BPM standards, I mean.
Yesterday saw the public beta launch of the Business Process Incubator; although this was inadvertently announced by Robert Shapiro during a public webinar last month, it only moved out of closed preview yesterday. I had a briefing from Denis Gagné of Trisotech, one of the driving forces behind BPI, and have had a test account to try it out for the past month.
BPI has a focus on BPM standards, especially BPMN and XPDL, and is intended to a be a hub for content and tools related to standards. That doesn’t mean that this is another walled garden of content; rather, a lot of content is mashed in from other locations rather than being published directly on the site. For example, if you search for me on the site, you’ll find links to this blog and to a number of my presentations on Slideshare, plus the ability to rate the content or flag them on a My Interests list. That means that there’s a lot of content available (but not necessarily hosted) on the site from the start, and it’s growing every day as more people link in BPM-related content that they know about.
The site is divided into four main areas:
- Do, including services for verifying, visualizing, validating, publishing and converting process models in various standard formats. These are premium services available either directly on the site or via an API: you can try them out a few times with a free membership, but they require payment for more than a few times each month.
- Share, for contributing content such as process models, tools and blogs; this is also used to view process models shared by others.
- Learn, for viewing the links, blogs, books, training and other content added in the Share section.
- Tools, for viewing the tools added in the Share section; these are categorized as diagramming, BPMS, BPA, BAM and BRE. Trisotech’s own free BPMN add-in for Visio is here, but is also featured directly on most other pages on the site, something that competing diagramming tools might object to.
Most content on the site can be tagged and rated, allowing the community to provide feedback. There needs to be better integration with other social networking besides just standard “community share” options on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and this site just begs for BPI iPhone app, or at least a mobile version of the site.
Although I like the clean user interface, the categorization takes a bit of getting used to: for example, you add both content and tools in the Share section, but you view the links to content in Learn and the links to tools in Tools. Furthermore, you both contribute and view process models in the Share section; this appears to be the only type of contribution that is viewed in Share rather than another section. Also, the distinctions between some of the functions in the Do section are a bit esoteric: most users, for example, may not make the distinction between Transform (which is an XML transformation) versus Convert, since both turn a file of one type into another type. Similarly, Verify ensures that the file is a BPMN file based on the schema, whereas Validate ensures that there are no syntax errors in the BPMN file.
Although vendors can participate in the community as partners, it is vendor-independent. Rather than vendor sponsorships, the site is monetized through a membership model that allows access to most of the content for free, but requires a $300/year premium membership for unrestricted access to premium features, such as process model validation and translation services. In that way, the bulk of the site revenue is expected to come from corporate end-user organizations that use a combination of free and premium memberships for their users, and can sign up for a corporate membership that gives them four premium memberships plus 50% any additional ones. End-user organizations are becoming more aware of the value of BPM standards, and understand the value proposition of a standard notation when using process models to communicate broadly within their organization; BPI will help them to learn more about BPM standards as well as being a general resource for BPM information.
Businesses can have their own page on the site using a custom URL (e.g., www.businessprocessincubator.com/tibco), fancy it up with their own logo and business description, and list all of the site content that belongs to them, whether links to tools, blogs or other content. Partner pages are free, but are monetized by referral or commission fees on any RFI/RFQs, services, training or paid content offered via those pages.
The cloud-based functions offered in the Do section are also available through a public API for vendors to include directly or white-label them in their own offerings; although monetized for this wasn’t settled last month, it would be possible to do this through an API key, much like other public APIs. Both APIs and a toolbar are available for including BPI content and functions on another site.
Partners are already ramping up on the site, and by fall, BPI will be in general availability for all members. There’s now quite a bit of choice in BPM online communities: in addition to all the BPM-themed social networking sites and discussion groups, there are now several public communities offering tools and functionality specific to BPM, such as BPM Blueworks and ARISalign. Gagné sees BPI as complementary and partnering with those sites – for example, those sites could have a partner page, as BPM Institute does – since they augment the other sites’ content with standards-focused materials. BPI’s openness via APIs and a toolbar allows it to be added as a BPM community from another site, and will likely see many referrals from BPM vendors who don’t want to build their own community site, but like the idea of participating in one that’s vendor-neutral. Although BPI is focused on BPM standards, the open platform gives it the potential to grown into a full BPM social networking site with a broad variety of content.
By the way, as your reward for reading this entire post, here’s a link to get a free premium membership. Enjoy!