Composable and Flowable: making automation work for you

MAY 17, 2022

Currently, there’s plenty of talk about hyperautomation and composable business, particularly driven by the pandemic forcing a rethink about how and where work is effectively done. The needs of a business to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and provide new solutions as quickly but reliably as possible have never been more critical. However, it’s not always clear how different technologies might help deliver on the concepts. 

There are two fundamental aspects to hyperautomation and composability: automating end-to-end business processes (not just parts of it); and re-using already built business automation components (not copy and paste). Fortunately for our customers, Flowable provides capabilities to meet both these needs.

Composable Automation Models 

Flowable is model-driven, which means a rapid, low-code speed of development, deployment and update of applications: as we say, model more, code less. These models include the open standard-based ones of BPMN (process), CMMN (case),and DMN (rules), plus a whole range of others that describe enterprise business capabilities. Other types of Flowable models include those for: 

  • security – who should be able to see, start, complete or change information 

  • content – what properties different types of content might have, from media to formal documents 

  • user forms – what and how fields of information are displayed, input, or updated 

  • making service calls to other systems – how to pass information in and out of external cloud or internal proprietary systems.   

These models are managed and used together by being bundled in a Flowable automation App. A process model might reference a security model to define which users have what capability within the process. If that process model is then used in another app, by default its linked security model is also used. Creating a new app and including a case or process model might automatically include all linked models of forms, data, business rules and subprocesses. 

While models aren’t code, it’s possible to include code in them for custom or advanced use cases. The models are stored in a library from where they can be deployed to runtime engines – specific engines for specific types of models. It’s the runtime engines that do the smart work of using the models to execute the automation they describe at speed and scale. 

All the models are shareable among applications, so one automation model can be plugged into a different application and deliver its functionality immediately. Instant reusability; instant business value. To help in the management of the library of models, each app and model can have any number of tags to identify its capabilities or any way you might want to organize your library into a marketplace of reusable models. You can include an existing model into a new app with a quick search and link to its new use. 

End-to-end Business Automation 

One of the hardest things to capture in a model is end-to-end (E2E) processes. There are people, systems, the unexpected and unpredictable to worry about – all things that don’t naturally fit in a traditional BPMN model without lots of strange additional code. Flowable supports CMMN automation models: the Case Management Model Notation. There’s a set of blogs that introduce CMMN if you want to learn more, but in summary, it enables a context-sensitive, event-driven or person-driven way to describe what must or could be done at any point in the life of a “case”. Conceived as a way to describe Case Management solutions, it turns out to be very adept at describing an over-arching, end-to-end view of a full business process. 

One way to think of the difference between BPMN and CMMN is that BPMN tells you how to take a journey from A to B, while CMMN tells you what journeys might be available or mandatory in any given situation. In our experience, building an end-to-end process involves creating a set of BPMN process fragments that capture well established or regulatory steps, such as a credit check, then referencing them from a CMMN model that describes when the credit check is an option or required. Triggering something to happen in CMMN can be by a person deciding, a piece of data changing, an external event, or an AI-driven observation. 

As well as a case starting a process, a process can start a case, so some E2E processes might begin by a process collecting the details necessary to create a case of the required type: a customer request might end up being a claim case or a sales case, for example. Once the right case is created, it can support or control how things proceed, either through process fragments or even further types of subcase. And of course, all these processes, subprocesses, cases and subcases are reusable models. 

Best-of-breed in Composable E2E Automation 

Every software vendor would like you to use as much of their products as possible in building an E2E solution – some think you only need their products. A best-of-breed approach instead enables your business to mix and match specialized technology services from multiple vendors. 

When looking at the scope of a full automation solution, your business will benefit from selecting the best options for the job. Process analysis expertise is very different from process execution, monitoring, or task automation expertise. What’s the point of having the best process analysis tool if the process execution tool is just about adequate? Your process optimization will end up just compensating for the weakness of the execution tool rather than optimizing your business outcomes and opportunities. You don’t want a fragile RPA tool to be the weak link in overall automation, as it will just cause the end-to-end process to fail. 

You will get the best insights from the best process mining tool; the more reliable automated decisions from the best AI/ML tool; the more consistent human task emulation from the best RPA tool. The same applies to the business process management tool. 

Flowable has already established itself as best of breed for executing business processes across a range of domains, from Finance, Healthcare, Government, Media, IT to Manufacturing. Rich interfaces allow it to be controlled by external systems, but it also has model-driven flexibility for driving other systems. Flowable is also increasingly used to compose E2E automation by orchestrating the overall flow across many services and systems. 

For end-to-end business automation, composing a solution from a library of best-of-breed systems and components is the right approach to deliver the optimal match to your needs. 

A key criterion for any best-of-breed component is its ability to integrate and coordinate with any other component, especially the orchestrating infrastructure. This is what we at Flowable have been evolving over years of enriching business process management to meet the overarching needs of business automation. 


Best-of-breed Intelligent Business Automation 

Got a new business idea or opportunity you want to get out quickly? Instantly reuse all the established components and model only the new aspects you need; run and test the concepts before needing to get any development resource involved; go live, knowing you can quickly tweak things if necessary. That’s our goal. To provide you the composable platform to create and evolve innovative end-to-end business processes. 

_R7A0588-Paul Homes-Higgin_web

Paul Holmes-Higgin


Co-founder of Flowable and a long-time Open Source advocate, that he believes still has an important role to play in making innovation more widely available.

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