fully integrable modelling tool for use in an SAP landscape. Still puzzled? check this video with an explanatory example:
Gravity is a proofing point for Google Wave usefullness for enterprise scenario’s; it boosts Google Wave’s “corporate credibility”.
What are we using Gravity for?
We are using Gravity to model user interaction and flow in an iPhone application within a demonstration scenario for SAP and REST.
To demonstrate the value of REST in combination with SAP, we are developing an iPhone app that helps consumers search for recipies and subsequently translate the recipie into actual products available in the supermarket of their choice. In particular, this translation takes food allergies into consideration. We use REST to obtain ingredients, product data and allergy information from SAP.
The advantage to consumers is an almost instant overview of what products should be bought to cook a recipy based on food allergy and the actual products available in the supermarket. Based on a cross reference of personal profiles containing info. on Hypo allergenics (?) and PIM data from SAP.
Gravity helps us quickly model the steps taken by system and end-users to use our application. In particular, the collaboration features help out our cross-displinary team work from different locations and with different time schedules.
Prototype alert: many features are still unimplemented such as selecting multiple objects, changing connections, annotating selects, etc. However, we are very enthousiastic in our first conclusions from working with Gravity:
- Gravity is very intuitive and easy to use, the wysiwig and drag and drop interface combined with a no frills approach allows users to hit the ground running;
- Integration in Google Wave helps to not only document the results but also the decision and brianstorm processes because history and context is retained within the Wave;
- Collaborative editing works quite well both over time and distance and updates can be traced live allowing for immediate feedback and thus real-time collaboration;
Opportunities for value and growth
From our point of view, at this time Gravity seems most suited for high level process discussions with the client or within teams in earlier stages of process driven projects. Gravity fits in the SAP strategy for BPX and gives process owners, consultants and experts a tool to collaborate around, brainstorm on, explain and present process related activities.
Gravity seems extremely well suited for Geographically spread organisations. Collaboration across time-zones as is often the case with the global increase of outsourced and licesned work or projects.
The benefit of a Google Wave is that it is not limitied by access to corporate systems and firewalls for collaboration. However, If need be an export to Netweaver BPM is possible from where BPM experts can pick up and implement in the wider SAP landscape.
Gravity in a Wave allows for excellent documentation of the decisioning and ideation process and the discussions around it. The non-technical and functional documentation of a project that at times is vitally important but unfortunately often lost.
It’s not done yet, many basic features and nice extras still need to be implemented. However, Gravity provides us with a glimpse of what collaborative discussion and modelling could be like in a hybrid Service oriented landscape mixing Cloud based and proprietary architectures. We are very confident that SAP will be able to implement typical editing options such as multiple select, better support for drag and drop etc. And hope for more support of typical modeling methodologies such as UML.
On that note, if other model types would be implemented. Which UML models would you like to work with in Gravity?
Niels van der Zeyst is a Business Technologist at Capgemini. You can follow Niels on Twitter http://twitter.com/zeyst or contact him directly via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maarten Engels is Managing Consultant at Capgemini where he is the leader of the SAP Infrastructure and Architecture profession group.