Maintaining Consistency Across BPM Initiatives’ Content

In a break from the usual lineup of academics and researches, Peter Braun of Bank of America was up next in the collaboration and consistency management workshop to present on maintaining consistency across BPM initiatives’ content. They use IBM’s WebSphere Business Modeler (WBM), Information Framework (IFW, effectively a set of reference models in an enterprise architecture framework) and m1 (the modeling tool on which IFW sits), but have many other tools that have been implemented independently – mostly due to acquisitions – and need to be unified in a consistent environment as part of their latest transformation initiative. He gave some background on model-driven development, business process modeling (what I would consider BPA, although he called it BPMo) and IFW.

Braun comes from the business side, and he has a keen focus on the adoption of collaborative model-driven development: they use an agile approach that greatly reduces the need for written requirements through the involvement of the subject matter experts at all phases of process modeling. I’ve worked at introducing this in several of my financial services clients, and the culture shift is significant, since business analysts (and their managers) find it hard to imagine a project without a 100+ page text-only requirements document containing disconnected lists of desired features and actual requirements. Also, the expectation of ongoing involvement, not just the up-front requirements development that is thrown over the wall to the development, then forgotten until delivery.

They also have to deal with model governance to keep the WBM and IFW models in sync: each are used for different types of models at different points in the modeling lifecycle, and have specific strengths such that they want to continue using both tools. Because there are multiple non-integrated tools, they need to do model management to consider the interactions between model types, and there is a great deal of manual work to be done when a model is exported between the two environments. After the initial export/import, any changes in a model in one environment have to be manually made to match in the other modeling environment. They have issues with version management, since there is no proper repository being used for the models, and the modelers can end up overwriting each other’s efforts in a shared area on a server. They’ve also looked at ILOG, and have further issues with managing consistency between the rules designed in WBM – which map to the process server – and when those rules are rewritten in ILOG in order to externalize them.

Their biggest challenges include consistent adoption by all stakeholders, and what he refers to as tool/data integration, but is mostly about model governance and using “smarter tools”. It’s just not clear to me that their current combination of Visio, WBM and IFW is going to get very much smarter.

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