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Are BPMS and BRMS complementary or not?

In his blog posting on BPM 2.0 Ismael Ghalimi gives a number of characteristics of a 2.0 BPMS. While there is much here with which I agree, he also said:

Rule Engine Included
Up until now, BPM solutions would fall into two camps: you either had a glorified rule engine presented as a generic BPM solution, or you had a generic BPM solution that failed to support the execution of complex business rules natively. As a result, most customers who deployed a BPM solution of the later kind had to look for a rule engine from a third-party vendor, even though they did not really need a full-fledged rule engine to being with. BPM 2.0 makes the rule engine a requirement, so that it can be leveraged by the BPM vendor itself in places where it makes sense, such as decision branching, message routing, late-stage service binding, or contextual user interfaces.

Here I can't tell if I agree with Ismael or not. He could mean that it is no longer OK for the BPM vendors to have nothing in the way of a rules engine - they must either build something comparable or, more likely, OEM something from one of the business rules leaders. If this is what he means then I agree - hence our recent OEM arrangement with webMethods, for example.

However, what if he means that a BPM 2.0 product would obviate the need for a rules engine outside the BPM product? Well then I have to disagree with them - I do not consider automation of business decision-making (the core value proposition of a BRMS) to be just part of BPM, event BPM 2.0. Why is this?

Well at a pretty basic level I think BPMS and BRMS are fundamentally different:

  • BPMS is about "How should it be carried out?"
    • Standardize processes
    • Facilitate collaboration and compliance
    • Workflow Definition and Management
    • Process Automation
    • Activity Monitoring and Exception Alerts
    • Process Reports
    • Integration Broker
  • BRMS is about "What should be done?"
    • Standardize operational decisions
    • Facilitate decision automation and maintenance
    • Centralized Business Rules Repository
    • Straight Through Processing
    • Decision Broker

So how do these two different, but related, technologies work? Well I can think of three scenarios where both are relevant:

  • A business process reaches a point where it requires a complex automated business decision to be reached before continuing such as origination, underwriting, fraud detection, precise marketing.
    To do this it calls upon a rule service to examine the applicable data and recommend appropriate actions - recommend products/services to offer, decide who needs to be notified of current status, determine what additional data must be collected. The decision data is used by the BPM process to continue its flow
  • A rule service reaches a point where additional data is needed in the decision process, requiring human intervention.
    It initiates a BPM process to bring the right users into the flow and step them through the required tasks. When the BPM process finishes, it re-initiates the rule service with a saved state and new data
  • The result of a rule or decision process calls for a complex business process to be started
    It calls the appropriate BPM process as the rule action, often while continuing execution of the rest of the decision.

So hopefully I've made it clear why you need both technologies, even when your 2.0 BPMS includes a decent rules engine of its own to improve the management of the process.

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Comments

Ismael Ghalimi

James,

You're absolutely right. BPM 2.0 vendors must include a rule engine into their product, most likely by partnering with one of the leading rule engine vendors. I updated my definition of BPM 2.0 based on your comments.

Best regards
-Ismael

Francois

We are a Micosoft shop and almost all of our servers are running Windows. We evaluated several of the BPMS products on the .NET platform and finally selected the BPMS solution from Selcian Inc. We are doing a proof of concept internally for automating the business processes for our call center operations and a few HR actions.

Can anyone else share their experience with Selcian ? Also I would like to get in touch with people who are using Selcian BPMS. You can contact me at francoismorgan99@yahoo.com

Here is some background information on our selection process.

We looked at Ascentn, Ultimus & Selcian. K2 was not considered due to some prior issues we had with them. One year ago, we started a project with them and it went sour. This is our second attempt at BPMS.

Some of the findings are as follows,
PROCESS DESIGNER: Ascentn's designer is essentially a plug in to Visio. Limited functionality. Ultimus's designer is hard to use and based on a excel metaphor. Selcian's designer is standalone and is developed on .NET platform. Custom steps can be added easily.

BPMS ENGINE: Selcian's BPMS engine has a built in state machine and state management facilities. Its multi-threaded and uses thread pool for resource management. I am suspecting that Ultimus's BPMS engine is single threaded and so tasks can fall behind if many are queued at the same time. Ascentn is very code based and does not have BPMS engine concept. This is an area where they are least mature.

USER INTERFACE: Both Ultimus and Selcian support InfoPath forms and custom .NET UIs. Ascentn only supports custom UI which you have to write and integrate directly in their framework.

INTEGRATION : Both Selcian and Ultimus offer excellent integration capabilities. Again this is an area where Ascentn lacks severly. Selcian had an edge over Ultimus due to its tighter integration with MSMQ and native support for pre=built adapters for ERP packages like PeopleSoft, Axapta.

So we have decided to go with the BPMS product from Selcian Inc. Since Selcian is a new entrant in the BPMS space, we have decided to manage the risk and do a small scale Proof of Concep first and then launch the bigger project. I will keep you guys posted.

James Taylor

Francois
Thanks for the comment and the questions. Have you considered how/when/if you might use a business rules technology with your BPMS product? I don't see much on business rules on their website so wondered if you planned to also deploy a .NET rules product. Let me know.
JT

Hans

Francois,

I have readied with the right interest your article about Selcian and some other BPM products.

As we are implementing Ascentn for almost 2 years now, and are following the market from close. I want to take the freedom and give some feedback on some of your statements.

AgilePoint from Ascentn is a BPM product which belongs to a BPM 3rd wave product type. The key goal of AgilePoint is to put the business back in control of their business processes and become less depended from IT.

The process designer from Ascentn, which is based on MS-Visio, allows a Business Process Manager to design its process flows, and deploy them directly to the BPM Engine.
Deployment is done via the deliver of an XML-file (comparable with the BEPL-(not 100%) standard). The XML file is processed by the engine, and is like most other BPM products not a code generator nor threat based product.
All processes are running inside the BPM-engine as events.
By default Ascentn delivers some flow-stencils for integration towards SharePoint, .NET, BizTalk and web services. Via the AgilePoint Developer IT will be able to develop in an SOA approach additional IT-assets and expose them to the Designer environment.
In this way you can narrow the gap between the business and ICT.

Ascentn is capable to handle InfoPath Forms and multiple views out of the box (this is by example not possible in K2), and also custom .NET (Web/Win-Form) based.

By default integration to SharePoint 2003, SharePoint Server 2007 !!, WWF !!, BizTalk, Exchange, CMS, Webservices. Via the open SOA-based model integration to almost any other platform is possible.
Today we have customers where AgilePoint is working in combination with SAP, Oracle AP and Informix !

The most important message I want to make is the reason of using a BPM-tool. It's not about the next software APP, but about empowering the business again. Most of our customers have chosen Ascentn above the K2, Ultimus, Teamplate because the businesses approach versus developer approach.

We have several (international) customers running on Ascentn's AgilePoint, and some of them have solutions which are compliant towards SOX or FDA-regulations.

Let's try to compare BPM products with real BPM products. BPM is NOT the same as WORKFLOW.

Regards,
Hans Hantson
hans.hantson@beacon.be

Tom

The link 'the business rules leaders.' does not work, I would love to see your take on that list.

Thanks

Tom

James Taylor

Sorry about that - fixed the link.
I moved the FAQ to http://edmblog.fairisaac.com/weblog/business_rules_faq/index.html

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