EMC: solutions frameworks and smart containers

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Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

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 Business Process Management Suite (BPMS) market. My thanks go to Chris Preston, Sr. Director Worldwide ECM Product Marketing and Mark Travers, Senior Manager, BPM Product Marketing of EMC for their briefing at the beginning of October 2008.

EMC is a big player in the software world with over 40,000 employees in approximately 400 sales offices in more than 60 countries around the world. They are a publicly traded company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange and are a component of the S&P 500 Index. EMC was founded in 1978 and 2007 was their largest revenue year ($13.2 billion) and recently completed its 21st consecutive quarter (over 5 years) of double digit growth. EMC Documentum is a well-known name in document management and ECM circles. As part of the Documentum offering there is a BPMS suite, which has been considered to be one of the leaders of document-centric BPMS

The latest release, 6.5 SP1, has a very heavy Web 2.0 orientation, particularly around working with social networks. Based on customer feedback, EMC have also increased support in areas around the management of groups of documents; these include Case Management (what Bloor calls Knowledge Intensive Business Processes), where there is a need for greater emphasis on collaboration to increase productivity of people involved; and event management, where EMC have made enhancements to their BAM capabilities.

For those of you not familiar with the EMC Documentum BPMS, lets us look at the components and the architecture of the product. Figure 1 shows the components and the lifecycle areas that they support.

EMC Documentum Process Suite Architecture

Figure 1
: EMC Documentum Process Suite Architecture

To support the analysis phase of business process lifecycle, Documentum provides the following components:

  • EMC Documentum Process Analyzer: this is the process analysis and modelling tool. The information captured through the models is stored as data as well as diagrams, which allows users to view the data in different ways as appropriate to them. It can be used on its own as a modelling tool working with other BPMS products. It has interfaces to Oracle AquaLogic BPM/ XPDL Runtime, Tibco, Microsoft BizTalk Server and any BPEL Compliant engine.
  • EMC Documentum Visio Interpreter Extension: this is an add-on to Process Analyzer which enables diagrams originally designed in Microsoft Visio to be imported into Process Analyzer. One of the differentiators of this extension is its ability to capture the semantics applied in the Visio diagram and transfer that into Process Analyzer.
  • EMC Documentum Process Simulator: this is an add-on to Process Analyzer which provides a simulation analysis tool that is used with the models built in Process Analyzer. Like all BPMS tools, the simulation uses a process diagram approach only.
  • EMC Documentum Process Navigator: this provides a view-only access trough a web browser to the repository data of Process Analyzer. Access can be controlled using an organisation’s LDAP directory.

For the design phase of building a business process, EMC Documentum has two components:

  • EMC Documentum Process Builder: this is a drag and drop process deployment tool, which can be used by a non-technical user. The process models created in Process Analyzer are imported seamlessly into it. There are a number of out-of-the-box templates supporting integration and collaboration common tasks. The component is used to define how both structured (Documentum or XML) and unstructured data is used by the process. It includes a data mapping tool and a Process Debugger. The latter enables designers to interactively test and validate process logic.
  • EMC Documentum Forms Builder: this tool allows process designers to build user interfaces where required, which can be exposed either as web or electronic forms or as Documentum TaskSpace user interfaces. It is W3C XForms-compliant as well AJAX compliant.

The final components of EMC Documentum Process Suite support the runtime environment:

  • EMC Documentum Process Engine: this is the runtime environment for process and workforce automation. It applies the defined business rules and allocates tasks to the appropriate person or application. The process engine uses queue management and user-configurable policies to support high transaction volumes. It has a tight integration with the Documentum Content Server and accesses content management services through a web service. An audit trail is produced during the execution of a business process, which is stored in the Documentum process repository. This audit trail can be evaluated either by Documentum’s own BAM tool or exported using ODBC, JDBC or ADO.Net drivers to any system management tool.
  • EMC Documentum Process Integrator: this is the integration layer of the suite. It uses a services-oriented architecture that supports JMS, XML/SOAP, HTTP/S, WSDL, JDBC, SMTP, S/FTP, POJO and FAX protocols. It supports an event action model for loosely coupled integration. It also provides email integration capabilities.
  • EMC Documentum TaskSpace: this is the user interface for BPMS applications in the suite. It allows users to access and retrieve information they need to route, approve or update process activities. The interfaces can be customised to support various roles with both images and documents being able to be retrieved, allowing the user to work with a combination of data, workflows and content. “Team rooms” can be set up to allow and manage group collaboration. TaskSpace can also be used as a RAD tool for building applications for the user community. There is support for embedding forms from other sources.
  • EMC Documentum Business Activity Monitor (BAM): this provides real time monitoring of processes and the generation of alerts and notifications. EMC BAM is a full Web 2.0 tool that leverages Adobe Flex and supports interactive user-driven drill-down of graphical data. The tool is embedded within TaskSpace so that information can be displayed in user configurable portal dashboards

The close integration with the Documentum Content Server provides not only the ability to use content and data in a process but also the ability to store in the repository smaller parts of an overall business process separately, which provides greater reuse capability for shared common tasks. In addition Documentum’s integration with Captiva, EMC’s data capture tool, means that electronic versions of paper based documents can be used within processes.

Documentum offers a number of free solution accelerators to customers. These include: mortgage loans, insurance claims, contracts management, correspondence tracking, clinical trials and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Not only do they provide complaint process frameworks but also these solutions integrate image and data capture through EMC Captiva.

The latest release of the software has also introduced the concept of “Smart Containers”. Logic is built into a container to link all relevant information automatically. The platform-based logic is reusable across many applications, so they can be leveraged across applications to ensure consistency. This also results in less development time spent on coding pre-existing content and relationships.

What we have from EMC in the Documentum Process suite is a fully functional BPMS v1 product (development environment, process and rules run-time engines, integration capabilities, form and report design, and Analytics), with some of what Bloor calls BPMS v2 features in place already; namely knowledge-intensive processes and vertical process frameworks. If you then add EMC’s worldwide support ability and their successful partnership programme, you have a BPMS product that should be a serious contender for selection even if your organisation doesn’t have Documentum Content Server.