I skipped the last breakout session of the day for a discussion with Trevor Naidoo, IDS Scheer’s Director of ARIS Solution Engineering. He’s responsible for the pre-sales technical activities, and used to be an ARIS customer, so is very familiar with how customers use the product and how they want to use it.
We spoke first about integration between ARIS and the BPMS products that automate processes, which included some discussion about standards. He pointed out that integration using pure standards tends to degrade to the least common denominator — a point that I’m not sure that I agree with for all standards, although it makes sense if you picked BPEL as your standard — which led them to take a different approach with their most tightly integrated partners, SAP and Oracle: that of “standards-based” integration, where they extend BPEL (I believe) in order to provide increased functionality. I’m not sure at what point a “standards-based” approach becomes “proprietary”, although I can see the value of going this way. In any case, they’re using different approaches for different vendors: “standards-based” for SAP and Oracle, BPEL for Lombardi, and XPDL for Fujitsu.
This really came around to the issue of how to get those process models into an execution engine, or if anyone is really doing it at all. Naidoo said that what was moving from ARIS to the execution engine was a “process outline”, which then required some amount of work to hook it up to the BPMS engine (as expected), and that the main value is not in the transfer itself — which could be readily recreated in the BPMS designer directly — but in engaging the business in the entire process design cycle. This, then, is what I suspected: that most people really are redrawing the process models in the BPMS designer, adding who knows how many translation errors along the way, because there is insufficient value to bother with the direct integration. This is not unique to ARIS; I saw the same thing at the Proforma user conference last year.
We moved on to talk about the technology. I hadn’t done my homework in this area, and was really unaware of ARIS’ support for browser-based design (yes, I’m on my usual rant about browser-based process modelling); they have a Java applet client for design in a browser environment, which is a pretty heavy footprint by today’s AJAX standards. I’d love to hear more about their plans to put that client on a diet, which will greatly facilitate design collaboration with occasional users, both inside and outside the corporate firewall.
We finished with a discussion of how to move the process modelling story from what is usually a departmental beginning within a company up to the executive level and therefore out across the entire organization: internal evangelism, if you will, to leverage that initial 10-person ARIS project into making ARIS an enterprise-wide process modelling tool. This is addressed to some degree by one of their new “solutions” (which appear to be specific packaging and bundling of products and services), the Enterprise BPM solution which (based on information from their website) includes the ARIS Business Architect, ARIS Business Optimizer, ARIS Business Simulator and ARIS Business Publisher as the basis for implementing a company-wide BPM infrastructure. I still think that there’s a fundamental disconnect in language between the players: the average business analyst or architect is likely too mired in detail to be able to present a high-level plan to the executives of their organization on why to super-size their ARIS installation, but I’m sure that the IDS Scheer sales team would be happy to help out. With Trevor’s able assistance, of course.