Oracle Making Strides in BPM

Yesterday I got a briefing from the BPM folks at Oracle, as part of my BPMS Report series, and I came away surprised at both the completeness and, in many ways, coolness of the offering. A few things stand out (for the rest you'll have to wait for the report, later this month):

Oracle provides a unique solution to the problems of business-IT interaction and round-tripping. For modeling, Oracle OEMs IDS Scheer ARIS, rebranded Oracle BPA Suite, and has added to it Oracle SOA Extensions that link it to the executable process design and runtime environment, called Oracle SOA Suite. Modelers can use either traditional ARIS EPC or the new BPMN to model process activity flows, but Oracle favors BPMN, in keeping with its marketing theme of "standards-based BPM." Unlike most other BPMN-based offerings, this is full BPMN - intermediate events, pools and message flows, etc.

Here is the cool part. From BPA Suite, you click a button to "share blueprint with IT". This validates the BPMN and then exports it - or, let's say, the part of it relevant to execution - to Oracle BPEL Designer (part of the SOA Suite), which runs in JDeveloper. Oracle calls what is interchanged "shared metadata," and the interchange format is not XPDL or BPDM, but... you guessed it, BPEL. The blueprint is a quasi-BPMN diagram that is a graphical representation of the shared metadata, serialized in BPEL. So the shapes look (mostly) like BPMN, although the diagram retains some of the block structure of BPEL... but all in all, I would say definitely understandable by any business analyst trained in BPMN. Executable detail added in BPEL Designer is reflected automatically in the blueprint, so business and IT stay in sync through this shared metadata expressed graphically in the blueprint. Very nice.

A second area that surprised me was integration of content management into BPM, leveraging Oracle's acquisition of Stellent (in addition to its native Content DB), both as backend services and content-centric apps on top of BPM. Most BPM vendors have been slow to appreciate that human-centric BPM typically requires good integration with business documents out of the box.

A third surprise was what appears to be a successful effort to get ISVs to build on top of the platform. Back in the old workflow days there was a vigorous ISV market, but somehow that hasn't yet materialized with BPM.