TUCON: The Face of BPM

Thursday morning, and it seems like a few of us survived last night’s baseball game (and the after-parties) to make it here for the first session of the day. This will be my last session of the conference, since I have a noon flight in order to get back to Toronto tonight.

Tim Stephenson and Mark Elder from TIBCO talked about Business Studio, carrying on from Tim’s somewhat shortened bit on Business Studio on Tuesday when I took up too much of our joint presentation time. The vision for the new release coming this quarter is that one tool can be used by business analysts, graphical tools developers and operational administrators by allowing for different perspectives, or personas. There’s 9 key functions from business process analysis and modelling to WYSIWYG forms design to service implementation.

The idea of the personas within the product are similar to what I’ve seen in the modelling tool of other BPMS vendors: each has a different set of functions available and has some different views onto the process being modelled. Tim gave some great insight into how they considered the motivations and requirements of each of the types of people that might use the product in order to develop the personas, and showed how they mapped out the user experience flow with the personas overlaid to show the interfaces and overlaps in functionality. This shows very clearly the overlap between the business analyst and developer functionality, which is intentional: who does what in the overlap depends on the skills of the particular people involved.

As we heard in prior sessions, Business Studio provides process modelling using BPMN, plus concept modelling (business domain data modelling) using UML to complement the process model. There’s a strong focus on how BPM can consume web services and BusinessWorks services, because much of the audience is likely developers who use TIBCO’s other products like BusinessWorks to create service wrappers around legacy applications. At one point between sessions yesterday, I had an attendee approach me and thank me for the point that I made in my presentation on Tuesday about how BPM is the killer app for SOA (a point that I stole outright from Ismael Ghalimi — thanks, Ismael!), because it helped him to understand how BPM creates the ROI for SOA: without a consumer of services, the services themselves are difficult to justify.

We saw a (canned) demo of how to create a simple process flow that called a number of services that included a human-facing step, a database call to a stored procedure, a web service call based on introspecting the WSDL and performing some data mapping/transformation, a script task that uses JavaScript to perform some parameter manipulation, and an email task that allows the runtime process instance parameters to be mapped to the email fields. Then, the process definition is exported to XPDL, and imported into the iProcess Modeler in order to get it into the repository that’s shared with the execution engine. Once that’s done, the process is executable: it can be started using the standard interface (which is built in General Interface), and the human-facing steps have a basic form UI auto-generated.

It is possible to generate an HTML document that describes a process definition, including a graphical view of the process map and tabular representations of the process description.

As I mentioned in other posts, and in many posts that I’ve made about BPA tools, is that there’s no shared model between the process modeller, which is a serious issue for process agility and round-tripping unless you do absolutely nothing to the process in the iProcess Modeler except to use it as a portal to the execution repository. TIBCO has brought a lot (although not all) of the functionality of the Modeler into Studio, and are working towards a shared model between analysts and developers; they believe that they can remove the need for Modeler altogether over time. There’s no support at this time, however, to being able to deploy directly from Studio, that is, Studio won’t plug directly into the execution engine environment. Other vendors who have gone the route of a downloadable disconnected process modeller or a separate process discovery tool are dealing with the same issue; ultimately, they all need to make this new generation of modelling tools have the capability to be as integrated with the execution environment as those that they’re replacing in order to eliminate the requirement for round-tripping.

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