I tested BEA’s WLI by implementing two typical business process flows. The first (ordering physical items) and the second (ordering credit reporting information) are commonplace in the manufacturing and financial sectors, respectively.
WLI’s visual development metaphor is a radical departure for programmers, and it did take me a bit of time to get up to speed on graphically defining workflows by dragging and dropping controls onto the design pane. But, once the paradigm is understood, the process of defining inputs, conditions, data mapping, and workflow outputs is very straightforward.
In particular, I found that WLI made it easy to define multiple workflow inputs and outputs. Particularly impressive is WLI’s data transformation mapper tool, which facilitated mapping related but slightly dissimilar data sets (XML, non-XML, and Java primitives) in a graphical manner. For example, in my credit reporting application, each of my test reporting agencies had slightly different data elements. I used the transformation mapper to integrate the data elements from each entity to the output that I needed to provide to the customer.
Source code editing, debugging, and testing all proved easy tasks within the WLI environment. In particular, developers can use the built-in test harness creation function to incrementally test complex workflows. For BEA shops with enterprise integration needs, WLI is well worth investigating.