Wave downtime impact

With yesterdays outage of Gmail for two hours, the discussion about when to use SaaS or host application can erupted again. Should you run others SaaS or is it better to run the applications in your own datacenter. This is also interested for Google Wave, since most users probably will use Googles hosted version.

I will not start guessing if the internal IT organization is better at running their hosted Wave server or if Google is better at running their complex Wave servers. At least Google has the resources to get the system back up running fast. It would require a large IT organization to get systems back online in just 2 hours.

The outage gave information on how depended we are on Gmail or mails. When (if) we convert to Google Wave this dependency will get even bigger, because more communication will go that way.

As a person I can live without email, Twitter or Wave for minimum 6 hours. For communications part it can probably be down longer, but it is more the data I have stored that I need. I have hotel reservations, which would be quite frustrated not to have when I need to find the hotel that, I booked. It will be inconvenient not to have access to some data when I need it, but it can probably be managed.

For organizations downtime is more costly because employees cannot work, or have to perform other work than processing emails. There is of cause difference in how dependant each user is of mails, some just checks mails few times a day while others work with the mail constantly. Some of the work can be perform using snail mail or just save the mails in text file, which could be create to mails later. All the processing towards the ERP systems can be performed as they always have, so there is no need to retrain people.

If Google Wave is down, when organizations start depending on the service, the work is stopped again. Wave currently does not have an offline version, and it will be strange to have offline waves. So the works will have to reply or communicate using email instead.

With mail people has to enter data into their ERP system manually. With Wave it is possible to let the wave interact with the wave directly. This means that employees cannot process the orders offline, after they start to use Wave.

If Google Wave’s is down, and then organizations how host their own Wave server, they can still work. The problem would be that there will not be any communication outside the organization, this might not be possible because of Googles users how cannot interact with the waves anymore.

The whole problem is the more dependants we are on a technology the more vulnerable we get for failures. I don’t believe that many organizations can do a lot of work when their ERP system is down, we might see the same for Wave systems.

Workflow applications in Google Wave

One interesting aspect of Google Wave is the way that users can make semi structured workflows. In the workflows everyone can interact with each other in a simple flow manner. The workflow can be created just by adding other people to the conversation, and ask them questions or guide the process. This type of workflow can

But for some workflow instances you want to have the user to follow certain guidelines. You want another person for approve or sign the document, so what there is an agreement for the document. Something like this can also be performed by using voting Gadget. With the help of robots is it possible to make the workflow more structured. I have created a sample workflow application. The application emulates a bank loan submission form.

The process is as following:

  • The customer creates a Wave and writes a reason for getting the loan.
  • Then he adds the Bank robot. He thereby gets a form to fill in some fields, in a structured manner.
  • He submits the form. The robot sends the form to a bank employee. In this case the users “test” user for approval. The customer can’t approve the form, because of access limitations.
  • When the bank employee approves the application, the form data can be sent to the backend system.

This workflow is showed in the following video.

This is a proff of concept solution and demonstrates that it is possible to build workflows in Wave.

Using wave for frontend for a workflow engine, will allow the users to interact more with each other. It will give the participants a much better idea of the whole conversation and change the content in the mean time. I believe that this semi structured way for handling workflows is the easiest way to handle many of the tasks in today’s organizations. You don’t have to follow the rules completely, but can work the most natural way.

One problem with Wave workflows is that you don’t know which workflows you need to take action on. You just have a list of all the Waves, which has changed since you where on the page last time. This could maybe be solved using tags, which each user could search for.

For some workflows you need very strict or concrete results, like invoice approval. When you need to approve an invoice you need to assign the right cost elements to the different lines, get approval from manager and pay the vendor. This might be an area where the information given is too much structured data, so it is better to handle this in the ERP system.

Google Wave and HR

Wave is really interesting especially on how it can be used in organizations. One way is in the HR processes. Some parts of HR is ordering a lot of unstructured conversations. They could be hiring processes or performance reviews. The other part of HR is hard facts like name, addressee, organizational position and salary. The hard facts need to be kept in a ERP or HR system because they are needed to create payrolls or reports.

The first part of HR, which deals with a lot of unstructured data, is a prime candidate for using Google Wave space. People involved can collaborate easy with each other and see changes. Also it is possible to have private conversations in the Wave, this allows to participates to discuss the other persons involvement. I could imagine this will be helpful in a hiring process, where applicant is part of one wavelet, while people involved in the hiring also is a part of the other.
Continue reading Google Wave and HR