A First Look at TIBCO ActiveMatrix BPM

In the past couple years TIBCO kind of dropped off my BPMS radar screen. They don't put a lot into marketing, and in BPM I don't think they had that much to say anyway. Last week I got a briefing on the new ActiveMatrix BPM, and my impression is TIBCO is finally back as a major BPM player. ActiveMatrix used to be a SOA infrastructure product and then a "brand" for a bunch of semi-related SOA products, but it now has morphed into an integrated platform for BPM and SOA. But unlike, say, IBM, TIBCO's BPM pitch underplays the SOA grid and cloud-enabled foundation and puts the focus instead on "work management."

TIBCO makes the case that management of human task distribution and prioritization should be independent of process management. One reason is that BPM is not the only source of tasks in the enterprise, and work management should encompass those external sources as well. When you peel the onion, the work management features mostly center around dynamic task assignment to groups and roles based on properties of the instance in combination with skills and capabilities of the task performers, based on business rules. Many BPM Suites have had such rules-based dynamic task routing for a while, but TIBCO is doing it on an enterprise scale. Their showcase work management account, a French bank called LCL, uses it to centralize distribution of back office work nationwide, instead of 29 regional offices each handling its own work. It's not all that sexy, but TIBCO thinks that work management is its key differentiator in the BPMS marketplace.

In ActiveMatrix BPM, TIBCO has greatly strengthened the scope of Business Studio's business analyst-friendly modeling tools used for executable design. Organizational modeling, business object modeling, and task user interface modeling all fall into that category, bringing a "business-empowering" mindset to heavy-duty SOA-based BPM. The data modeling and user interface modeling seem particularly strong.

TIBCO Business Studio supports collaboration between business analysts and process developers in design and test of sophisticated task UIs without programming. Forms can be automatically generated from the user task’s input and output parameters. Business analysts can visually change layouts and controls, and developers add validation rules and event scripts to customize the user experience and leverage the full functionality of TIBCO General Interface. The inline preview function allows playback of running forms from within TIBCO Business Studio. This Lombardi-ish approach is carried forward in page flow modeling as well, using BPMN to describe each step in the page flow... an advantage (in my view) over the programmer-oriented approach of most "enterprise-class" BPMSs.

ActiveMatrix BPM provides 3 user clients out of the box. Workspace is the Ajax-based General Interface web client that provides a rich client experience; individual components can be integrated into custom clients and portals as well. Openspace is a new gadget-based web client built using the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), enabling easy creation of lightweight self-service portals. Mobilespace is a rendering of the Openspace client for mobile device, especially the iPhone. All of these clients can be customized by role and privilege to control access to page components.

ActiveMatrix BPM also represents a much better integration of performance monitoring with the BPMS. The Monitoring, Reporting, and Analytics feature collects events from the process and other sources. These events can be viewed in the Event Viewer to provide real-time, detailed monitoring of running processes and outstanding work. The Event Viewer can filter, sort, correlate and link events, making it easy to navigate the audit trail. External applications, including TIBCO's BAM and CEP engines, can subscribe to the event stream. The event stream is aggregated into the reporting database which consolidates performance data. The Openspace client has gadgets that enable monitoring of processes, work items, and team and individual performance, providing operational monitoring out-of-the-box.

ActiveMatrix BPM Spotfire provides process reporting and analytics with advanced visualization. Business users can visually interact with performance data to develop deep insight through self-service reports and analysis, sharable over the web. Process and resource performance information can be enriched with business data from applications to understand the full impact on the business.

All in all, an impressive step forward for BPM at TIBCO.