Dave Yockelson from ECM product marketing and Amy Dickson from IBM BPM product management talked about something that I’m sure is on the minds of all FileNet customers who are doing anything with process: how do the (FileNet-based) Case Manager and Content Manager fit together with the WebSphere BPM products?
They started with a description of the IBM BPM portfolio – nothing new here – and how ACM requires an integrated approach that addresses repeatable patterns. Hmmmm, not completely sure I agree with that. Yockelson went through the three Forrester divisions of case management from their report on the ACM space, then went through a bit more detail on IBM Case Manager (ICM) and how it knits together functionality from the entire IBM software portfolio: content, collaboration, workflow, rules, events, integration, and monitoring and analytics. He positioned it as a rapid application development environment for case-based solutions, which is probably a good description. Dickson then went through IBM BPM (the amalgam of Lombardi and WebSphere Process Server that I covered at Impact), which she promised would finish up the “background” part and allow them to move on to the “better together” part.
So, in the aforementioned better together area:
- Extend IBM BPM processes with content, using document and list widgets that can be integrated in a BPM application. This does not include content event processes, e.g., spawning a specific process when a document event such as check-in occurs, so is no different than integrating FileNet content into any BPMS.
- Extend IBM BPM Advanced (i.e., WPS) processes with content through a WebSphere CMIS adapter into the content repository. Ditto re: any BPMS (or other system) that supports CMIS being able to integrate with FileNet content.
- Invoke an IBM BPM Advanced process from an ICM case task. Assuming that this is via a web service call (since WPS allows processes to be exposed as web services), not specifically an IBM-to-IBM integration.
Coming up, we’ll see some additional integration points:
- Invoke an IBM BPM Express/Standard process from an ICM case task. This, interestingly, implies that you can’t expose a BPM Express/Standard process as a web service, or it could have been done without additional integration, doesn’t it? The selection of the process and mapping of case to process variables is built right into the ICM Builder, which is definitely a nice piece of integration to make it relatively seamless to integrate ICM and BPM.
- Provide a federated inbox for ICM and BPM (there was already an integrated inbox for the different types of BPM processes) so that you see all of your tasks in a single list, based on the Business Space Human Tasks widget. When you click on a task in the list, the appropriate widgets are spawned to handle that type of work.
- Interact with ICM cases directly from a BPM process through an integration service that allows cases to be created, retrieved and updated (metadata only, it appears) as part of a BPM process.
This definitely fits IBM’s usual modus operandi of integrating rather than combining products with similar functionality; this has a lot of advantages in terms of reducing the time to releasing something that looks (sort of) like a single product, but has some disadvantages in the underlying software complexity as I discussed in my IBM BPM review from Impact. A question from the audience asked about consolidation of the design environment; as expected, the answer is “yes, over time”, which is similar to the answer I received at Impact about consolidation of the process engines. I expect that we’ll see a unified design environment at some point for ICM and both flavors of BPM by pulling ICM design into the Process Center, but there might still be three engines under the covers for the foreseeable future. Given the multi-product mix that makes up ICM, there will also be separate engines (and likely design environments) for non-process functions such as rules, events and analytics, too; the separate engines are inevitable in that case, but there could definitely be some better integration on the design side.