Saturday, September 27, 2014

Building blocks for government information exchange

Last Monday I taught the SAI workshop "Integratie: van EAI over SOA tot Cloud". I explained that there are many technical web services standards (WS-*). But that there is little attention from software vendors for the standardization of the functional side of web services. There are few standard XML schema building blocks to assemble the message exchanged via web services. XML building blocks are rather coming from B2B standards such as OAG, GS1 or UBL.

A workshop participant from the Flemish Government pointed me to the OSLO specification (in Dutch) they have created. Very interesting initiative where the Flemish government standardizes the building blocks for services. Allowing different government entities to exchange information: municipalities, Flemish government agencies and the Belgian federal departments.

In the introduction of the document, they well explain that web services focus on the standardisation of the box, but not on the nuts and bolts in the box. ("Het lijkt alsof je wel de dozen standaardiseert, maar niet de bouten en moeren die er in zitten").

To be fair, the OSLO spec doesn't go down to the actual service definitions either. It focuses on the definition of information blocks that can be assembled and used in (web) services. The spec. focuses on both XML/XSD and RDF. The XML schemas build further upon XML building blocks from UN/CEFACT and UBL

The workshop participant also explained me that the OSLO specification is strongly related to the ISA initiative of the European Union. "ISA is a program launched by the European Commission to improve electronic cooperation among public administrations in EU Member States". OSLO builds further upon the work of ISA.

Had never heard of the OSLO initiative nor the ISA program (while colleagues from Infront are actually involved). But that's the fun part of teaching, you learn so much.

Friday, September 19, 2014

BPMN reading material

As an IT consultant, one spends quite some time getting to and from your project locations. Lately I've been spending quite some time on the train. Ideal moment to refresh my BPMN knowledge. I picked the book "Real-Life BPMN" on Amazon Kindle. The authors - Jakob Freund and Bernd Rücker - both work for the German company Camunda, specializing in BPM(N) consulting and open source BPM engine.

The book is quite OK and shows lots of small examples to get acquainted with the BPMN notation. It is It start with a level 1 view on processes where a subset of the BPMN notation is used. Next it dives deeper with many more symbols (Level 2). One unique view expressed in the book is that the BPM models can be implemented with a BPM(N) workflow engine (level 3a), but also translated into an IT specification (level 3b) and implemented in code (level 4b).

A colleague of mine strongly recommended another book: "BPMN Method & Style" from Bruce Silver. And I must admit, the book is better structured and easier to read. Bruce Silver is really an authority in the world of BPMN.
Towards the end, both books well explain that BPMN 2 is not only a graphical representation but also an XML representation. Funny to see how Bruce Silver refers to BPMN XML examples from Camunda, the circle was round.

Friday, September 12, 2014

BPM podcast

As an IT consultant, one spends quite some time in his car. Preparing for a long drive to Germany, I went looking for some good podcasts. I recalled the German Software Engineering Radio.

The podcast I really enjoyed was Episode 198: Wil van der Aalst on Workflow Management Systems. Quite interesting to get a retrospective on where we are today with BPM systems. Recommended.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Background pictures on Windows 8.1

I've been searching for (royalty) free screen savers with art photos such as Magnum or Getty image. But haven't found any yet. During a meeting with Lhoist employees, I noticed the beautiful screen saver they had. The beautiful imagery was coming from the Lhoist collection and its screen savers. Something to be jealous of.

With my new high-res Windows 8.1 laptop (3200 x 1800), I also wanted to enjoy some nice pictures. For now I've settled for the daily images from Bing. After some experiments, I've settled for 2 applications to get them on my laptop.

First is Chameleon which I use to set the Windows lock screen.

Second app is Bing Desktop that I use for setting the desktop background.

Will stay on the outlook for ways to get art photos on the lock screen and desktop.