Friday, 22 August 2008

Business Process Management (BPM) delivered by Software As A Service (SAAS)

In BPM SAAS Is Here - Is It a Storm Cloud For IT? , Wolf Rivkin suggests that the traditional Enterprise IT faces a challenge from a BPM-centric architecture of clouds. As with all future-state architectural views the model (link included here because it is difficult to find in original article) is tantalisingly simple and well ordered especially when compared with the rats-nest of current state architecture that we are all familiar with. A picture is painted of business-oriented services (CRM and the like); Data-centric services (Master Data, Warehouse etc) and BPM being utilised from cloud-space rather than neatly locked in the realm of corporate IT. Agility in business operations is supported by expression of Business Process and Business Rules. There are a few impediments to selling this idea.
  • The rats-nest current state is the start point and cannot be removed with a wave of the wand. Multiple future states will have to interact with variants of the current state architecture. So the future state is in fact more complicated than the current for the foreseeable future.
  • Although all the pieces of the future cloud architecture can be seen today, the interconnection of them is not a mature concept. How for instance is the customer data supporting CRM utilised from an unrelated cloud datastore?
  • Systems that enable the business process should be highly resilient. If a back office accounting system fails or is unavailable the impact on business is minimal but if a BPMS is controlling your business activities, no BPMS = no business. Simple events like Google's GMAIL failure illustrate the potential for stuffing up your business life.
  • Some business services may already exist and be valued in the current enterprise IT. Making an ERP installation operate peer to peer with an external cloud may be seen as a lot of unproductive work by an in-house IT shop.
That said, I would really like to work on solving the issues.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Snapper Privacy

A thoughtful post from Alan Macdougall on the privacy implications associated with the 'low value' Snapper used for transport and other payments in Wellington.
Aside from trusting the bus company (and whoever they want to share it with) with your personal data. You may also end up sharing information with people with really bad reputations as in the recent TradeMe case where transaction data was provided to a prisoner as a result of police action.
Creating a false identity to avoid linking a trail of your movements directly to you is actually against the terms of use of the device
...When you order a Card, you must: provide all required information (and you must ensure that such information is complete and correct)....

Intalio 5.2 Available

Check out the tutorial and get the lastest version of Intalio which irons out some of the kinks.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Business Process Failures (2)

In Business Process Failures, I described my learning experience with failure and compensation in BPMN. The smart people at Intalio are nearly there with BPMN and transformation into BPEL and provided a solution to my problems with Bruce Silver's original example. I started with this view of the business process:
Note the use of a compensation end event and compensation activity associated with Book Hotel.
The compensation end event can be read as "a business failure has occurred within the scope of the enclosing sub-process, go and do any necessary compensating activities for work that has been completed.
The compensation activity associated with book hotel does all that is necessary to undo the booking in the business sense. It is not a roll-back in the IT or database sense.
To get this to work in Intalio (5.2 Beta) we have to make some allowances for the incomplete implementation of compensation but the original is still recognisable.
In this representation (which generates executable BPEL), the failure of the Book Air subprocess is represented by a simple failure end event to be trapped by an intermediate failure event on a containing subprocess. In this case, the error handler for failure is in the outermost subprocess.

The exception flow is directed into a compensation end event and this forces any eligible compensation activities to be executed. If there are other actions that should be done by the error handler, the compensation end event can be placed inside a subprocess. There is currently a restriction that prevents the exception flow from having more than one symbol (task, subprocess, end event).
BPMN allows for the compensation end event to specify a target activity or to apply compensation to all eligible sub-processes. Intalio implements these alternatives.
It is definitely worth thinking about patterns of business process and workflow before letting the business analysts loose with BPMN tools. Using implementable patterns will save time resolving syntax problems in every business process definition.
Intalio is well on the way to a practical implementation of BPMN compensation. It would be an advance if all valid BPMN could be drawn (regardless of the capability of translation into BPEL) and those bits that will not be executable flagged at design stage. At present, there is an unhappy combination of illogical BPEL and correct BPMN not being permitted.