Recently, ClearCadence was hired to implement the Alfresco Digital Business Platform (a triple threat combo of Alfresco Process Services, Alfresco Content Services and Alfresco Governance Services) for one of our clients. Within this project, one of their requirements was to capture the name of the user who took ownership of a workflow task.
One of the great things about the Alfresco platform is that because it’s open source, you have a lot of people doing a lot of things with it and sharing those experiences online. The problem is that often there are only partial or incomplete answers because the author assumes you know a lot more than you do about the platform OR it’s a very technical answer and unless you are deep in the trenches with Java code, AngularJS and REST service calls, you can get very lost. The answer may even be right in front of you, but because you are not code savvy to what they are writing, you don’t recognize it.
Finding answers like this can pose a challenge with a platform such as Alfresco Process Services because it provides a “low-code” approach to make it easier for customers to build their own BPM solutions. Low-code is great and Alfresco provides plenty of documentation, but it can’t cover everything you may need to satisfy your business requirements. Additionally, for us, being a BPM consulting firm, it’s important to consider the customer when building such solutions. It may be that providing a complex set of Java classes isn’t something they want to support long term. Because of this, we at ClearCadence will be providing some simple, “medium-code” answers for specific use cases.
And thus “how do you capture a username in Alfresco Process Services?” is presented below.
This solution, while doable, felt a little kludgy and we were hoping for a sleeker and more streamlined solution. Enter the Alfresco Task Listener.
However, before we get into that, let’s look more closely at the events within the Task Listener:
Assignment – Invoked when the task is assigned to someone;
Create – Invoked when the task is created (AND after the Assignment event);
Complete – Invoked when the task is completed and just before the task is deleted from runtime data;
Delete – Invoked just before the task is to be deleted and just after the task has finished its complete event;
A quick note on why the Assignment event is fired before the Create Event: this is done so that when receiving the create event, an inspection of all properties can be done which would include the assignee of the task.
<activiti:taskListener event="complete" class="org.activiti.engine.impl.bpmn.listener.ScriptTaskListener" >
def bar = "BAR"; // local variable
foo = "FOO"; // pushes variable to execution context
task.setOwner("kermit"); // test access to task instance
bar // implicit return value
<activiti:field name="language" stringValue="groovy" />
<activiti:field name="resultVariable" stringValue="myVar" />
This is great…for someone who understands deeper code but what about those low-to-medium code users who either don’t want to go this deep, don’t know how to go this deep, or doesn’t have access to the necessary files on the application server (i.e., a citizen developer working in a department trying to build a workflow and does not have access to change a jar or property file)? Therefore, Alfresco has built the App Designer in the Alfresco Process Services platform that puts a cover of sorts over the Activiti BPM code.
Looking at the properties of a User Task, we can find Task Listeners and then click to see the values for them:
This interface provides the entry segments for building the code sample we saw previously. Within this dialog, you can select your Event, Class, Expression, Delegate Expression and/or the Script Language you want to use and the script itself OR the expressions and/or strings to be used. Let’s look at what the Alfresco App Designer Task Listener would look like if we used it instead of writing that code we looked at earlier:
Makes it a little bit easier for the non-developer to get something done, doesn’t it? Yes, there is still code to be written but this is why we are saying “medium code” as opposed to “low or no code” and let’s face it, “no code” solutions will only get you so far. To really flex the muscles on your BPM solutions, you must have some ability to customize.
Before we move on, take a note of these controls:
These allow you to move the order of your events and to add or remove events as needed. Often, we will add hooks to the Create, Assignment, and Complete events in a single user task. Speaking of the Assignment event, let’s look at our solution for getting that username of the task owner.
var execution = task.getExecution();
var userID = task.getAssignee();
var sUserName = userInfoBean.getFullName(userID);
execution.setVariable("STATUS", "In progress");
The key in the above code is the Alfresco userInfoBean which provides the information regarding the user (for more info, click here). The end-result is having that information available not only to the user but for our own internal uses, like passing the data to back-end systems via integration. Here’s what the Task Listener mostly looked like when we were done (which was within just a few minutes once we knew what we were targeting and how to get it):
In the end, could we have coded this within a Java class and called that as needed? Yes, but when ClearCadence provides professional services to our clients, we want to deliver a solution that is supportable by them, therefore, we take the time to make sure we understand not only the requirements of a project but also the people, capabilities, and the in-house skills available. This way, when we ultimately deliver the solution, we know we’re not giving them something they won’t be able to adequately support.
Luckily, with the blend of low, medium and high-code options that many of today’s BPM platforms support, like Alfresco Process Services, we can readily provide our customers with the best and most efficient solutions possible. Be on the lookout for more “medium-code” discussions on our website and if you need any assistance with implementing and supporting your BPM solution, whatever the platform, please contact us.
Kevin Beddingfield is the Managing Director at ClearCadence