As part of newly announced ‘Smarter Process’ initiative, IBM recast quite a bit of their BPM market positioning at Impact last week. Probably the most problematic part of the IBM BPM technology story has been the relationship between their various BPM products.
Two years ago when IBM merged Websphere Process Server and their newly acquired Lombardi Teamworks product into the IBM BPM product, I think most people expected a similar rationalisation of IBM BPM and Filenet-based Case Manager in near future.
Smarter Process perhaps begins to take us closer to a technology vision which coherently emcompasses both IBM’s BPM story and their case management story. But, really there were three different aspects of this story at the conference and it might be worth considering them separately.
The High-Level View
The marketecture for the first-time explicitly included Process Management, Business Rules and case management as first-class and co-equal capabilities in the Smarter Process portfolio. Here is the slide that was used on the main stage and in almost every BPM session at the conference:
Rules, Process and Case — ODM, BPM and Case Manager — Right across the middle of the slide.
This message was well-received if not well-understood. Here’s Sandy Kemsley’s take on it:
The Case Manager stuff went by pretty quickly, and wasn’t included in my pre-conference briefing last week, but I think that it’s significant that we’re (finally) seeing the FileNet-based Case Manager here at Impact and on the same marketecture chart as BPM and ODM. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the level of integration that they’re going to achieve, and whether the products actually combine.
via Sandy Kemsley
It’s interesting that the Case Manager materials were not included in the pre-conference analyst briefing a week before the main conference. That’s probably indicative of how quickly IBM’s thinking is evolving in this space.
Starting last year at Impact with IBM BPM 8.0 and culminating in this year’s 8.5 release, IBM has been investing making it easier to include documents into your BPM processes.
IBM has included and iteratively improved a CMIS Connector to allow documents to manipulated in a content repository from BPM. With new 8.5 release, this connector will be tested against Filenet, Sharepoint and Alfresco but is likely to work with any repository that supports the CMIS standard. There is also functionality to trigger process activity based on events in the content repository.
The big news in 8.5 is that they have added a local repository that can store documents against process instances. This is not a full-power ECM but cheap and cheerful way to support some documents in your processes. The cool part is that you develop against the local document store using the same CMIS connector that you would use to develop against an external store. You simply need to migrate the documents and change the endpoint in the connector to scale up to a full-power ECM (like Filenet).
For me, this set of functionality starts to tell a story at the feature level about how IBM can start to get IBM BPM and Case Manager working together. Get started with one product and grow up into the other as your need grows.
If the marketecture and low-level features are both starting come together, what about the story in the middle?
Frankly, there is more work to do. While some of the elements are starting to arrive, all the components are not there yet.
But, don’t take my word on it. Here is Bruce Silver’s take:
Case management. Everyone – IBMers included, I think – expected some kind of merging of BPM and case management to be announced. It still didn’t happen; lingering warlord bickering over revenue recognition is the rumor. Unlike last year, none of the BPM analysts had the heart to ask IBM about it publicly. The IBMers seemed just as miserable about it as we were. Grade: Inexcusable
via Bruce Silvers