Integration World Day 1: BPMS 7.1

Pete Carlson (Product Development) and Matt Green (Product Marketing) gave some of the high points of the new 7.1 release of webMethods BPMS. Their first question to the audience was to determine who is already involved in a BPM project in their organization: almost no hands went up. As it turns out, most people are here to learn about BPM and what webMethods has to offer. Given that the audience at the conference is mostly IT and mostly work with the webMethods ESB product, this isn’t all that surprising; BPM is a relatively new concept to most of them even if they’ve been involved in the integration-centric end of the BPM spectrum. I think that the biggest challenge for the Software AG webMethods group is, in fact, to gain greater visibility in the business areas of customer organizations, which is where many of the other BPMS vendors already have much more visibility.

A few points about the product:

  • Eclipse-based modelling tool with multiple perspectives for business analysts and developers to share a common model.
  • There’s a process debugger built into the modelling environment, which allows you to step through a process to see how the variables change as the process flows
  • Simulation is new for their BPMS, so they’re pretty excited about this and it’s a big focus at this show
  • BAM is also highlighted as a major part of their suite, and has separate product sessions here at the conference. They do some interesting things using prediction models that I saw briefly in a demo last night, and do automatic baseline metric creation based on running processes.
  • Business calendar, so that you can schedule something for 3 business days versus 3 calendar days (this is definitely behind the BPM curve as a new feature)
  • Integration of Cognos for business intelligence to be able to drill down into data that you might see in a dashboard environment; this will be fully embedded within the webMethods product suite in next year’s version
  • Integration of Blaze Advisor for business rules management, although the rules management user interface won’t be fully integrated into the webMethods environment until next year
  • A new UI design environment that allows for codeless generation of portals and form-type interfaces.

Carlson gave a live demo, showing how they can call services from their ESB, services outside their ESB, business rules and human steps all in the course of a process. Interestingly, one thing that he showed was an executing process instance, including the information that it was in the state "Queued" — does this imply that an instance can only have one state at one time, hence can’t execute parallel paths? Or does that say something about the small number of states that can exist?

He showed their simulation, which has the requisite animated dials to show where work is piling up in the system; although you can take a snapshot of the conditions and the results of any particular simulation scenario in order to manually derive improvements, there’s no tools to suggest ways to improve processes, such as I’ve seen in some other products. Instead, it’s a matter of tweaking the parameters and watching the effect on the simulation, or exporting the results to Excel to perform some other analysis on them.

He showed how individual tasks in a process map are edited using the new version, which is a view that allows you to modify the roles, data values, events KPIs and user interfaces at this point in the process. In particular, the event capabilities seemed pretty powerful, although I’m not sure if it supports the full BPMN set, and it’s certainly not represented in the process map as BPMN events.

The presentation finished up with a very quick look at the design time and runtime architectures, then (for the 3rd time today) a look at Forrester’s two waves that show them as the top vendor in integration-centric BPMS as of Q406, and in the leader category (barely) in human-centric BPMS as of Q307. They’re obviously pretty pleased with being a leader in both categories, although they’re pretty neck-in-neck with TIBCO, with BEA and IBM trailing a bit behind but still having a strong showing in both waves.

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