My Extension Wish: Workflow in Wave

Thursday, February 11, 2010 | 3:24 PM

Greetings! I'm Amanda and I work on Developer Relations for Google Wave. Continuing on our series of dream Google Wave extensions, I want to tell you one of my own wish...a Wave-ified workflow system.

From Expense Reports to major Press Releases, there are a lot of documents a typical company produces that require a workflow to ask for reviews and collect the necessary approvals/signatures. Google Wave is already very useful as a mean for collaboration to produce such documents and can potentially be extended to process workflows as well.

To describe how this can work, let's say I need to write a press release announcing the release of a new ground-breaking product to the world. Before releasing it, I first want the product manager to sign off on it, then a lawyer, then a PR person, and finally someone from upper management. These approvals can be done using a gadget inserted at the top of the wave while the rest of the wave contains the press release itself and reviewer comments. The gadget contains a graphical representation of the workflow and shows simple colored buttons representing the state so far. This can potentially be done by parsing YAWL (Yet Another Workflow Language) into Javascript.

For example, once the press release has been approved by PM and Legal, the current gadget state is "Pending PR Approval", the PM and Legal buttons are greyed out, and the PR button is highlighted. Since Joe is the designated PR person to approve, there is an extra "Approval" button only visible to him. When an action happens, like Joe pressing that button, the state changes accordingly and proceeds to the next step in the workflow.

The extension could also let the user select different document types in the gadget and depending on the type, it can automatically check if a document already meets the basic criteria (e.g a tweet can only contains 140 characters) before it can be approved. Furthermore, once all approvals have been received, a robot can automatically delete the comment blips to prepare the document for final publication. The possibilities are endless of course, and different companies would have different workflows to match their needs. The most flexible workflow extension should allow the creation of custom workflow templates.

Google Wave may not be ready to replace heavy workflow systems such as those to process insurance claim or what not, but for many forms of official communication documents, it is the perfect tool to collaborate, (and hopefully soon) review, and approve.

Feel free to discuss ideas for workflow extensions in the API forum or in a public wave. We're looking forward to hearing your ideas!