Saturday Jun 08, 2013

Book Review: Instant Oracle BPM for Financial Services How-to

Just recently, Packt Publishing released "Instant Oracle BPM for Financial Services How-to" (http://www.packtpub.com/oracle-business-process-management-financial-services/book)  by B. M. Madhusudhan Rao (a.k.a James Smith  - http://jamessmith73.wordpress.com/ - for those familiar with the SOA blog-sphere.

The book follows the layout of the cookbook series the sample publisher runs, is cheap as it only costs 3.39 Euro for 62 pages it covers, which appears to be a fair price.

The publisher itself sets the expectation towards this book as

  • Learn something new in an Instant! A short, fast, focused guide delivering immediate results
  • Simplifies complex business problems for financial services
  • Optimize, enhance, and modify your business processes
  • Includes enterprise architecture best practices
  • Highlights various roles of Business Process Management

The same website then says that:

"Oracle Business Process Management helps in process automation and improvement with a very high level of flexibility for all the process participants from the process planning team to the end users. It also makes it possible to have corporate employees and customers collaborating towards common goals.

Instant Oracle BPM for Financial Services How-to covers many concepts that can be easily reused across industries such as core banking, healthcare, travel, self service automation, e-governance, and so on. It highlights various roles of Business Process Management such as Business Process Modeling, Process Developer, Process Owner, and Process Participant along with the way they work together in a financial services environment.

Instant Oracle BPM for Financial Services How-to is your guide to implementing Oracle Business Process Management whilst working in the Financial Services industry.Starting through the discovering of implementation and Business challenges for financial services we will move on to Modeling, Implementation, Process ork-flow’s, deployment and testing.

Moving on to cover advanced topics such as Process administering, changing business processes using process analysts, business reporting, participants and notifications and finally collaboration. You will learn to setup, maintain and alter your Business Process Management aimed specifically for the Financial services industry."

and then ....

 "Filled with practical, step-by-step instructions and clear explanations for the most important and useful tasks. This book is a practical Packt How-to guide that is designed to provide targeted information for experienced BPM professionals in the financial sector."

Why am I quoting all of these? Because I think that the text on the publisher website describes a book different from the one I reviewed and in fact the real book falls shorter. Still I think its a good book that you certainly learn from. It however is no book for newbie developers.

To give you a background to what I expects a book to deliver, lets talk about my own goals when writing articles, samples or my book. In all of my writings I aim for a specific type of users and skill set. For this group then I try to be as comprehensive as possible to share my experience. Since you cannot start by Adam & Eve in all articles, samples or books, you have to make assumptions at some point. In such cases I usually point to references, which could be articles, blogs, documents and books written by Oracle or 3rd parties so the reader gets all the information he or she needs to get the best out of my writing. I think I demand a great deal of my own writing and do the same for 3rd party and Oracle documentation, articles and books I review.

So what to say about this book: This book surely is a good bargain looking at the minimal cost it comes for and the quality of content you get. Technically I feel the book is correct and flawless, written on a good level of knowledge. In Amazon parlance I would rate it 4 for the content and then reduce it by 1 star (to 3) for the delivery which in some areas is too bumpy for my taste.

My detailed comments on this book: This book is designed to be a how-to for SOA developers in financial services, though the book preface states:

"The book is for Java/SOA/BPM Developers and Architects, and is also for people working in financial services in various roles such as Process Administrator/Developer/Business Process Owner or Process Participant."

This in my opinion is a elegant way of saying that I don't know for what audience this book really is. Java developers by definitions have no in depth product specific SOA / BPM knowledge, as otherwise they would be SOA developers. Administrators are no developers and as such are completely overwhelmed with the technical hands-on steps in this mini-book

The how-to itself is not very detailed and here-and-there makes assumption about the readers knowledge, which at least means that readers following the hands-on steps must have some previous experience with Oracle JDeveloper and Oracle BPM. You should also be familiar with installing the Oracle SOA Suite and WebCenter software because this part is in wide parts assumed by the author. To quick start the hands-on, the author provides sample project sources.

I only wished the author provided a URL for downloading the sources, which are available on his blog (so go and ask Google for it) and the Packt Publishing website (still didn't find it there). So here's the download URL that the author provides on his blog: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3et7ye207x2uuhv/BPMforFS-Sourcecode.zip (Note that this is a dropbox reference, which means that the book may be probably longer on the market than this resources. So you want to download it instantly of hope the publisher provides it on his website)

An example for where - as a non BPM expert - I would have liked more explanation is on page 11

"It would also be interesting to know that Oracle has process accelerators—a prebuilt, 'ready to deploy' BPM process that meets industry standards. These process accelerators not only use Oracle BPM, but other Oracle products as well, depending on the business requirements."

I have no idea if this means templates, standard software or starter processes (but if you are from BPM or SOA, you maybe know). An example of which Oracle products use these also would have been helpful. In my opinion, this is not a problem of the author but should have been caught during the review process and I would have flagged this.

The example implemented in this book is a home loan application to give customers a quote based on their income. For this the author introduces a formula EMI = (L*I)* {(1+I)^N / [(1+I)^N]-1}  for which he explains what all the different variables mean and do. This formula needs to be implemented in PL/SQL by you the reader (and no guidance are provided in the book, so make sure you get the sample sources). I don't have a problem with the sources to be available as a download, however, personally I like books to provide this information so I can follow reading even in a disconnected environment (my personal taste though).

An example for where the instructions come with unnecessary gap is on page 19

14. Select the Database Adapter service that we have created in the service list.
15. Now click on Data Associations and ensure that the necessary input and outputparameters are passed.
16. Save the process and deploy on SOA Suite.
17. Generate a web service-based Application Development Framework (ADF) data
control by using the deployed WSDL URL, and drag-and-drop it on the JSPX page.

Note the gap between step 16 and 17. No mentioning about how to create a WS data control, just a mentioning of that you have to do it. Google is your friend and you will find an ADF tutorial in case you are not familiar with ADF. Here I would have liked to see more guidance in form of references to tutorials or documents that provide this information (sorry B. M. Madhusudhan Rao, I had to mention this)

All in all this book is good for readers that know the Oracle software involved and that like challenging how-to instructions that don't aim for pushing the mouse for you but outline what you should do (Interestingly I myself found the instructions towards the end of the book more detailed than in the beginning). Its the first book from the Packt Publishing "Instant" series I reviewed and I see room for improvement, which either is to reduce the scope of such a tutorial or increase the page budget to the benefit of more explanations that in the end would have helped me to pick on the authors expertise.

 As mentioned earlier, this book is a bargain compared to its cost. If you are familiar with Oracle BPM and JDeveloper then you may enjoy the challenge to test your skills, understanding and what you don't yet know

Frank


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