IBM BPM Review

Process orchestration allows an organization to model and execute its business processes across functions

What is most valuable?

Two things are valuable:

  • The system integration layer is valuable because this enables an organization to create a single point where all the key organizational master data is held in different IT applications across different functions, that can be accessed and updated.
  • Process orchestration allows an organization to model and execute its business processes across functions rather than operating in functional silos; this works hand-in-hand with the system integration layer.

On top of this, the business rule engine and common user interface allow centralization of any of the organizational parameters and a common corporate interface.

How has it helped my organization?

It enabled the development of a new safety critical equipment testing database and the integration of this with the inventory management system and the asset management system. As more systems are integrated, this solution enables a spider web (network) of the business processes so as to develop over time, creating greater levels of efficiency and effectiveness.

What needs improvement?

The product has developed considerably since I have used it. At that time, the use of system integration alongside the business process orchestration was cutting edge. Now, there are many more mature offerings including IBM BPM. I believe that the integration work was more difficult than anticipated at the time. Also, the product was orientated towards using other IBM technologies such as their IBM Db2 database technology; the solution didn’t play well with the Microsoft SQL Server and there was a stand-off between the two vendors blaming each other for performance issues.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have mainly used IBM Blueworks Live (as an analyst) and worked with BPM developers who have used the BPMS solution to implement designs, i.e., for about a year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

There were performance issues with the solution, which were related to the IBM – Microsoft interaction (as described above). The browser-based solution does not work well at facilities that do not have reasonably fast networks. This would not be an issue now as easily available data bandwidth has increased dramatically since then.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The solution was probably overkill for the initial application, so I did not experience any scalability issues.

How are customer service and technical support?

IBM put together a package which included the onsite consultants who were very effective. Apart from the IBM – Microsoft issue, the support was good. I expect that IBM BPM can play with the other server and database technologies much more effectively now.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

This was a new venture into the Business Process Management.

How was the initial setup?

The setup was quite complex because the solution was cutting-edge at that time and IBM invested considerably in the implementation, likely at a loss to themselves.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I don’t have information about the IBM BPM licensing but the process discovery tool, i.e., IBM Blueworks Live has three levels of licenses: Editor, Contributor, and Viewer (there is also a Community Member license but I don’t know what that is for). The Editor licenses are for around £80 per user per month. The Collaborator licenses are very valuable for increasing BPM maturity by enabling the stakeholders (particularly the process managers) to collaborate on the process capture and design. Blueworks does not allow a free HTML publishing option, but instead, a Viewer license is required which is relatively inexpensive but has to be bought in packages of 500 licenses. However, it may be cheaper for organizations to pay for the Viewer licenses that are immediately up and running in the cloud, rather than paying for someone to administer publishing to an intranet.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I believe that a Hitachi product was evaluated as part of the tender.

What other advice do I have?

Start with the IBM Blueworks Live to get your house in order first. This is an inexpensive way of introducing BPM governance to an organization and it naturally leads to a BPMS deployment when the stakeholders recognize that the process models that are presented can be automated and the underlying data integrated across the organization.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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