BPM Futures

BPM with IBM Websphere

I attended an IBM ‘Business Agility’ workshop at Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel yesterday – the first IBM event to feature BPM that I’ve managed to get to since the Lombardi purchase. It was a Websphere event, which meant that it included Lombardi and excluded FileNet, so I was a little concerned that the BPM section might be dominated by talk of process orchestration and middleware layers, rather than end-to-end processes.

I needn’t have worried. The Websphere team has embraced IBM Lombardi (as we must now know Teamworks) with great enthusiasm, and started a day of real (yes, live) demonstrations with several that showed off Lombardi to good effect. Point and click SLA setup; process stats (such as wait or execution times) displayed through a mouse-over in the unified process model-define-simulate view; colourful monitoring views populated with whatever defined field you required – just click that checkbox on the field definition dialogue; and so on.

There were also Websphere Dynamic Process Edition (Process Server, as was) demos. The emphasis there was on architecture, integration and transactional integrity. The latter featured a high-wire demo, with 100 updates to two databases on separate servers, interrupted by the speaker who pulled out the connecting cable to the second (Oracle, as it happened) with a flourish. 56 updates had been processed successfully and, to the relief of all, the other 44 were in a ‘failed’ queue, from which they were dispatched – to a successful completion – by a single click on the ‘resume’ button once the cable was re-connected. We were told that the product was unique amongst BPMS’s in fully supporting two-phase commits, with resume, restart and ‘compensate’ options for system administrators.

All of which provided – to this viewer – a pretty clear, if unspoken, message. For the human side of BPM (the typical financial services back office, perhaps), Lombardi is IBM’s answer, packed with business-friendly features. Alternatively, if the business depends on multiple integration points that require sophisticated sequencing, error handling and recovery options – bullet proof delivery, in other words, WDPE does the job (telco provisioning comes to mind). And for the business that needs both, well, integration between the two is currently available through web services, with work under way to convert Lombardi to IBM’s Service Component Architecture, the basis of the Websphere product range.

One other demonstrated feature of WDPE that I liked, by the way, is the easy way in which routing rules can be changed without re-deploying (or even opening for editing) the process itself. This seems like an obvious feature, but by no means all BPMS’s share it. Isolating the change eliminates the need for system and regression testing and even (depending upon the process design and one’s perception of risk) UAT. Now there’s something that offers Business Agility.