Next-Generation BPM: Dynamic and Collaborative

Last Monday, October 12th, at OOW '09, Bhagat and I presented - "Next-Generation Oracle Business Process Platform: Dynamic and Collaborative". The session ID for this was S308348. Following is a brief synopsis of the presentation. You can find the presentation here.

We broke down the presentation by following themes:

Business User Empowerment
What we are finding is that many of our customers are beginning to require business to specify their processes at greater detail and with more precise semantics as well as to capture the metrics that they want to measure, monitor, and analyze.

To facilitate, business getting into the driver seat we have been making significant enhancements:

Business friendly BPMN 2.0 modeling and simulation to enable business analysts to easily and graphically create BPMN 2.0 process models, define the organizational model supporting it including roles and calendars, to create various simulation scenarios and run them, and to define business indicators and metrics.

bpmn-with-simul.png

While business friendliness of these tools is important, equally important is the support for BPMN 2.0 standard. In BPMN 2.0, for the first time we have a standard that not only enables business to model processes with precise semantics but also can be executed without any translations. We have seen that standards facilitate skill development and foster adoption and we strongly believe and our customers agree that BPMN 2.0 will address the issue of what skills business needs to have to get into the BPM driver seat.

Business user empowerment also requires that business be able to author and manage the policies and rules surrounding the process. In this regard, we have significantly enhanced business rules authoring including adding support for Decision Tables, a spreadsheet like metaphor that is easy to visualize and conceptualize and also supports overlap and completeness tests.


The other features in this context are:


  • Zero-code IT development environment, leveraging the SOA composite editor, that enables an IT person to leverage the breadth of Oracle's SOA capabilities and expose them to business analysts in a business friendly catalog

  • Rich forms leveraging ADF that not only provides a visual design environment but also allows composing data from multiple sources including back-end applications, BI, etc. and render them using highly interactive UI and visualization elements. Also, for those who do not want to do any UI work we automatically generate 100% ready to use forms.

  • BPA Suite for enabling business architects and enterprise architects to model the complete business context around the process. In BPA 11gR1, which we shipped in August, we made many enhancements that you can read about here.



Collaborative BPM

With our existing products, our customers have built rich collaborative process portals that enable different stakeholders to collaborate, manage schedules, prioritize, etc. In BPM 11g, we will be taking this to the next level by providing out of the box collaborative process spaces built leveraging Web Center spaces. The three primary use cases are:


  • Modeling space to facilitate collaboration around process discovery, modeling, and optimization

  • Work space enabling end-users to leverage the power of Web 2.0 collaboration capabilities as they work on their BPM processes and tasks

  • Instance specific space, where a collaboration space can be automatically created as part of a process instance with the right community provisioned and documents and discussions scoped to the process instance

Also, we are introducing Guided Business Processes, an innovative metaphor very similar to one used by most Tax preparation software, to help the end user navigate through a process.


Dynamic BPM

Many of our customers are using BPM to run some of their most sophisticated processes, which tend to be very dynamic in nature. We have always had very rich dynamic capabilities, including:


  • Business rules driven process flows

  • Business rules driven dynamic service binding

  • Business rules driven task management including re-routing, delegation, load balancing, etc.


There is a nuanced enhancement we are making, that will be significant to customers who need that level of dynamism. Instead of doing a rule execution at a fixed point in the process and then driving flow based on it, we can now dynamically invoke rules as end users take actions and change the routing based on it.

We are also adding a web based Process Composer that allows business users to customize BPMN 2.0 processes; if the changes are confined to services, rules, tasks available in the business catalog, the customized process is deployment ready. This new feature has been getting great reviews and this concise description does not do it justice - however, plan to blog on this later as a separate topic.

adhoc-changes.png
While the above provides comprehensive support for anticipated changes, many times we need to deal with changes on the fly. For dealing with such unanticipated changes, we have always allowed appropriately privileged person to reassign, delegate, or re-route processes. While this enabled change to the process at the current point of execution, we now are adding more power - an appropriately privileged user can review the currently determined routing (what we sometime call as future approvers) and make changes at any step in the routing.

Intelligent BPM
Some of our customers do what we call "Intelligent BPM" - essentially, insight-driven actions and insightful actions. You can read more about this here.

An enhancement we are doing in this area is to allow business indicators and metrics to be captured along with the process model and for them to drive analytics and BAM dashboards.

Also, while BI provides a rear-view mirror and BAM provides a cock-pit view, we now also have Complex Event Processing that can act as a crystal ball, looking for patterns in events and using them to sense interesting events.

Unified and Comprehensive BPM Platform
A major theme for us is a comprehensive and unified BPM platform. Our customers tell us that the situation they have today, where they have multiple BPM products, and make determinations on the product to use based on the project requirements, is not sustainable. They invariably run into issues as the project's needs evolve and start stretching the parameters of the original assessment. Also, such fragmented and siloed architecture prevents end-to-end process management and monitoring.


end-to-end-tracing.png
One of the big benefits of our emphasis on unification is that we are able to provide same level of performance, scalability, reliability, and manageability across different process scenarios. Particularly interesting is the area of manageability; in this regard, some of the capabilities are:

  • Enterprise Manager Fusion Middleware Control for top down technical monitoring that provides comprehensive view of the topology and engine components

  • End-to-end flow race and instance tracking through the various components a process instance may flow through

  • Unified error hospital which provides for a rich policy based exception handling

  • Unified policy management for managing security and other policies consistently across the stack


While this has been a rather large posting, due to the scope covered, it touches upon a lot of things but does not explain them in detail. Watch out this blog for future postings diving into various aspects touched upon in this post. Again, the presentation described in this blog is here.

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