AT ORACLE: Interview
Better Tools for Business ProcessesBy Caroline Kvitka
Oracle Unified Business Process Management Suite 11g delivers social BPM capabilities; user-centric, business-friendly tools; and a unified process foundation.
Oracle recently announced its next-generation business process management (BPM) suite, Oracle Unified Business Process Management Suite 11g. Caroline Kvitka, Oracle Magazine senior managing editor, sat down with Hasan Rizvi, senior vice president, Oracle Fusion Middleware and Java development, to get the details. The following is an excerpt from that interview. Download the full podcast at oracle.com/magcasts.
Oracle Magazine: Why do companies need BPM?
Rizvi: Very few organizations today are homogeneous. They are typically organized by functions—customer relationship management, sales, marketing, production, and so on. When you are working within those functional silos, it’s very easy to do what you’re doing, but as soon as you start going across those organizations, things get a little more interesting. Similarly, on the IT side, there are systems that service these functional organizations, but as soon as you start tying these systems together, that’s when things get a little more challenging because of technology issues.
The business processes that power your organization typically run across these different organizations and functional silos. Business process management basically gives you the ability to model, automate, monitor, and optimize some of these processes so that you can achieve better efficiency and business visibility.
Oracle Magazine: What key customer challenges did you address in Oracle Unified Business Process Management Suite 11g?
Rizvi: The challenges we looked at were: How do you make it easy for people to work together in terms of defining and executing the business processes? How do you work across a diverse set of tools and technologies? And how do you integrate your technology environment so you can actually start automating these processes? So the three key elements in Release 11g are the collaboration and social elements that define what we call social BPM, user-centric tools that help business users to more easily interact with processes, and a much more integrated solution that includes a unified process foundation.
Oracle Magazine: Can you touch on some of the social BPM capabilities and their benefits?
Rizvi: There are three things that I want to highlight. First, we provide process spaces, which are workspaces where you can see all the different aspects of the business process and where you can interact with the relevant people who touch that business process. For example, we have a model process space, where all the people who are working on defining a particular model can collaborate.
Second, we support Enterprise 2.0 services, such as blogs, mashups, and presence. All of this is to make it easier for the right sets of people to work together throughout the business process lifecycle.
Third, we support unstructured processes, so that if there is a human workflow aspect to the business process, you can reconfigure the process when you need an exception.
Oracle Magazine: How does Oracle Unified Business Process Management Suite 11g address the needs of business users?
Rizvi: Fundamentally, for BPM to work, the line-of-business users need to work with IT. In a typical business process lifecycle, there are business users who manage the actual business processes, enterprise architects who define the business architecture, process modelers and business analysts who model the business process, and developers in the IT department who integrate the various applications. BPM tools need to be used by all these different constituents. In Release 11g, we’ve made the tools more user-centric in design and business-user friendly so that line-of-business users such as financial analysts or HR representatives can easily interact with the system.
The BPM Studio feature is our main user interface for process modeling experts, offering a rich visual designer. It includes BPMN [business process modeling notation] 2.0-based process modeling, simulation, a business rules editor, and a visual forms designer. It also enables creation of a service catalog and process templates that can be further customized and configured by business users, using our new Web-based modeling interface called Process Composer.It provides a Web-based process editing and configuration interface for the business user, with support for editing business rules as well. It can be deployed on the cloud as a service and allows a much more business-friendly way of interacting with the BPM system.
But underneath, the different tools are interacting with the same set of servers, process models, and catalogs. Other vendors have provided solutions that are “tailor-made” for different user types, but they are completely independent tools with trade-offs involved for each, so you have to do a lot of work communicating the information between the different users’ systems. With Oracle Unified Business Process Management Suite 11g, we use the same back-end technology but we’ve provided different views for users to interface with it in a fashion that makes sense for their roles.
Oracle Magazine: How does Release 11g support the idea of a unified technology solution?
Rizvi: First, we’ve brought together two of the most prevalent and popular standards in this area: BPEL, an orchestration standard that we’ve supported for many years, and BPMN 2.0, a standard that provides a business-friendly modeling and process execution environment. We provide native support for both of these standards because there are use cases where one is more appropriate than the other. A single framework allows you to develop your business process in either of these two models. You can even mix and match. Being able to leverage those two capabilities makes development more efficient because the two standards are now available in a single unified platform.
We also have a unified service model that’s based on the Oracle Fusion Middleware SOA platform, which provides the common business rules. And we’ve leveraged Oracle Fusion Middleware analytics capabilities, providing business activity monitoring, complex event processing, and BPM process analytics as part of the analytics capabilities enabled by the underlying SOA platform. These, in turn, support the sophisticated security and identity management infrastructure in the underlying Oracle Fusion Middleware platform. So we have integration across these three areas [standards, unified service model, and analytics], which allows you to model and reuse components in a way that is common to the platform.
Caroline Kvitka is senior managing editor of Oracle Magazine and Profit.