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Sandy Kemsley

TUCON: BPM Evolution and Roadmap

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At this point, it makes more sense to start labelling the posts by session title rather than presenter, since we're getting into some pretty detailed breakout topics. This one was presented by Roger King, Director of BPM Product Strategy & Management at TIBCO, and Justin Brunt, product manager for iProcess.

Most of the technical people working TIBCO's BPM group seem to be vestiges of the Staffware acquisition; many of them are still based in the UK, where the development is still done.

They started out with a review of what's happened in the products in the past 12 months:

  • Business Studio 1.x, a standalone modelling and simulation product aimed at business analysts; the free downloadable version released in November already has more than 10,000 downloads. Modelling is done in BPMN, and XPDL is supported for import and export -- necessary for even getting the models into the iProcess Suite for execution, since there is no shared model with the process execution environment. It also supports imports from Visio and ARIS. There's some more advanced features as well: a hierarchical organization of business processes and associated assets; and process simulation with SLA indicators and reports.
  • iProcess Suite 10.5, with improved work queue performance and scalability to support more concurrent users, better performance for sorting and filtering (always slow with most BPM products) and faster startup time. It also included an enhanced web client based on General Interface, with GI or custom forms support and a number of other new functions.
  • iProcess Insight 2.0, the BAM product, which I reviewed in a post yesterday.

What's coming in the near future:

  • Business Studio 2.0, with support for the full BPMN 1.0 specification and XPDL 2.0. I keep meaning to download Business Studio and do some comparative analysis with some of the other downloadable modelling products, but I may wait until version 2.0. I wrote about a few of the new features from Tim Stephenson talk yesterday, but here's a recap. In the process analyst perspective: design patterns/fragments to speed design, refactoring, concept modelling with UML support, import/export of EPC/FAD from ARIS, and custom XSLT translations to XPDL. In the process architect perspective: service registry, native services such as email and database connectors, direct server deployment and version control
  • iProcess Suite core component support for some new platforms, including 64-bit Windows Server and Red Hat Linux; direct deployment from Studio to Engine (although it's not clear if this is via a shared model or just automates the import/export process); and new audit trail entries. They've also simplified installation.
  • Web services capability, with support for WS security at the transport and SOAP layer, and support for withdraw actions and delayed release.

They went on to discuss a number of key themes in product development for this year and beyond.

They're gradually migrating to a single modelling/design environment -- Business Studio -- although they're still not quite there yet; this will provide a more consistent experience for both business and IT users of the design tools. This supports the move to full model-driven development by allowing for the easy integration of forms design into the Eclipse-based environment, which can in turn generate GI, JSP or other runtime forms for the updated iProcess web client. Business rules definition will be in the Eclipse-based design environment, although it's not clear if they're using a third-party BRE or have their own rules technology. The old modelling environment, Business Modeler, isn't going away any time soon, but new feature development will focus on Business Studio so will encourage migration. Like most vendors using this tactic to get existing customers off an old product, I expect that they'll hear grumbling about this for years.

The out-of-the-box web client will be simplified and made to look more like the familiar Outlook client, with improved performance. The UI will also be exposed as components and services to allow them to be included in custom applications or portals, and they'll ship an out-of-the-box BPM portal using TIBCO's portal platform to show how this can be used. There will be better MS-Office integration and an Eclipse-based desktop application.

They're also going to provide a project collaboration portal for BPM projects, to allow people developing TIBCO BPM applications to collaborate. They're also adding in some governance capabilities to help handle the lifecycle of BPM projects and assets.

King mentioned my presentation from yesterday directly, and commented that they're going to be supporting more of the BPA tools for import soon, including Proforma. They've obviously identified that it's important to be extremely open from both a standards and BPA support standpoint.

Next on the list is goal-driven BPM, or virtual processes, where there may be too many process alternatives to model explicitly and the optimal runtime process has to be generated based on process parameters and environmental factors. This sounds like fuzzy future stuff, but would be great if they can pull it off.

They're also developing workforce management and more complex resource modelling for the purposes of business optimization.

There was a brief point at the end about preparing for the next generation of SOA, although no time to talk about what this means; I would have loved if this session had been a bit longer.

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