IBM Tools for Collaborative Process Discovery

A year ago around this time IBM launched BPM BlueWorks, a collaborative BPM learning environment in the cloud where users could read about BPM, set up their own private workspaces, and use free IBM tools for "process discovery." Since then it has pretty much stayed below the radar, but with the recent introduction of a new BPMN 2.0 modeling widget in both BlueWorks and WebSphere Business Compass (fka WebSphere Modeler Publishing Server), IBM is ready to make some noise about it. Process discovery is all that business architect/analyst "understand-your-business-from-a-process-perspective" stuff that IBM Software Group used to delegate to professional services engagements. Now they've productized the basics of it and are giving it away for free (in BlueWorks)! That's quite a change.

I am quite happy with the new BPMN 2.0 editor. It is very close to what I call the Level 1 palette in my book BPMN Method and Style (a few things in addition to it) and the Descriptive conformance class Robert Shapiro and I are trying to shepherd through the BPMN 2.0 FTF. In both BlueWorks and Compass, BPMN processes and process activities can be linked to other process discovery artifacts - models of strategies, goals, and metrics; business capabilities; organizations and roles - all supported by a common business vocabulary editor. Compass provides also form design and process walkthroughs, as well as synchronization with WebSphere Business Modeler, the link between discovery and executable process design.

BlueWorks and Compass could be called 'BPA Lite', but I don't mean that in a disparaging way. Most BPA tools, meant for business architects and enterprise architects, are complex, expensive, and proprietary. For process improvement and redesign at the project (not enterprise) level, it's usually overkill, and IBM gives you the piece you need in tools that are simple and intuitive, inexpensive, and standards-based. Moreover, the artifacts they produce can drive executable process design in the WebSphere BPMS.

The net result is a well-integrated suite of tools starting from free in the cloud (BlueWorks) through browser-based behind the firewall (Compass) to Eclipse-based modeling and design (Modeler).

If you want to read more about it, I just published a white paper, which you can get here. Also, if you are going to Impact (IBM's SOA/BPM user conference) next week in Las Vegas, I'll be doing a talk there on it as well, together with the Compass and Modeler product managers.