I got an update from Software AG after they announced webMethods 8.2 and ARIS 7.2.These two releases are the end result of work since Software AG acquired both companies. The releases contain features specific to both products based on their long standing roadmaps but Software AG also invested in improved integration of the two products. Software AG’s stated position is that it wants to deliver easy to use, integrated yet separate products.
Business people use the ARIS toolset to document existing process models and design new ways to operate their business. Many of these designs do not require any IT support – they are about organizational change and manual processes. Sometimes these new designs require new integrations, new processes, etc. and this means customers have a need to translate ARIS designs into webMethods implementation. The new release delivers collaboration across the products and round-trip interoperability. In addition, the webMethods product has new content integration and enhanced rules management as well as adding support for events and RESTful services. A number of general deployment and usability features round things out.
The roundtrip engineering is clearly a critical part of the release. ARIS and webMethods together support a broad process improvement lifecycle. ARIS is used to develop an overall product and business strategy, document the organizational structure and model current processes. Then to-be processes are designed (some requiring IT, some not) and those that require IT can be shared with webMethods to develop new composite applications that integrate existing systems, new process components, people, content and data. These new composite applications can then be executed, monitored and controlled. Making this lifecycle seamless was the focus of the 8.2/7.2 releases.
The round trip model transition uses BPMN 2.0 to move back and forth between ARIS and webMethods. Automated model consistency checks and strong governance support a collaborative environment so that both business and technical people can work on their elements. If more detail must be added to the process design then this information can be hidden from the business users. Both perspectives can be managed over time. Simulation tools are available at both the business and technical level but these are separate. ARIS is also integrated with CentraSite and the UDDI repository.
Enhanced business rules management is another key feature. webMethods continues to OEM FICO Blaze Advisor (last reviewed in this update on the FICO Decision Management platform) as its high-end Business Rules Management System – for building true Decision Services. In addition, webMethods has been building out its own business rules capability. This is built on top of the JESS open source engine and the user interface for managing business rules is surfaced both in the webMethods Eclipse design tools and in web interfaces. It uses only a decision table or rulesheet metaphor for business rules and supports hot deployment of new rules into running processes. It is integrated with CentraSite for reuse and impact analysis. It can be used for event-based and process-based rules execution. Future plans include using this engine instead of the rules webMethods currently supports for Business Activity Monitoring and data integration so that the rules approach will be consistent across the whole product.
Software AG is still referring people to FICO Blaze Advisor as a solution for managing business decisions and focusing the webMethods rules on in-process rules such as routing and assignment. For instance routing a claim to the right adjustor would use webMethods rules where auto-adjudicating claims would use FICO Blaze Advisor. They feel that their integration with Blaze Advisor is strong – you can drag and drop a Blaze Advisor ruleset onto a step in a process for instance – though obviously it is not as tightly integrated as their new functionality will be.
ARIS has a business rules component – it uses the Corticon design studio for rules specification and was reviewed here – but neither the new rules capability or FICO Blaze Advisor has been integrated with it nor was there any change in the way ARIS supports business rules and decision management.
Software AG has also been adding event support to their platform. They acquired a fast time-based correlation engine recently and have combined this with some business tooling and their current product (which was already “event-aware” in their words) to build out their event support. The event engine can correlate events and kick off a process, processes can be instrumented to push events into the event engine and systems can be monitored to generate events – all the things you would expect. In addition, their new rules support is integrated to allow event handling rules to be specified. And, of course, you could call a Blaze Advisor-based component if you need to make a business decision in the middle of this.
As always it is good to see a Business Process Management System that takes business rules seriously and that understands the difference between embedded business rules (making process specification and execution better) and using business rules to manage decisions. Hopefully future releases will tackle the whole issue of business user design of decisions and business rules.