How Imixs-Workflow works

Imixs-Workflow is an open source workflow engine for human-centric business process management (BPM). Human-centric BPM means to support human skills and activities by a task oriented workflow-engine. The Imixs-Workflow project provides an easy to use framework for the development business applications and business process management solutions. The Imixs-Workflow engine can be either be embedded into a Java EE application, or run stand-alone as a BPM-Web-Service in a microservice architecture.

BPMN 2.0

Imixs-Workflow is based on the BPMN 2.0 standard. BPMN 2.0 can be used to describe a business process on different levels. In a human-centric business process, the BPMN “Task” element is used to describe the activity to be processed by the human actor or a technical service. The BPMN “Event” element is used to describe the transition from one state to another. There are several ways to describe also complex busness processes.

Based on a BPMN workflow model, the Imixs-Workflow engine controls the state of a business object and guides the different actors through the process. The Imixs-Workflow engine controls and logs all information and decisions that occur during the processing of a business task. With the help of BPMN 2.0 various business processes can be easily designed, making the implementation and maintenance of a business application even faster and more flexible.

The Actors

The main objective of a human-centric workflow engine is to support the human actors with relevant information about the business process and to ensure that the business process is aligned to predetermined business rules:

  • What is the current status of a business process
  • Who is the owner of a business process
  • Who need to be informed
  • What happened so far to the business process
  • Who is allowed to access and modify the data

In that way Imixs-Workflow assists users in starting a new process, finding and processing open tasks and to complete current jobs. The Workflow Engine automatically routes open tasks to the next actor and notifies users about open tasks depending on the current process definition.

Each business process can involve different users to interact with the Workflow Management System. These users are called the actors. An Actor can either start, update or read a process instance and also the embedded business data Imixs Workflow allows you to assign any kind of business data with a running process instance. You can use Imixs workflow to control access to a process instance in a fine-grained way using an ACL. This includes the read and write access for users and roles. The ACL can be defined via the BPMN model for each Task or Event separately.

The Architecture

The architecture of the Imixs-Workflow engine provides different basic concepts to simplify the development of business applications.

The Workitem

A running process instance inside a Workflow Management System is called a ‘Workitem’. Each workitem is assigned to a Task in the BPMN model and can contain several business information. If a Workitem is still in process, the Workitem is called a ‘running process instance’. After a process instance is finished the workitem is ‘closed’. Imixs Workflow provides an XML schema to translate all workflow and business information of a process instance into an open and compatible data format. As a result, business data can be safely archived with Imixs-Workflow for long periods of time.

The Process Model

The process model (or workflow model) defines what state a process instance can present during its life-cycle. Each time a workitem is processed, the workflow management system synchronizes the status (Task) with the process instance based on the BPMN model.

The Workflow Engine

The Imixs-Workflow engine persists and controls the process instance into a database. The Workflow Engine ensures that a workitem is always in sync with the process model. The Imixs-Workflow engine provides a Plug-In concept to implement different function blocks of a workflow management system. This includes, for example:

  • Access Controll
  • Routing
  • E-Mail Notification
  • Versioning
  • Business Rules
  • Reporting
  • Archiving

Tasklists

A Workflow Management System provides various views of all running process instances. A ‘tasklist’ contains all open tasks from the view of an individual actor. Imixs-Workflow provides a lot of different views to navigate through the running process instances.

Getting started…

There are several ways how you can benefit from Imixs-Workflow. The following section gives you a short guideline how to find out the best way to use Imixs-Workflow in your own project.

Using the Imixs-Workflow Engine out of the Box

Using Imixs-Workflow out of the Box is a good starting point to run the workflow engine without modification or Java EE development. You can start with the Imixs-Microservice Project which can be deployed in a Java EE Application server or by simply starting a Docker Container.

If you want to develop a business application or embed the Imixs-Workflow engine into an existing project, you can also start with the Imixs-Workflow Sample Application which gives a good starting point to develop a new project from scratch.

Before you start developing with Imixs-Workflow, consider the following:

  • Provide a database where the workflow data can be stored
  • Configure a security realm for granting access to different actors
  • Design a workflow model using the Imixs-Workflow-Modeler
  • Deploy the workflow application on an application server

Using Imixs-Workflow in a Java EE Project

Using Imixs-Workflow in a Java EE project is the typical way to extend your own java project with the functionality of a workflow engine. In this kind of usage you develop your own workflow application. Inside your application you integrate the Imixs-Workflow Engine to provide the typical functionality of a Workflow Management System.

To integrate Imixs-Workflow engine in an JEE application consider the following steps:

  • Add the Imixs-Workflow jar files to your application.
  • Add the Imixs-RestService into your application.
  • Deploy your application together with the Imixs-Workflow on a application server

Read the Deployment Guide about how to deploy the Imixs-Workflow engine into an enterprise application (EAR).

Contribute to the Imixs-Workflow project

You can also help in developing the Imixs-Workflow project or use the results of the project to implement new components. In this case you extend the implementation with additional features or just add a different behavior. So in different of the usage described before, you need more than a running instance of the Workflow Engine or the Java EE libraries. In this kind of usage you should check out the source code packages from GitHub and set up a Java EE Project. The source code include also some JUnit tests which can help to test different behaviors of the engine.

See the Imixs Workflow community site on GitHub for source code or ask questions in the issue tracking tool.