Sunday night, I had dinner with Doug Reynolds from Ovations (caution: website misbehaves on Firefox), who make a .Net BPM framework that sits on top of FileNet, K2 and other BPM products. I’ve known Doug since the late 1990’s, when I owned a small SI firm and he worked at Meta Software, then through 2000-1 when I worked at FileNet and he was one of the founders of the Meta spin-off Cape Visions (now just a shell company since the technology was sold to FileNet to become the core of their Process Analyzer product). After that, we lost touch — my last memory being of drinking tequila together in a bar in Huntington Beach — until last November when we reconnected at FileNet’s user conference. He’s now the President of Ovations’ US operation (Ovations is headquartered in South Africa), building the North American market for their framework, OvaFlo (the name of which really makes me think about menstrual cycles, but never mind), and associated services.
Doug and a colleague showed up in Toronto this weekend, and we spent a good few hours in one of my favourite Ethiopian restaurants talking about Ovations’ framework, competing frameworks, hockey, BPM products, the fact that they showed up in -10C weather with no gloves, and the need for a general unified theory of BPM. Okay, I made the last one up, but we did wax a bit philosophical at times.
There’s still a need for some sort of framework in many of my customers’ implementations, especially around case management activities and, to a lesser extent, work assignment, but many of the ones that I’ve seen in the past tend to reinvent some or all of the BPM functionality within the framework, thereby cutting you off from the specific functions — and advantages — of the underlying product. Personally, I’d never recommend using a framework that completely hid the underlying product; although it might be an advantage to the framework vendor to support multiple vendors’ BPM products completely under the covers, for the customer it usually means that the framework provides only the least common denominator of functionality and contains a whole lot of other crap to not only make it vendor-independent but have it appear identical regardless of the underlying product.
The result of all this is that Doug will be giving me a remote demo sometime soon so that I can check out the framework for myself. More to come on this one.