I Need to Generate PDFs from IBM BPM -- What Are My Options?

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Introduction

At BP3, we often receive questions from customers about generating PDFs based on their IBM BPM process data. While there is no catch-all solution, we can certainly guide you toward the right solution.

What problem are you really trying to solve?

Before we can give you the best option, we need you to ask yourself what you're really trying to accomplish. Are you:

  • Trying to capture process data for audit purposes?
  • Trying to capture process data to be shared with people offline?
  • Trying to generate a consumer document like an invoice or legal document?

Depending on the answers to these questions, several options could be viable.

Solutions

Option 1: Print a coach to PDF

This is the simplest solution, and it works for many situations. If you're just trying to capture your process data and it's already visible on one of your coaches, you can simply use your browser's built-in functionality to turn your coach into a PDF.

For details on styling your PDF, take a look at this article.

If you have a coach where not all of your process data is visible on the page, one option is to use the Details View from the Brazos Dashboards Toolkit to display all of your process data with minimal effort.

Brazos_Dashboards_5.png

Option 2: Generate a PDF based on a template

If you are creating a well-defined document such as an invoice or a legal document, you're best off generating your PDF using a template. There are several third-party solutions out there, including Aspose, PDFKit, and Apache PDFBox.

Regardless of the solution you choose, you will likely want to build a Java Connector in IBM BPM that makes the PDF generation methods available in your process flow.

There are also some cloud-based document generation platforms out there. PDFGeneratorAPI.com allows you to design templates in the cloud and make a REST API call to create and retrieve documents.

Option 3: Generate a PDF dynamically

There are libraries out there, such as iText, which allow you to dynamically generate document content. This is the most flexible option, but it is also the most fraught with issues. Too often, the formatting of these dynamically generated PDFs becomes illegible or incomplete. Nonetheless, some of our customers have successfully implemented solutions using this approach.

Option 4: Don't generate a PDF at all

If you are simply trying to capture process data for auditing or historical records, you probably don't need to capture this data in PDF format at all. This type of data is already collected in both the IBM BPM Process Server Database and the IBM BPM Performance Data Warehouse Database. For some customers, this could be sufficient. Additionally, all of this information can be surfaced in dashboards and exposed to those who need access.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are several approaches that can be used to solve this problem. If you need assistance with any of these approaches, feel free to reach out to our team for more information.

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