IBM BPM Review

It is easy to take a requirement, put it in the code, and deploy it

What is our primary use case?

We use IBM BPM for brokerage operations transactions, and workflow and process automation for those transactions. We use it for straight workflow and process automation. We have some straight through processing (STP), but most of it is human intervention. Therefore, we will start a process, which will start by requiring some sort of human intervention step, like a review or approval, then it will post to a system of record afterwards.

It has performed very well. We have had it for almost eight years. We will be hitting over a million transactions a day by the end of the year, so it is pretty successful.

How has it helped my organization?

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to develop
  • It is transparent to business users because it is mostly picture based modelling.
  • Easy for people to understand what the application is doing.

What is most valuable?

Turnaround time: It is easy to take a requirement, put it in the code, and deploy it. 

We have used a lot of out-of-the-box reporting on the process performance metrics. We have been able to make suggested changes to staff for this role or streamlining by eliminate some activities where people were not requiring a lot of work in the first place.

What needs improvement?

Some performance stuff around tasks and indexing. We know that there are changes coming in this space.

A lot of the management stuff: It is a rather thick stack because you have to have WebSphere skills, IBM BPM skills, and an understanding of how the product runs on WebSphere. A lot of this will start to get a lot easier as they put it in containers, which will allow the platform to manage itself in some regards.

Performance in the development environment space. I know that they have been taking it off the desktop version and putting on the web, and it is not 100% yet.

A lot of the features of the product are old. It would be nice to see those updated. They are on the roadmap. Hopefully, they will get around to them at some point.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It wavers. We have some opportunities for improvement in this space, especially as we approach our target volume of a million transactions a day. It is tough, because it is not necessarily the product. It is more around the platform and infrastructure to support it, so the connectivity to the database, web sessions, and reverse proxies in front of that. Therefore, the whole environment plays into how the application performs.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It has been okay so far, knock on wood. We are in the middle of refreshing our topology right now. We are trying to figure out if there are potential advantages that we have not been able to look at before by orchestrating how we cluster and divide the deployment environment, so we will see what happens.

We started with some processes that were about five or six a day to our target processes, which will be about hundred of thousands a day. The big effort now is to taking models from MQ Workflow and putting those into BPM. Obviously, MQ Workflow has been decommissioned and is end-of-life (EOL) later this year. We had 45 or so applications on MQ Workflow and we have been moving those over to BPM. That has been most of the work right now. 

How are customer service and technical support?

We log PMRs constantly and the technical support has been great about providing Level 3 support. We have had some direct interaction with Level 3 personnel who provide easy, quick answers that we did not know, then we can implement those changes right away. We have definitely been happy with their response time.

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

We did not have a BPM solution previously. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was very complex. This was back on IBM BPM 7.5, so they had just converted from calling it Lombardi to IBM BPM. It was new infrastructure for us. We had some security and infrastructure constraints unique to the product that we had to work in. We did not previously have a huge WebSphere or Linux presence. We had some custom code at the beginning, but we have mainly moved away from that, and are pretty much out-of-the-box IBM BPM at this point.

What about the implementation team?

We used IBM WebSphere software services for the initial setup because it was a new platform for them. They had just acquired it from Lombardi and were excited about having a role model for themselves for setup. Also, it was brand new for us, so any help we could receive was appreciated.

What was our ROI?

We have definitely seen ROI. When we first kicked it off, we said it had to pay for itself within three years, and it did. That is one of the reasons we have been able to keep the platform around.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated two other BPM platforms and did a PoC with one of them. Then we decided on Lombardi, and they were bought. After that, we decided on IBM BPM.

We did a PoC with Pega and looked at Appian, but settled on IBM BPM.

We chose IBM BPM because of the management that comes with the product: The performance stuff out-of-the-box around how efficient is the process and how efficient are the people involved (or how inefficient). The ability to view these metrics out-of-the-box without having to do a lot of work on top of that. Everything is coupled together and comes as one solution.

What other advice do I have?

It is more than just a new development tool for IT. You need a capability within IT to support it, run it on the right platform, and have the right developers to develop within it. It is somewhat of a unique skill set. It is not Java development nor web development, it is a hybrid of both. Most importantly, you need business partners who are process-oriented. Anyone can put processes in a line and call it a workflow, but if you have process engineers who can find eligible processes for management, this is really important. Your business partners should be willing to define metrics in the process and work on changing the process. Therefore, it is not a new development tool, but a whole methodology around managing business processes in the IT and the business side. It is a little more of an endeavor than just buying the product and saying, "I use IBM BPM now."

Most important criteria when selecting a vendor: Originally, it was ease of development and the model-based development environment. It was entirely drag and drop plus pictures, so business people could comprehend.

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