BizAgi Modeler now with SharePoint and Web Publishing Options

January 6, 2010

Just happened to notice a mailing today from the folks at BizAgi talking about the ability to publish BPMN models to SharePoint.

BizAgi have been providing a free BPMN Modeling tool for a year or so now … around half a million people worldwide have downloaded the tool and make use of it. And as I have said before, I believe it is one of the best modeling tools available on the market (free or paid for). The drag and drop, “intelisense” UI is worth a look anyway and should give every other Process Modeling tool a run for their money.

The addition of a SharePoint publishing option is great – especially when you consider the other wide selection of import-export options, which include Word, PDF, Visio, XPDL, Web, and Wiki. The Web publishing mechanism is pretty cool, as is the presentation mode (allowing you to step around the process with a full screen presentation option, accessing all attached information and embedded docs, etc).

Not bad for a free tool. People often struggle with this “free” business model – just where do they make their money? Well, they also sell a fully featured BPMS which is available at several levels – an Xpress Version (limited to a 100 users), and all the way up to an Enterprise-scale BPM Suite. My understanding is that since they started giving away the modeling tool their business has exploded.

Coming back to the implications of the SharePoint publishing option, users can now push their content to their own communities of users. They can share their processes within the enterprise – at the click of a button. Of course there are going to be implications for SharePoint Administrators (setting up appropriate file structures), but in the end, users are now getting highly dynamic HTML, delivering a compelling experience to the business person.

For more information – check the Resource Center.

BPM Focus Take the IBM acquisition of Lombardi

December 17, 2009

While the choice of dance partner was a little surprising, the desire for a liquidity event in the Lombardi management team was there to see long ago. They touted an IPO around this time, but in the current market that was always going to be difficult. My guess, and it is a guess, is that the VC funders wanted to cash out, and they pushed for a trade sale. And given we don’t know the price paid (although it may come out over time), and then discount the several rounds of VC funding … the true price will be hard to tell.

Looking at the other potential suitors – I don’t think Oracle could swallow another one so soon; Microsoft is not into Java based vendors; Adobe, have their own play and it would be hard to see the synergies; SAP … hmmn, if I had to pick one that would have been it. Of course, IBM would have been high on the list also.

From Lombardi’s point of view, as others have pointed out, IBM has the broad based clientele. This will give them room to grow and leverage an existing, widespread sales force that is tightly integrated with the market place. I am sure there will be frustrations along the way, but the methods and techniques developed by the Lombardi team are exemplars to the industry.

As I have said to many other vendors, when people buy BPM products, they buy the promise of success. And I am sure Lombardi’s success in the market is as much down to that aspect as it is their leading technology stack. They help their customers understand how they will succeed in meeting their business objectives (rather than touting the beauty of their technology stack).

For IBM, Lombardi brings that cachet in the market place – in my opinion one of the real leaders. But digesting the new acquisition and building new value will be challenging (and for Lombardi, being digested will not necessarily be the easiest of experiences). But I am not sure they can continue to claim that the Human/Content/Integration-centric BPM products belong in separate buckets – in the end, they are all about people and systems working more effectively together. I agree with folks like Neil Ward-Dutton that there is a high degree of overlap at the technology level. Maintaining a reasonable segmentation of products against perceived client needs always starts to look shaky no matter which vendor you look at.

For the customers – well those that don’t like IBM will continue to not like IBM and will wonder why they went this way. But to a large extent, they will be locked in. Others will rejoice in the fact that two existing suppliers now become one. On balance, I don’t see a massive decamp.

For the competitive BPM vendors – I should imagine it is champagne all around. On the one hand it proves their value (once the price becomes known). On the other, Lombardi getting swallowed up just removes one difficult competitor. Dealing with them as part of the IBM value proposition is probably easier than dealing with them as independents.

Other major technology vendors will sit up and take notice and may start looking for complementary acquisition targets. My guess is that Microsoft and SAP will perhaps buy someone that seems to fit. I think the Microsoft SharePoint value proposition is a little suspect (unless they bolt in a robust process platform … because Windows Workflow Foundation just doesn’t cut it – see my white paper – SharePoint as a Strategic Weapon – available free on P5 of the White Papers section of the BPM Focus web site). SAP has struggled to communicate a viable product story for anyone other than existing SAP application users.

For the Lombardi team – there will inevitably be a certain degree of fragmentation. Some will run for the hills, and others will stay. I cant see Phil Gilbert heading for the beach any time soon. Anyway, I am sure that the odd glass of Champagne (or in Phil’s case,  excellent Pinot Noir) will be raised to toast the new home.

SharePoint and BPM White Paper

December 11, 2009

On the BPM Focus web site, you can find our research paper exploring the implications, holes and joys of attempting broad-based BPM deployments using SharePoint. It is on Page 5 of the White Papers area (you will need to be registered to access the paper … free of course)

A short summary/excerpt:

Some already see the potential for SharePoint as a strategic weapon. They recognize the capability of the platform to enable collaboration amongst employees as they respond to the varying demands of customers and the market. They clearly see the need to ensure documents and data are managed effectively. But they also see the slippery slope of “SharePoint Sprawl” and the brick walls created by the product’s rudimentary process support facilities. Under the covers, SharePoint’s reliance on Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) as its process support mechanism severely constrains the platforms capabilities, inhibiting process architecture and leading to manually coded workarounds, which in turn, drive complexity and increased Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Adding a comprehensive SharePoint-oriented Business Process Management (BPM) Suite to the mix solves many of the critical issues associated with widespread deployment of the platform.  Having embraced the SharePoint platform, organizations are discovering that, especially from a process point of view, SharePoint leaves a lot to be desired – particularly when compared with specialist BPM tool sets.  The key point is it that it is entirely possible to leverage the best parts of SharePoint – its Content Management and User Interface/ Collaboration features – and still benefit from best in class BPM capabilities.
This paper sets out to highlight potential issues for the strategist on the path ahead, highlighting the options, techniques and practices needed to overcome them. We first characterize the strategic goals of organizations and the technology strategies within them and then move on to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the SharePoint platform. We then get into the meat of the discussion, exploring how the firm can most effectively achieve its business objectives and support its business processes by further leveraging its SharePoint investment through the addition of a Business Process Management (BPM) suite.

SharePoint and BPM White Paper Research

September 21, 2009

After a summer of doing other things (including a lot of house maintenance), I am back into the swing of things and working on a White Paper around how the emergence of SharePoint is affecting the BPM industry.

I will be exploring the issues associated therewith, the different sorts of integrations, the future of BPM linked with this MS “Swiss Army Knife” (as Rashid Kahn described it on Jim Sinur’s post).

So I am interested in any and all views associated with SharePoint and the world of Business Process. I will be exploring the different levels of maturity of SP users, the claims and aspirations of MS in this domain and the potential for long term leverage in the end-user community.

Of course, it will be best if folks could comment on this blog for all to see the sources, and I will post a copy of the white paper here as well in a few weeks time. All references and perspectives that I end up referencing I will of course acknowledge.

I must say at this point, I am fairly underwhelmed by the MS notion of “workflow” but it is still early days in my research.