Workflow limitations – WebCenter Content

WebCenter Content is Oracle’s content management repository that provides metadata, searching, revisioning and security. WebCenter Content has a built-in workflow engine centered around content items. This workflow engine was originally developed by Stellent (who was acquired by Oracle).

Workflow Status

Each content item has a status. If the status is Released, the content item is indexed and can be found via searching. If a content item is in a workflow, its status is Review/Edit and can only be found via folder browsing. The latest revision which is Released can be found via search.

Workflow Types

There are two types of workflow in WebCenter Content. The first is known as basic workflow. This is a manual workflow which allows administrators to manually move items into the workflow. I’ve seen very few actual uses of this. The second type of workflow is known as criteria workflow. When a new content item or new revision is checked-in, content items matching the specified criteria (see #2/#3 below) go into the workflow.

Workflows need to be set up and administered in WebCenter Content. However, content items checked-in via WebCenter Portal can still utilize these workflows.

Limitations

There are several areas where the built-in workflow engine falls short of a standalone workflow product such as Oracle BPM (Business Process Management) or Oracle PCS (Process Cloud Service):

  1. Workflow is tied to content items. Workflow is on one (1) and only one content item. If the user wants to add other content items, they can do so but those will be routed through the same workflow (but in a separate/standalone process). A workaround is to use attachments or related content.
  2. There is a dependency on the Security Group in which a content item is located. This means that if you have twenty (20) Security Groups, you would need twenty (20) different workflows (even if the process within each of those workflows is exactly the same). I do not see the purpose of this requirement (limitation) by Oracle.
  3. Criteria workflows allow only one (1) metadata definition as the criteria. This is very limiting. Usually, this issue can be worked around by using a broad criteria definition and then using custom Idoc Script code inside the entry step to further define the criteria. However, again, this seems like an artificial limitation imposed by Oracle.
  4. All approving users must have security access to the content item. Security on content items was not designed to be changed during when a content item is in workflow.
  5. Custom code can be written (to do things such as send emails or update metadata). However, this code is written in a proprietary scripting language known as Idoc Script.
  6. Multiple steps can be defined in a workflow. However, there is no way to re-order these steps without deleting them (and losing any information inside of them) and re-adding them. This limitation may serve a purpose (to ensure existing workflow items use the original step order).
  7. A workflow must be disabled to add or delete a step within that workflow. This means that if: (1) a workflow process needs to change and (2) there are content items currently in that enabled workflow, then when the workflow is disabled, all those content items become immediately released to the system.

Recommendation

WebCenter workflow should be used only for simple review/approval processes on content items in WebCenter Content. If anything more needs to be done, it requires Idoc Script and/or updates to entry/exit portions of a step. Managing Idoc Script code within the workflow is difficult and does not allow any type of code source control. Thus, if your workflow contains more than a standard review/approval, it may be easier to use a dedicated workflow tool such as Oracle BPM/PCS.

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