IBM announced Smarter Process last year, pulling a number of capabilities into a single story with a particular focus on customer centricity. This year IBM’s customers are very focused on growth – 60% of them say it is their top issue, up from 41% the year before. The Smarter Process team this year is focused on empowering knowledge workers (and making more of them) and speeding process innovation with flexible delivery models. To this end they have made a set of announcements:
- IBM BPM v8.5.5
Added basic case management support, simplified implementation and management of deployed solutions through improvements and extension of the coach capabilities, and a new responsive user interface design that is consistent across devices.
- IBM Operational Decision Management v8.6
Simplified the rule deployment and governance by managing Decision Services more explicitly, end to end change management using the Business Console, and simulation has now been added to the core Business Console.
- IBM Operational Decision Management Advanced – Technology Preview
This is an extension to the ODM core that adds the ability to be stateful and linked to events as well as some support for predictive anlaytics.
- MobileFirst Starter Apps Smarter Process
Several of the mobile starter apps include BlueWorks Live flows and BPM/ODM assets as part of the starter kit. For instance the banking operations, mobile claims, subscriber care, in-store associate and coordinated care apps all include smarter process assets.
- BlueWorks Live
Added review and approval of workflows as well as a single tenant private cloud version.
- IBM BPM on Cloud
Softlayer deployed version of BPM has been running for 6 months. Pricing has been made more flexible and security has been improved.
- BlueMix and Smarter Process
Added BlueMix Rules Service (which should be called Decision Service IMO) and BlueMix RapidApps aimed at business users who are composing apps.
A demo of the new ODM Advanced running on Softlayer followed, connecting a fraud detection service to an Android device. The rules running can be straightforward, using just the transactional data, or they can also use event correlation capabilities from the integration of IBM’s business events product. For instance, a rule might detect the first time a customer transactions with a foreign merchant. While this could have been determined from a database the act of putting this into a rule means that the platform maintains the state automatically. The platform is entity-centric, allowing the context for the events to be the entities against which the rules are being written. Critical to this new platform is scale – support for millions of instances and many thousands of events per second.
A demo of the RapidApps capability on BlueMix followed. This allows you to bring in data, screens and logic to define an application. Data can be added in many ways, uploading a spreadsheet or connecting to an employee service for instance. The data model can be manipulated using a basic entity diagram view, linking them to show relationships etc. A screen builder allows screens to be developed either explicitly or just by dropping the data elements onto the builder. The flow between screens can be defined, buttons added etc. The logic in RapidApps uses templates (that look like the ODM rule templates) and a limited number of templates are available right now. The app can be simulated in the BlueMix environment where cloud services can be accessed. The app can now be published, downloaded, run on the web etc. These apps cannot yet be very complex but it’s very quick to develop and deploy these mobile/web apps.
After the demos a more general set of questions came up. In no particular order:
- The Rules Service on BlueMix executes standard ODM deployment components on BlueMix. While it is called a Rules Service for some reason it sounds like you could (and should) deploy a Decision Service to BlueMix.
- Managing decision rules deployed to BlueMix still requires the use of the Decision Console, though there is a PureApplication pattern for it which could, in theory, be deployed to Softlayer to give you a cloud management environment.
- Lots of interest in how the BPM Case Management capabilities and the full IBM Enterprise Case Management capabilities. IBM sees customers entering smarter process from ODM, BPM and ECM and is trying to integrate their products and blur the edges.
- The ability to have the ODM Advanced server track the events it needs to track based on the current rule logic is very interesting. Adding rules that use event history will cause it to track those events and this processing will stop if the event logic is removed.
- Clearly lots of interest in the direction of BlueMix and how the Smarter Process components are going to evolve in the future.
- Some of the capabilities of ODM Advanced are going to be a challenge for some customers to adopt – event processing and statefulness can be complex. IBM is using the technology preview and some early customers to develop best practices and plans to roll out the kind of additional content that will help.
Some nice announcements here with interesting potential. Looking forward to seeing how all this moves to the cloud.