XSOL – Shaking the BPM tree with a new approach to modeling?

Written By: Bloor Research
Content Copyright © 2006 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

XSOL is a software company from New Zealand, crafting their code in a native backdrop so striking it was used for filming the powerful series of fantasy adventure movies of the Lord of the Rings (from the books penned by English Professor J.R.R. Tolkien many years ago). Being an enterprise software company from New Zealand is different—but being a software company from anyplace that unravels a human problem with a software product so that the software product paradigm engenders correct thinking and use of the tool is truly amazing. Has XSOL achieved this with their approach to modeling business processes? That just may be the case.

But first, let’s roll the clock back a bit in the arena of business process management. When the BPM market sector began its growth, BPM companies keyed in on process modeling as an essential source of competitive product differentiation. The different approaches focused on ease of use and intuitive design with differences between products being quite substantial.

That was then, and this is now. The advent of the highly trumped—yet woefully value-barren—BPM standards (primarily BPMN, but don’t forget BPEL too) have led the wave in stripping away innovative modeling interfaces as if modeling in these standards is genetically programmed into our DNA. Meanwhile, the business problem of using tools to enable human thinking, insight and innovation has drifted further and further away from our grasp supplanted by a defined modeling approach supported with standards, best practices, methods and templates. The nuance is easily lost, yet the tighter we draw together the “process” of modeling a business process, the further we distance ourselves from the real value of BPM. For real value to be created modeling must remain a loosely defined human activity.

Meanwhile, the very real and tangible problem of building modeling interfaces that guide humans to express human concepts into the tool to increase creativity, innovation and productivity has been left wanting.

XSOL shakes things up

XSOL must have tapped into some magic fairy dust (perhaps left over from the Elvin actors in LOR?) because their modeling environment is new, it’s innovative, and it addresses the “human concepts to software” translation issue better than those modeling environments preceding it.

Taking an approach that claims to derive from “what happens in real life” as the starting point, the XSOL modeling environment is truly different—and significantly more intuitive—in how business processes are modeled. The human connection is there and that is a big deal. The approach is obviously spawned from “outside the box” thinking, an absolutely essential ingredient for innovation because the view “inside the box” is why we are where we are—and that view is not going to get us where we need to go.

If you take a jaunt through a modeling exercise with XSOL, when the trip is done (the model is complete), XML is exported to produce documentation that navigates naturally through the process(es). Very nice. As the presentation is again “human-centric,” the human connection is very much there and the resulting structure is an excellent way to present process documentation. The documentation by itself would be an excellent transition from modeling to operations if used as the process guide for process implementation in a traditional management structure.

Real BPM Engine

But XSOL is more than modeling and documentation. The model can just as easily be exported to the process engine for real-time operation. This is a simple click and go process (assuming your process is valid) so there is no cumbersome transition between modeling and execution.

On the downside, XSOL does not currently support all of the functions typically found in a mainstream BPM application, with BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) a particularly glaring omission. This is the biggest gap in the XSOL story, yet this company is still early on in the BPM game so it is not surprising to see some gaps.

All in all, an interesting product—and one sure to grab the attention of a variety of organizations interested in gaining control over their business processes. Certainly XSOL has done something new—and good—with their modeling environment. If the company can build on the strength of their modeling paradigm and fill in some missing gaps it could be they will be the trigger to a whole new approach to business process modeling in the BPM market.

And would be something we all would benefit from.