Monthly Archives: July 2007

Gartner BPM conference in September

I booked my travel for the Gartner BPM conference on September 16-19 in Orlando: I have a bad habit of forgetting to do that until late, then finding that the airfare is $$$ and I’ve missed all the hotel rooms, so thought that I’d do it early this time. I’ll be live-blogging from the conference as usual. I won’t be staying on for the Event Processing Summit that they’re running for the remainder of the week; although it looks interesting, I’m speaking at the Forrester IT Leadership Forum the following week in Carlsbad, and wanted to spend a few days at home in between, plus I want to be back in Toronto on the evening of the 19th to make it to our second Girl Geek dinner.

There was a lot of vendor grumbling about this conference coming so soon after the one in the spring, but I’m sure that all the usual suspects will show up nonetheless.

Disclaimer: Gartner provides me with a press pass to the event, although I am not otherwise compensated for expenses or my time.

Take the Ajax challenge

I had a chance to talk to Kevin Hakman of TIBCO late last week about their Ajax Challenge (Kevin co-founded General Interface, which was acquired by TIBCO a couple of years back), the goal of which is to build the world’s largest mashup. You have to use General Interface to build it, but more interestingly, you have to use PageBus, a JavaScript client-side message bus that TIBCO just contributed to the OpenAjax Alliance as open source to become part of the OpenAjax Hub 1.0 installation.

The contest is splashy (win an oversized TV! win a video iPod!) but PageBus is the real news here: it provides a message bus for mashups in an attempt to eliminate the spaghetti mess of point-to-point integrations that we’re already starting to see emerge. In the enterprise world, this is why ESBs have become an essential part of any sizable application integration effort: without a message bus, you’re creating a unique integration between each pair of applications. Okay when you have two applications, but not when you have 10. [To be fair, usually you don't have every application interact with every other application in a complex integration: each one may only interact with a couple of others, but that just shifts the pain point, it doesn't eliminate it.]

Getting back to mashups and the OpenAjax Hub, the PageBus exposes the basic functions of messaging – publish, subscribe, unsubscribe — all in less than 5k of JavaScript, so that multiple Ajax components on an HTML page can share data using these standard methods. This allows the development of a mashup to be more easily split up between multiple developers since each can focus on their specific component and not on the interface between components; it will also allow for easier “no programing required” assembly of components within a PageBus-enabled mashup framework.

This is a pretty important step in mashup-land: I’m starting to see a lot of things referred to as mashups that are actually portals, where the components don’t intercommunicate, but the fundamental benefit of mashups is that they *are* an integration, not just components that happen to coexist on the same page.

TIBCO is apparently already using this in their BPM product for things such as task list publication, which means (I think) that you could create a mashup between your iProcess task list and some other component or data source — a real BPM mashup. Although many vendors are starting to provide RSS feeds of task lists/inboxes (I hope that my past year of nagging about this has had some contribution to those efforts), this is the first truly mashup-enabled BPM environment of which I’m aware.

The full OpenAjax Hub specification is about 4-6 weeks away from release, but the project is already on SourceForge. TIBCO will continue to develop the source and contribute to the open source efforts in the future; their press release about PageBus is here.

Can RSS replace trickle feeds for BI?

I was having a conversation late last week with a SaaS BI vendor about how organizations get data into their online data warehouse (ftp seems to be the most popular method), when it struck me: why couldn’t they use an RSS feed from a transactional system to feed data into the data warehouse for BI purposes (or Atom, for that matter)? Near-real-time data is essential for many types of BI analysis, so there has to be something better than once-daily uploads.

BPM Think Tank Day 2: BPMN/BPDM Roundtable

I’m just getting to the last of the BPM Think Tank sessions, namely, the roundtables and one lunch session that I had documented on paper. The three sessions of roundtables spanned Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and were some of the best conversations that I had at the conference. I’ll cover each of the ones that I attended in a separate post, then the summaries of the others in another post, just to keep things from getting too long. These were fairly unstructured, general sessions so the notes might be a bit fragmented

The first roundtable that I attended was BPMN and BPDM, with Stephen White of IBM and Antoine Lonjon of MEGA.

There are insufficient books and tools for educating the community on how to use BPMN for different purposes. There is a requirement for a reference document to educate end-user organizations that is smaller and more understandable than the specification (possibly both a business-oriented primer and a technical reference). Stephen stated that additional reference documents will be available within a few months. There is an HTML version of the specification online at ModelDriven.org.

Small consulting organizations and independents can’t realistically get involved in standards creation so we’re always “users” of the specification. I didn’t raise this point, but do agree with it — paying my own travel expenses and missing out on days of revenue to attend standards meetings several times each year is just not in my budget.

BPM vendors are unlikely to replace their own internal model formats with BPDM, but will translate to/from BPDM. Vendors need to review and understand BPDM and how it maps between different representations. There is a need for BPMN/BPDM conformance testing and certification of BPA/BPM products.

BPDM gives BPMN credibility as a modelling format since the specification is now “complete”. There was a great deal of discussion, both in this session and at other times during the think tank where this same point was raised, namely, that BPMN was rushed out without a serialization format, and that may have been a short-term mistake. One person at the table was concerned that combining BPMN and BPDM, and thereby increasing complexity, may be a mistake.

A comment that Phil Gilbert made on my TIBCO webinar Q&A post made a valid point about how there’s two main use cases for BPMN: non-executable process mapping and analysis by business analysts, and “visual coding” to create an executable process. We discussed this a bit at the roundtable, particularly around how business analysts could use the basic shapes (i.e., skip some of the internal graphic symbols that distinguish between different flavours of the shapes) and hence might benefit from a much simpler training program to get started. There was some discussion about how far up the chain that BPMN will or can be used for modelling businesses, e.g., whether it can be extended to strategy and goals or whether that’s more the mandate of BMM (Business Motivational Metamodel)

I had an interesting side conversation with Antoine after the roundtable ended about adoption patterns for BPMN and BPDM. Although standards organizations tend to have the “if you build it, they will come” attitude towards standards adoption, I believe that there needs to be some good reasons put forward for why BPDM provides benefits to the end customer and for the BPM vendors before we can expect to see widespread adoption.