IBM Expands WebSphere BPM With BlueWorks

Lombardi Teamworks will be used to expand IBM's business process management product set and services available through the online BlueWorks.

Charles Babcock

January 6, 2010

4 Min Read
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In the coming year, IBM will expand the business process management capabilities of its WebSphere middleware. Business process management has become a focus as companies seek to improve and automate previously disconnected or manual processes.

Craig Hayman, general manager of IBM's Websphere middleware unit, said business process management is a natural follow-on to IBM's previous emphasis on services-oriented architecture. With SOA, companies sought to architect their software infrastructure as a set of modular services that could be modified separately but combined as needed.

SOA enables greater automation of business processes, or even re-engineering business processes, and IBM has been on an expansion kick to take advantage of its potential growth in business process management.

"The business process management space is an incredibly hot area in the market. We think it's going mainstream in 2010," he noted in an interview days after IBM announced it would acquire BPM vendor Lombardi Software. The acquisition is expected to be completed early this year.

Business process management has been the software focus of a dozen small vendors, such as Intalio, Lombardi, Fuego, and Savvion, each specializing in particular aspects of it. IBM thinks now is the time to put a set of products together to monitor and automate complex processes across the enterprise.

In January 2009, it acquired ILOG, a rules engine that lets business analysts compose English language rules that govern processes. When they are confronted with an if/then business condition, ILOG can recognize the "if"condition and fire off the correct rule in response.

"Businesses want to improve their top line, their bottom line. Improving processes does that," noted Hayman.

"Lombardi was a leader in making changes to business processes," noted Hayman. Its Teamworks product lets business users create rules that a Teamworks system can apply to operational processes, sending alerts and taking other actions when exceptions occur. Through Teamworks, business processes can be changed or updated as they continue running.

A July 2005 Network Computing review of business process management suites, named three leading contenders in a crowded field:

"However, only Savvion, Lombardi, and Fuego provide simulation features that are useful in closing the process-optimization loop. All three offer a wide variety of variables for simulating a process, with Savvion and Fuego letting you run multiple scenarios--and processes--simultaneously. .. Simulation helps business process owners--and IT--find bottlenecks.

Hayman said Lombardi Teamworks will be incorporated into the WebSphere business process management line up this year. Some of its features will serve to enhance IBM BlueWorks, an online business process modeling and simulation system.

Teamworks includes business process modeling features. As an online service, BlueWorks lets a company explore what-if business process scenarios in a setting that matches their own software infrastructure. IBM first announced the availability of BlueWorks on Oct. 8.

Mark's Work Wearhouse is a Canadian retail chain specializing in work clothes and is a BlueWorks user, Hayman said. It lacked visibility into its inventory and use a manual ordering process when customers found an item out of a stock in a particular store. With BlueWorks it created business processes that gave it a view of inventory and a way to order a product from a store that both had it in stock and was closest to the customer, Hayman said, realizing $3.6 million in additional sales in its first 10 months of the new processes' operation.

At BlueWorks, "you can sketch out the strategy you are trying to achieve. We help you automate that process," said Hayman.

Services oriented architecture and business process automation have been cornerstones of what IBM calls its "smarter planet" initiatives. It has formed, for example, the Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition to seek ways to better manage utility energy grids. Austin Energy in Austin, Texas, and CenterPoint in Houston have implemented smart meters in homes and businesses and new grid monitoring systems that monitor consumption and alert the utilities to outages. The two utilities serve a combined three million customers.

Better grid business processes lower the utilities' costs and gives them a better understanding of how to manage their assets, said Hayman.

He said IBM's expanded business process management also fits into customer's interest in making use of more services on the Web and cloud computing in Internet data centers. Some observers think all computing will move into the cloud, he noted, but IBM believes "there will be a period where some things are done in the cloud and some on-premises. We see a lot of opportunity in integrating the cloud and non-cloud operations" through its business process management.

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