IBM Business Automation Workflow Review

The tool is great for rolling processes out quickly without being too locked into them


What is our primary use case?

We are a consultancy, so we resell the tool. We also do projects with Business Automation Workflow. I am in sales, but this is what we do as a company.

We use it for billing, logging our hours, and project management, which is our biggest use case and our core business. We have seen the tool help increase productivity in these areas.

How has it helped my organization?

We do use it in our organization. We call it, "Like drinking our own champagne." We use it for a lot of our internal processes and see a lot of operational efficiencies all across the board.

Everybody in my company is an expert in this tool. There is no lowest common denominator. There is nobody in the company who doesn't use this tool professionally, except for some nontechnical employees who use it for entering hours. It is very usable, but a lot of that comes down to the design of the application. The tool is only as good as how you use it.

We have used the solution to improve business process management in our organization. This is sort of the fundamental point of the it. On the case management side of the fence, but we haven't really used that component internally.

What is most valuable?

It helps develop applications very quickly. Once clients get used to it and familiar with the methodology, then they don't feel so locked in. It is able to add this element of agility to our clients' software development lifecycle. That is my favorite thing about it: You're not so locked in as you used to be when developing applications.

The tool is really great for rolling processes out quickly without being too locked into them, so you still have the ability to come back and make alterations and grow. Let your processes grow with your business and keep that competitive edge through your operational efficiencies.

No matter what somebody's technical experience level is, the tool can start adding value immediately. Even if that is just an analyst who doesn't have any technical background, they can use some of these no quote accelerators to get things from ideation to deployment in a matter of minutes.

Technical people can use the tool to build custom widgets. They can just start coding if that is their comfort zone. Though, I might not recommend it. Obviously, you should always use what is there first, then when you find the deficit start to think about code. 

What needs improvement?

I would definitely like to see a unified interface between the BPM side of the house and the case side of the house. Something that just seems a bit more cohesive, because right now there is sort of a disconnect between the BPM and the case side of the house. That makes it a bit of a hard sell sometimes. That is definitely first and foremost on my wish list.

There were some issues with it historically. For example, people didn't like the UI, but the UI is great now.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is very stable, as long as when you build it, you adhere to best practices and build things correctly. I can't say it enough, "A tool is only as good as how you use it." It is a good tool.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is all about how you build it. The tool is only as good as how you use it.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is pretty good. I have definitely been frustrated at times, like opening PMRs, then getting later responses than I would like. However, I also realize that the support team only has so much bandwidth.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

We are a consultancy on this tool.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is pretty straightforward.

The implementation is very straightforward. It is very clear what each artifact type does and how they're supposed to work. It is very low code, and that low code element is continually getting better with every release. It has a lot of configuration options and is very intuitive, even to business users. 

However, once you have to get in the weeds and start scripting, it is still straightforward if you're a coder. But, if you're not, then there is a bit of a learning curve there.

What was our ROI?

Customers see ROI. 

When you're talking about ROI, we've seen infinite ROI considering that our licenses is as a partner. It's saved us from buying licenses, HR systems, and other things that we just built out ourselves. The solution has also saved us time.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

It might take three or four difference licenses to get something like the functionality that we have with this tool, since what we have is custom to us.

What other advice do I have?

It is pretty usable. There is still a market for people like us, which means that it is not 100 percent usable. There are also some really good accelerators in the market to even increase the usability. In general, it is very usable. As long as you have a good understanding of the process, know what you are doing, and are not falling into pitfalls, then the tool is easy enough to use. It's pretty low code.

The solution helped us with compliance or governance issues to some extent, but it is not really something that we internally use it for. I've seen it in several use cases external to our consultancy where that is the case.

The integration process is great. Every integration is unique and has its whole gamut of complexities. In general, it has the tools there to make the integration simpler and a lot more straightforward. The tools exist: Web Service connectors, subconnectors, drag and drop REST calls and SQL calls. The components are there, but that doesn't mean it's just going to work. I've seen this happen several times, but I don't think that is any fault of the tool.

I have seen a lot of use cases where it does have an effect on decision-making.

We do automation projects with this tool for a living. However, internally, it sort of depends on if we have a use case that fits the tool. If we have some resources that are available to sort of build something like that, then I will use it.

The vision of the product is very good. They are on the right path. The emerging case in process is a no-brainer, Anybody who has been in this space for awhile realizes that processes aren't structured or unstructured, and there is a lot of fluidity. While the vision is there, I just don't think it's quite there yet. This goes back to that there is a pretty strong disconnect between the case functionality and process functionality.

Biggest lesson learned: How to visualize processes and visualize improvement areas/problem areas. I really like that the tool is visual. E.g., if you get a chart that is expressing some sort of information to you, and until you can interpret the chart, you can't really act on that information. The visual component of the product: seeing processes, flow lines, boxes as are activities, swim lanes, and all these BPM concepts, which are visually displayed throughout the application, helps you understand what is happening. It helps me bring myself up to speed. 

I can go into an organization that has complex processes with no explanation. By just using this tool, I can pretty well understand what is going on. I might have some questions like, "Why did you do that?" I might not know how they got there, but I know what the organization does.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Reseller.
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