Meet your Process Concierge

I had a chance last week to chat with Pat Morrissey, SVP of marketing at Savvion, in advance of their announcements today. Before I get to the real content, I have to say that “Process Concierge” is the most adorably marketing-enabled product name that I’ve heard in a long time — I’m still giggling, although I’m easily amused when it comes to silly product names.

Savvion is announcing v7.0 of their BusinessManager BPM suite, in limited release this week with general availability next month. This release is focussed on improving end-to-end collaboration through the process design and execution life cycle, and on increasing reuse.

Driving one of the changes is the realization that not everyone should have (or wants) access to the full process design environment, but that there’s a lot of people in an organization who want to be able to sketch out some ideas for a process without having to learn a complex process modeling tool, and without having to be concerned with issues such as process validation that might prevent a “rough sketch” process from being saved into a process engine’s repository. To meet this need, Savvion has introduced abstract models, which are explicitly flagged as “not executable” at the point of check-in, so a model can be partially created and checked in to the repository without concern for validation. Once someone with more advanced process modeling skills has fixed it up, it can be converted or versioned into an executable process. The goal is that this will help to break down barriers to adoption, and get more people modeling processes. My concern, as you might guess, is that many people in corporate environments don’t have sufficient permissions to even download and install the Savvion process modeler on their desktop, especially those who aren’t technical enough to work out what’s required to make a process model validate on check-in, so unless this is part of a corporate-mandated desktop installation, there’s still a significant barrier there.

Second up on the business-side enhancements is the Process Concierge (okay, I’ll stop laughing at the name now), which adds collaborative activities such as instant messaging at any point in a process to allow a user to get some help at that point without delegating the step or using some other ad hoc method like email to get an answer. The collaboration is all captured, so that there’s a full audit trail, unlike ad hoc methods, and the user never loses control of what they’re working on. I really like this concept, since I’ve implemented a number of transaction processing BPM projects where the user may need a bit of help at a step and wants to just finish the task rather than sending it to someone with more experience, so they end up either calling or walking over to someone who can help them out. Unfortunately, if you don’t capture that ad hoc collaboration in any way, the process statistics would just show a longer-than-usual time to process that step, but wouldn’t indicate the problem that occurred or how it was resolved in order to assist with future improvements to the process, procedures or training. With Process Concierge, someone should be able to dive into the details of the collaboration at those problematic steps and figure out how to make the process better. It will definitely require some cultural change, however, to get people using this rather than calling over the partition to their neighbour.

The third major business enhancement is forensic auditing, which provides a SOX-compliant history of every change made to a process and its data. The Process Concierge ties into this, since there’s now also an auditable history of the collaboration that might occur at a step in the process. This is not unexpected, since I’ve seen the same thing in every other BPM product that I’ve looked at in detail lately, and is definitely a requirement for doing BPM business these days.

On the technical side of the product announcement, the biggest focus is on component reusability. All vendors claim to facilitate reusability, but the actual reuse rates within organizations for any sort of technology are dismally low. There’s a couple of general solutions to that problem: make better repositories, so that developers can find other developers’ components, and make better components so that developers will rely on others’ components rather than recreating everything themselves. In Savvion’s case, they’re improving the repository by allowing anything in the asset repository to be reused, not just process models: services, adapters, forms, whatever. They’re also providing new testing and debugging tools to help improve the quality of what’s offered for reuse within that repository, which should tend to create higher reuse rates.

There’s still a different full studio environment for IT, as opposed to the downloadable standalone application used by business analysts; I’m curious as to how long it will take to merge the two environments, or if they have any plans to do so, since two different environments always creates some communication disconnects between users of the different environments, however small.

2 thoughts on “Meet your Process Concierge

  1. Nice review Sandy… but an interesting comment on “when we will merge the two development environments”. To clarify, back in version 3 of Savvion BusinessManager, we did have one integrated design environment — our customers told us there was a gap, and asked us for a modeler which anyone could use.

    As a result, Savvion, explored the best way to faciliate robust collaboration between business people and technically savvy people. We considered the “change perspectives” button (advocatesd by many IDE centric BPM products); but that approach didn’t meet our customers requirements as it was still to easy for business people to get themselves lost. Since our approach is focused on supporting massive widespread BPM adoption (not just a few process experts) we took our studio and simplified it — creating Savvion Process Modeler.

    The data model between Process Modeler and BPMStudio are shared. You can take a model back and forth between the two designers and based on the “simplified view” you just don’t have an opportunity to “get lost”. There’s no “importing” concept between the designers — they both can share the same business user browseable repository.

    Collaboration between business and IT means meeting people where they are, not forcing them to learn complicated IDE’s. The question isn’t when will we merge the two approaches — but rather when will others in the space realize one size does not fit all?

    -Rob Risany, Product Marketing, Savvion

  2. Rob, thanks for your comment, and I can see the path from a single environment to where you are now, I just don’t necessarily agree with it. First of all, I think that there are ways to build a tool with different “personalities” depending on the user’s skill level, and without diving into an IDE. By reducing the differences between the environments, you foster better communication between business and IT since they deal with exactly the same modeling environment (although IT will likely see many more functions). Also, there are many people who cross over between business and IT functionality (I’m often one of those), and they will find it inconvenient to have to use two tools: one to work with business users, and another to work with IT.

    btw, I assumed that the two environments shared the data models in a common repository without translation based on my review, which is an improvement over what some vendors are doing.

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