Decentralized Process Management (dFLOW)

Decentralized Process ManagementĀ“s goal is to utilize the decentralized technology of distributed ledgers (DLTs) to enrich "process engines" with the same type of security & infrastructure qualities, which Smart Contracts have achieved on top of blockchain technologies.

We are intentionally speaking about decentrailzed and not distributed process management, which might be a next step in the evolution. Nevertheless the focus is on the decentralization part and not on how a multi node network might perform the process management in some sort of collaboration with better / different characteristics. This definitely has itĀ“s own raison d'etre, but out of scope for now.

We have seen initially State Management and Workflow Engines, then Business Process Management Platforms followed by intelligent Business Process Management (iBPMS, merging adaptive, predictive analytics into the Processes) and Robotic Process Automation (bringing AI into the Processes) Solutions leading the way in "centralized" ecosystems of managing processes either on-premise or in the cloud.

The next big step is the crossing of Blockchain technologies with all the various Process Managmenet capabilities, which is an extremely challenging agenda and there are a lot of current technical barriers to overcome. One example here is the characteristics of such processes being closely tied together with their ecosystem via consuming and providing service & event interfaces (even in a multi recursive way to each other) in such dynamics, volume & behavior, which together with the decentralization (replicaiton & repetition of the process logic) pattern is simply a big problem to resolve.

dCentra has started a research & development initiative in this space to experiment and deliver products, where the decentralization and process management are possible in a certain context, under certain reasonable limitations, but still with significant value proposition to numerous Use Cases for various industries.

One of our initial Proof-of-Concept in this venture combines a state-model engine with decentralization in a multi-party environment. This is achieved by using a state model (strictly limiting a simple BPMN "engine/parser" to state management capabilities) running in a decentralized fashion within the Hyperledger Fabric consortium blockchain platform. 

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Apart from enriching Process Management with the decentralization qualities via Blockchain, we also aim to keep the rapid business application development nature of BPM solutions allowing for a collaborative visual representation & configuration of the data model, business logic (processes, rules), UI, event & service interfaces. The same applies for the visual monitoring, operational insight & analytics of these processes we find important not to loose in the process of decentralization. Another third important aspect to ensure is the lifecycle management & governance of the business application that has to be covered.

Currently we are in the phase of defining an MVP and prototyping it together with a large Corporate Enterprise. Where our MVP differs to the previous POC is that in this case (a) we are building upon an already mature Process Engine technology and incoporating the Blockchain consensus capability into it instead of (b) embedding & building a Process Engine into the Smart Contract layer of a preexisting Blockchain technology. We do initially limit our Processes to pure State Management capabilities with full isolation from the external ecosystem (so no BPMN 2.0 or Worklfow or external integration patterns) and identify Use Cases in this particular context.

What are the main advantages of such a system?

  • At foremost it allows Organizations to collaborate on an entirely new level, sharing the implementation of a complex process and the various roles they may participate within instead of sharing a design document about the process and the specification of the message exchanges they should follow. The sharing of the implementation also applies of sharing the lifecycle of the process and the governance processes, which are evolving the processes throughout their lifetime.

  • As the implementation of the process is on the Blockchain, all important & corresponding data is recorded there as well making any dispute resolution very fast and straight forward and providing the regulators direct access & runtime verification of compliance. Please note that there are numerous techniques how to ensure data privacy rules between the organizations to control, which Organization has what kind of exposure & control to some particular data set.

  • We inherit all the benefits of Blockchain technologies being full transparency & insight, immutability, global accessibility, no downtime SLA, incorruptibility, complete history log, etc.

Our next step will be to incorporate Workflow capabilities, solve the problem of Integration (via using Oracles and other innovative Blockchain technology advancements in this field) and look into decentralized Identity Management capabilities (such as Hyperledger Indy, uPort, etc.). Also we are investigating the feasibility of building a public blockchain with process management capabilities and the possibility of an ICO funding scenario for this purpose.

Please have a look at the live dFlow demo environment where we are running a Proof of Concept of the technology you may freely try out.