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This is one 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 Amita Abraham, Product Marketing Manager, and Rajiv Onat, Product Manager of Fujitsu for the briefing given to Bloor.
Fujitsu is the third largest IT provider with $53 billion in annual revenues and has 167,000 employees worldwide. The software group is part of the “technology solutions” business line—along with hardware and services. Fujitsu started their interest in BPM in 1991 with Teamware Flow in the USA. This interest has now developed from a very collaborative, groupware solution to a full-blown BPMS suite, called Interstage, with the product now available in a SaaS format. Product development is carried out in Japan, US, Germany and India. Fujitsu’s route to market started with definite indirect focus with Interstage being OEM’d by among others Interwoven and Baan. Today the split of sales is about equal between direct and indirect.
Interstage Business Process Manager is a suite of products built to support the Fujitsu 5 stage business process lifecycle; the stages of which are model, integrate, automate, analyse and optimise. For the model stage, Interstage BPM Studio, the Eclipse-based development environment, provides both business and IT users with the necessary tools to create process models, run simulations, design forms and reports, define business rules and set up integration points. Interstages’s support for integration is not only web-based but also has a number of well-defined APIs as well as connectivity to certain hardware devices. There is an interface to Fujitsu’s SOA Governance solution, CentraSite, to aid the searching for reusable components. In the latest version of the product there is support for Web 2.0 services; this includes the use of Wikis to provide supporting information to a task, as well as standard mashup capabilities. Interstage BPM Analytics provides the BAM capabilities for the suite. KPIs, process status, escalations and analytics are provided through a configurable Analytics Dashboard. To support optimisation, Interstage BPM Studio provides a “what-if” capability. The UI can be implemented as a Java-based thick client, as Java applications, or as AJAX or Java Server Faces (JSF)-based Web clients. The Web-based console that is provided with the product also utilises the Model API layer to interact with the server.
Figure 1: Interstage Business Process Manager product architecture (Source: Fujitsu)
One of the big differentiators of the Fujitsu approach is the addition of a tool and service related to supporting organisations in discovering their current processes quickly. The service is called “Automated Process Discovery” and the tool is the “Process Discovery Tool”. It is a tool I wished I had had when I was a practicing process analyst—it is that good!
Fujitsu explained to me that the service normally lasts about a week. For those of us who have been involved in the introduction of BPM, we know that the hardest part is often getting people to tell you about the current process in its entirety. The Process Discovery tool generates business process flow diagrams from customer’s DB data and analyses them. It runs through the entries in the logs and produces a process model visualisation; this includes all the different paths taken and how frequently each path is used. The reports can be analysed and various conditions applied to eliminate the exceptions to get at what the core process looks-like. Then this model can be stored under the control of Interstage BPM Studio so the process is already captured and can easily be altered through the Studio tools. I was really impressed with this service and tool when it was demonstrated, for although the tool doesn’t pick up manual processes, a vast amount of work in the discovery process around the use of current applications is automated.
Rules Management support is provided in a number of different ways. Firstly through a decision table feature inside the product itself to provide simple table-based rules. The rules are able to be reused for many different processes. There is a built-in test environment to test rules before they are deployed. Additionally there is a built-in approval process for rules modification. Interstage also has pre-built integration to both iLog JRules and Fair Isaac Blaze.
Interstage BM Analytics is interesting as it does not require the need for a data warehouse, providing the ability to define reports in real-time in various formats including XML, HTML, PDF and CSV.
Version 10 of Interstage BPM was released in June of 2008 and it introduced the support of SaaS. This capability is enhanced with advanced support for application partitioning and multi-tenancy capabilities. Each partition segregates: process definitions and instances, as well as forms and rules.
Fujitsu Interstage Business Process Manager is, in Bloor’s view, one of the best BPMS products on the market at present. Much thought and effort has gone into producing a well-rounded product which not only supports the key components of BPMS v1 (development environment, process and rules run-time engines, integration capabilities, form and report design, and Analytics), but also some of the key BPMS v2 capabilities including SaaS and knowledge intensive processes support.