Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Business Process Management- Quick look at three more products

Business Process Management ,the subject or concept which is gripping every major enterprise applications deployment now-a-days coupled with SOA/Web Services, has been part of my pedigree since more than a year now and the more I tend to learn about it, the more I feel like a naive,its such a vast concept . Many people have asked me how do you define a "Business Process Management"? and I tend to come up with different answers (not my fault...because each of the BPM solution providers have their own definition and meaning to it.

First thing first, as part of BPM initiatives so far I have been exposed to different products like Jboss JBPM(I still feel this is the best one,as far as IDE based BPM tools go,next best Intalio) , Albpm , Savvion & Intalio.

Currently Iam working on an enterprise application using ALBPM(Aqualogic BPM) from BEA as the BPM product and good thing is adopted by many leading companies and the thing which sometimes worries me about it is very little documentation and support from BEA(thats my perception) and coming from IDE background primarily for most of the development ,I feel it is behind Jboss Jbpm or Intalio because these products does support IDEs like Eclipse,which definitely makes my life easy as a Developer,Well BEA may argue with me that ALBPM Studio 6.0 has development environment similar to Eclipse or rather built on Eclipse IDE,but then Iam using ALBPM Studio 5.7 right now which doesnt come with full IDE support ...But I must say among commercial solutions this fits the bill...

And over the year,one thing which has worried me as a BPM Developer is how best I can make the Business Analysts or the business folks,understand the business processes which I have developed better,because in hindsight we expect them to be not technical savvy to really understand the workflow pattern being used nor how it has been developed since their major priority is how best this workflow/application fits their business needs .....For Example,l to overcome this situation,in one of my assignments while using Jboss Jbpm,I had to develop an EXE file or installer (something like Java Web Start)for BA and Testers,which simulates the workflow processes being developed without them having to worry about seeing it in action in a IDE ..And then as part of my curiosity and research,I realized there are different BPM solutions/products out there in IT industry that are so easy to understand ,that even non-technical folks can understand.And with this article Iam going to introduce such BPM products because most of them are browser based and not IDE based ...

Today we will be looking at 3 different BPM products that have been adopted by noted companies and how best they are serving the needs for workflow management and development.I will be giving an overview about each one of them,their features and benefits
I) Appian : Accidently I came across this product and it is definitely worth trying in any business process management effort. And when I see its customers list who have adopted Appian-Enterprise-based business process management (BPM) solution for their IT department it definitely must have some reason to it.Then I realized the advantages/benefits it brings to the table.From its legacy in the portal/knowledge-management (KM) space, Appian has built its functionality into a full blown BPM suite. In turn, it's built on a Java base following the Unified Modeling Language (UML) and the XML Process Definition Language (xPDL). (These are solid standards all, and which seem to be doing what standards should do without the interference of the European Union and Document Freedom Day groupies--. From an open source perspective, Appian comes with JBoss out of the box but of course works with WebSphere and WebLogic. It makes use of Lucene search engine as well. Not open source but Appian’s doing some real interesting stuff with KX Systems Kdb.

But the good news is that users don’t have to worry about all that technology stuff . Appian’s Form and Rules Designers and other real-user-facing components all work vis a straight Web interface (no need for Flash, plug-ins, etc.). That’s important for security requirements, which is key to many of Appian's government customers. But it is also good for ease of use for any customer. More important are the ease of Appian BPM implementation templates developed over the 10 years since it was founded. Examples are available for procurement in federal government, for wealth management with rules for credit scoring, a program with Instill to build a quality management solution for the food/service industry... I think the best place to know about Appian would be seeing its recorded webinars

II) Cordys
Cordys BPMS is a single toolset, built from the ground up to offer comprehensive BPM and SOA capabilities, giving business managers direct control over new and existing processes.And I you see the below listed features,Iam sure everyone will be curios to use and test it for their BPM efforts.And when I see that a utility which I use frequently for my business needs "WebEx", the leading provider of Web communication services has adopted Cordys,I gave it a try.
Features & Benefits :
a)Graphical, browser-based interface
* Accurately draw executable business processes using a Visio-like application
* Bridge the gap between business and IT
* Enable business users to control and quickly change their own processes
* Consolidate and present data from disparate sources as one unified and personalized workspace for higher productivity
b)Intuitive, drag-and-drop business process execution, with virtually no coding
cDistributed, fault-tolerant, and scalable architecture
* Configure nonstop, fault-tolerant runtime environments with no single point of failure on commodity hardware
d)Real-time alerts and notifications
* Accelerate responsiveness to critical events and exceptions
e)Operational intelligence dashboard
* Obtain real-time, enterprise-wide visibility of business process performance and business metrics
f)Historical analysis
* Discover enterprise performance trends for more-informed decision making
g)Composite application framework
* Create Web 2.0 interfaces quickly by visualizing, combining, and manipulating data from disparate sources
h)Composite application developer
* Create needed business services
i)SOA Grid
* Connect incompatible systems together, allowing them to communicate
* Rapidly assemble composite objects based on a variety of previously non-interoperable backends
* Govern and manage Web services, both in design and run time
j)Data manager
* Facilitate template-based reconciliation of differences among disparate data connected to the Cordys platform
k)Secure file transfer
* Provide end-to-end document security, including legal grade non-repudiation and guaranteed integrity of transmitted data

III) Lombardi
Last but not the least is Lombardi.Best place to know about this product is its resource section
Major customer which has adopted Lombardi's Teamworks BPM software is Wells Fargo Financial.

I hope some of the organizations start looking at adopting at either one of these for their BPM implementations,considering how easy they can be understood and used by workflow developers,business folks and Business Analysts.