"We can learn from SAPs lessons learned" was one of the justifications for working with IDS Scheer on BPM. BPM includes a set of activites that organizations perform to either optimze their business processes or adapt them to new organizational needs. I am sitting in Salon 9 of the Mariott Hotel in San Fransisco and about to see the unveiling of the Oracle BPA product – which is by and large a renbranded/relabeled version of the ARIS tool from German company IDS Scheer. With Oracle BPA, the Oracle SOA Suite will be complemented with functionality for Modelling Business Processes, on an architectural and analysis level – feeding into the more technical design level of BPEL. Oracle BPA also support Simulation of Business Processes and works together with Oracle Business Activity Monitoring for monitoring the actual execution of the processes.
Oracle BPA is on a "very aggresive timeline" and though Oracle staff are not allowed to give any definite dates, the suggestion between the lines was that Oracle BPA will be released early (very early?) 2007.
From within Oracle top management, an Executive directive was issued that Business Process Modeling be added as foundation to Fusion development process (the structured design and development of Oracle Fusion Application). In fact, over 1500 Oracle employees will be using Oracle BPA themselves. In addition it is functionality that is really required for doing process- and service centric design. In addition Oracle salesforce will be helped by having a tool that demonstrates that Oracle has process centric approach, business understanding etc.
It became clear how important Oracle BPA is for the management of the Core Business Process Model underpinning all of Fusion Applications. The Process Architecture provides the blueprint for the Fusion Apps, collected in a Corporate Business Process Library that is planned to be released to customers.
Oracle BPA recognizes four levels of decomposition: 0=Industry Level or Process Category (SCM, HRM), 1=Business Process (Inventory Management) ,2=Detail Business Process (level of SOA Services), 3=Activity Model (BPEL) and application specific.
IDS Scheer – according to Gartner – is the clear market leader in BPM tools with unparalleled functionality and extensibility. The ARIS tool – now available as Oracle BPA – consists of four components: BP Architect, BP Simulator, BP Publisher and BP Repository. The Business Process Publisher is a very neat way of publishing the business process models on a website, with role based access to business users. These very visual overviews provide good insight in the structure of each business process. It should provide clear value to any organisation, even without any further SOA based, BPEL powered implementation of those processes.
Business Process Architect is the core tool where processes are described in very visual way – with flows of process steps, very similar to any graphical process definition you see. This tool feeds directly into Oracle BPEL PM, transforming a level 3 Activity to the corresponding BPEL process. Oracle BPA will provide a closed loop with Oracle BPEL with some form of synchronization between the BPEL Process definition and the level 2 definition. We saw in the demonstration a walk-through from level 0 all the way down to level 3 for the Capture Order Activity (or Task Flow) as well as the transformation to BPEL and pull into JDeveloper’s BPEL Designer. (well, to be fair, we saw a powerpoint walkthrough, no actual running software).
Time for a live demo, of ARIS (not yet of Oracle BPA). The tool looked very usable, a little overwhelming at first and with a few demo-challenges as well. Unfortunately, there was no BPEL integration right now. Note: people familiar with Oracle Designer’s Process Modeler will experience a massive deja-vu! The ARIS is obviously a lot richer and less rigid but many of the concepts are extremely similar.
A little used facility in the PM in Oracle Designer was the animation and simulation of processes. ARIS (Oracle BPA) has much more extensive simulation capabilities. These look very interesting, as they can demonstrate the expected workload on the our staff as well as the bottlenecks and total throughput time of our process. By trying different parameters, we can test the effect of business restructuring or resource reallocation before applying them on the workfloor.