Driving BPM through Models for Financial Services

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Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

One of the technical innovations that I looked at during the BPMS market update last year was around the use of modelling to drive the development of business processes. While doing the next update on the BPMS Market, I came across a new vendor to me—BizAgi, whose whole proposition is built around the premise that “the process is the application”.

BizAgi started life some 20 years ago in Colombia and initially expanded across the South American marketplace, before starting European operations in 2007. This change of emphasis also saw the company move its headquarters to Amersham in the UK. BizAgi employ some 140 people with offices in Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Spain. The company still develops the product in Colombia. Since 2006, BizAgi has won gold (twice) or silver in the WfMC Best BPMS Projects in Latin America or EMEA. Quite an achievement for such a small company!

So what about the product? BizAgi’s component architecture is available in both the J2EE and .NET worlds. It is based on EJBs for the J2EE platform and on Microsoft Enterprise Services for .NET. on top of this platform infrastructure capability, the BPM Suite consists of three main modules that manage the process life cycle:

  • The BizAgi Process Modeler: this is a free modelling and documentation tool.
  • The BizAgi Studio: is what BizAgi term their automation module, as it takes the model designed in the Process Modeler and using a set of graphic tools creates a model that is stored into a database.
  • The BizAgi BPM Server is the engine that executes and controls the business processes automated with BizAgi Studio. This is based on a set of components that include a BAM facility, a process engine and a business rules graphical environment.

So what does their premise of “the process is the application” really mean? It is best explained by taking a journey through the products as you define and implement a business process. Starting with Process Modeller, the user either can import process information from Visio, XPDL or images, or draws the business process using a BPMN based notation. There are some very nice easy to use features that make it easy to link symbols as well as checking feature to validate the models. Documentation can be produced automatically in word or pdf format.

Now the user needs to move the process from the business perspective of Process Modeler to work with all the applications etc in the organisation. This is the role of BizAgi Studio. Only the production environment needs to be rented; testing and modelling environments do not require additional rental fees. Another good starting point for those of you who are cost conscious! It provides a multi-user, collaborative design environment to support large scale BPM projects. The components managed by BizAgi Studio include:

  • Applications: this is a set of business functionality (a set of interrelated processes) that supports a given business objective. Applications are organized using “Levels” and “Categories” enabling the display of processes as a hierarchy.
  • Entities: these describe the corporate data model underpinning the process information and resulting web application in the work portal.
  • Business Rules: are the conditions, validations and norms that must be satisfied and controlled within the organization. Business rules are classified into families (sharing a common characteristic), to make them easier to find.
  • Organization: this is the reporting structure along with information such as geographical locations.
  • Templates: these are used for letters, emails and notifications.
  • System Scheduler: a sort of real-time system component that is capable of interacting with processes, rules and entities.
  • Work Portal: this enables the customization of all graphical elements (including multi-language support for dynamically rendering BizAgi’s forms in the appropriate user language) and the look and feel of the web application.

Users can also define views of shared process resources, such as the entities in the corporate data model, in such a way that only elements of information relevant to the process they are currently working on are displayed. So now we have turned the business model into one that represents the technical world that the process has to operate in. However this has been done in a way that the information model is reusable.

Now you need to run the process live. BizAgi automatically generates a web application based on the refined definition in BizAgi Studio. BizAgi Server offers two alternatives, .NET and J2EE. Both were developed in a native form for their respective environments. They support the main application servers and databases on the market. BizAgi Server consists of not only a process engine, but also an integrated rules engine and a business services integration engine. The latter displays the BizAgi functionality as web services in such a way that all applications can easily interact with the BizAgi automated processes.

There is a web portal that allows process users to visualize and prioritize their pending activities, as well as see information in real-time about process performance. Depending on the user profile, this portal enables management of the processes, reassignment of cases when operational problems arise and taking corrective action for achieving the organization’s performance objectives.

From an administration view point, BizAgi provides an easy to use way to manage system users, their profiles and permissions. It also offers a graphic environment for managing information of the organization that is relevant to processes: functional areas, geographic distribution, staff hierarchy, etc. BizAgi integrates transparently with LDAP, Active Directory and offers the possibility of managing the administration locally.

Driving your application by the business process and doing this using a model seems rather strange, but once you get the hang you wonder why no one else does this. To add to this based on their experience, BizAgi has designed a set of Knowledge Modules. These modules comprise a set of adaptable process templates, structured and flexible data models, user interfaces for all human activities or tasks, configurable business rules, and interfaces with external systems. These solutions are geared for the financial services industry and include consumer credit, mortgages, commercial loans, collateral delivery and fulfillment. There also some cross functional solutions such as compliance, Sarbanes Oxley and customer service.

If you are in financial service and looking for a low cost BPMS solution to help get better control whilst still being agile and flexible, then Bloor recommend that you take a serious look at BizAgi.