TIBCO - where to with their BPMS suite?

Simon Holloway

Written By:
Published: 12th August, 2008
Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

This is the second in a series of articles I shall be producing based on a major piece of research being undertaken by Bloor Research on the BPMS market. My thanks go to Catherine Lynch, TIBCO's EMEA BPM Product Marketing Manager and Enrique Goizueta, EMEA Global Architect for the recent briefing. In our 2006 report, TIBCO received the platinum award. So what has happened since we last reviewed the product set?

TIBCO was founded in 1985 and has been at the forefront of developments around information bus technologies since their inception. During their life they have made a small number of acquisitions; all of which have strengthened and fleshed out their propositions. A good example of this was their purchase of Staffware in 2004. TIBCO have some 1000 BPM customers, with heavy concentration in the financial, telecommunications and government sectors. Customers include BNP Paribas, Carrefour, LCL, KPN, Société Générale, Swisscom Mobile and Carphone Warehouse. TIBCO has been positioning itself to deliver an integrated platform for BPM, SOA and other technologies such as CEP to address the growing requirements of Software Applications Infrastructure, whilst delivering the best in class user experience when using their tools and systems.

For those of you not familiar with the iProcess Suite then I will give a high level view. TIBCO present iProcess Suite as what they call "BPM+". The claim is that the product suite can handle any type of process and all of the process. The suite consists of a series of tools that provide support for the complete lifecycle of a business process from design and build through deployment and management to improvement. The latest version, 11, was released in May 2008. The suite consists of the following components:

  • Business Studio - as part of the TIBCO ONE strategy this is also the single development and design environment for all TIBCO products moving forward. It is based on the Eclipse standard. Business Studio provides support for:
    • Process design with support for BPMN including patterns and fragments,
    • Business object modelling support using UML 2.0 and UML profiles.
    • Decision and rules tables through a spreadsheet user interface
    • Simulation
    • Import support for EPC/FAD from IDS Scheer's ARIS as well as import from Microsoft Visio. There is also support for custom XSLT transforms to XPDL
    • Process implementation using XPDL definition
    • Service registry with support for callouts and introspection
    • Ability to synchronise with other services such as email and database calls
    • Forms design that creates AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript And XML) pages.
  • iProcess Decisions provides support for rule and decision services and is based on a backward chaining algorithm rather than Rete. There are Java and web services interfaces available.
  • iProcess Analytics is an OLAP-based analytics tool that gives business users an actionable view of process performance through a dashboard interface.
  • iProcess Conductor coordinates business processes that are executed in TIBCO iProcess Engine according to a plan that is dynamically modified at run time as business events occur in order to meet business goals. It enables business users to define high level business goals and uses loosely coupled pre-defined, interdependent sub processes to accomplish these goals. Business users can select templates for creating the execution plan or can assemble processes on the fly.
  • iProcess Insight provides BAM capabilities to iProcess Suite users. It gives users real-time process performance visualization and optimization information through operational dashboards.
  • iProcess Workspace was introduced as part of release 10.3 of iProcess Suite and packages together all user facing functionality. It is based on the AJAX standard. It has an eMail look and feel. There are a number of out-of-the-box components (personal work queues, group work queues...), reports and forms available. Workspace is extensible, and the components can be embedded in 3rd party portals or used to create custom clients.
TIBCO iProcess Suite components

Figure 1: TIBCO iProcess Suite components

TIBCO differentiate themselves in the marketing place around 5 points. The first USP concerns their ability to provide support for all types of process for the complete process for all types of users. TIBCO should be commended for the amount of effort that they have put into making this very true. The product set provides support for the vast majority of processes (I am sure that someone will point to a process that it doesn't support!) and TIBCO have worked in the last 2 major releases on getting better support for business users, whilst still providing the necessary IT guidance and compliance necessary to work in a Sarbanes Oxley world of compliance.

The second USP is the support for what TIBCO call "Dynamic Processes" but are also referred to as goal-oriented processes. This is where a process cannot be defined to the minutest degree and, for given situations, there is a need for users to be able to define a sub-process and associated rules and milestones to fit a given circumstance. It is possible to detect through the process plan schema processes which are in a jeopardy situation and to take corrective action to ensure SLA compliance. A good example of an environment that this is commonplace in is in the processing of visas and work permits. iProcess Conductor provides an interesting way of supporting these sort of processes using a Gantt chart view of the process (similar to Microsoft Project).

The third USP is around the concept of "Simplicity". The proof statement concerns the work TIBCO have done around their TIBCO ONE strategy in terms of a unified development environment and therefore experience for all the product portfolio through Business Studio for both IT and business users. The common use of Business Studio, and the way TIBCO has designed their tools for analysts, architects and developers allow business and IT to better collaborate in the BPM and SOA development lifecycle.

The last 2 USPs are around the strength and expertise of the company. With 20 years of experience, many large-scale deployments, over 1000 customers and 3,000,000 users worldwide, TIBCO definitely have the expertise and there are enough customer case studies to show the industrial strength.

So TIBCO's USPs stand-up to analysis well.

Based on the briefing and demonstration given to Bloor, the following represent the key facts of which prospective users should be aware:

  • iProcess Suite is built on a model-driven approach to BPMS like many of today's tools: what makes TIBCO different is that through one tool and one underlying model they can support both an IT and a business user with the appropriate tools. The use of roles enables IT and business users to have different perspectives on the same model.
  • Through iProcess Suite's relationship with TIBCO monitoring product Hawk, there are interfaces to other system management tools.
  • Business Studio v3.0 contains numerous tutorials and cheat sheets to assist the inexperienced user. These tutorials, in addition to the number of preset process templates, make the product very friendly to infrequent users.

Business Studio provides support for the reuse of already defined process objects.

  • iProcess Conductor makes the problems associated with documenting complex business process much simpler to handle. Bloor congratulate TIBCO on some clever and innovative thinking around using a Microsoft Project-like template for recording the process.
  • TIBCO have a number of vertical applications based on iProcess Suite. These applications are not listed on their price book, but can be purchased on a product + services basis. TIBCO has descriptions of these offerings on their web site and Bloor would advise potential users to ask their TIBCO sales person about what might be available. TIBCO informed Bloor that solutions available included a dynamic claims solution for Insurance. Other industries discussed included supply chain, airline disruption management, advanced order fulfilment for telecommunications and a predictive customer interaction solution for retail banks.

TIBCO have invested a lot in bringing the iProcess Suite forward to meet the demands of the latter part of this decade. A single product suite to support all types of processing and for the whole lifecycle, as well as being "open" using the best standards available to provide flexibility to their users—a big plus all round. The only drawback is that this product set is really geared at the large enterprise and would seem to be out of the price range of the mid-market organisation. TIBCO did comment that the iProcess Bundle was for entry level BPM and that they also have small and medium sized BPM customers including some local government authorities like Harlow District Council. Bloor's overall comment on the moves since the first report on BPMS have to be - well done TIBCO!

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