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J2EE Journal: Article

Supporting the Business Process Lifecycle Using Standards-Based Tools

Closed-loop BPM solutions

Here are the steps for turning a high-level BPMN process model into an automated process that can then be deployed:

  • Identify Web service operations that are invoked on various services
  • Specify XSD types for the messages that are exchanged between different entities
  • Model transformation maps to convert data from one representation to another
  • Specify endpoint locations and connection parameters for the services involved
  • Add fault-handling and compensation logic

Proprietary BPM, workflow, and process integration products can import BPEL. But, a native BPEL execution engine has many advantages over non-native implementations. For example, it won't lose information during the import/export process, and you can switch between model and BPEL code in real-time during development. BPMN and BPEL tools simplify communication between business analysts and developers, enabling them to collaborate more effectively. These tools do this by providing a seamless visual modeling experience from process design through implementation.

Monitoring and Optimizing Processes

Once business processes have been deployed, it's critical to monitor their performance by measuring key process metrics and having real-time visibility into process execution. Monitoring can be done at the operational or business level. Standards are still evolving in the monitoring and optimization domain; however, interoperable platform-based solutions are available. Figure 3 shows the various alternatives for process monitoring and optimization and the level of automation offered by each one.

Operational monitoring generally involves getting details such as process status, messages exchanged, performance, and audit trails. This is typically done via process monitoring metrics presented through a console. Many BPEL engines, process orchestration engines, BPMSs, and workflow engines that support BPEL provide a console for drilling down into the execution of business processes.

Available metrics could include how long it takes to ship an order, how long it takes to get goods from suppliers and pay for them, or how long it takes to provision a DSL line.For example, Oracle BPEL Process Manager includes a sensor framework that can publish process transitions and events to a queue (e.g., JMS) and database tables, which can then be received by a BAM tool. BAM gives you visibility into key business indicators along with user alerts and dashboards to respond in real-time to events or exceptions.

BAM tools can:

  • Capture system, application, or external events throughout an organization, and then filter, aggregate, and correlate them to answer key questions about how the business is doing. Events might be customer updates, inventory changes, or purchase orders, and may come from a variety of IT systems.
  • Generate metrics, KPIs, and trends. These can be used to identify causes and effects between different parts of the business, or to determine predicted outcomes so that corrective action can be taken more quickly.
  • Provide a dashboard with a rich set of real-time visualization features that can display the latest event data and let you drill down for root cause analysis and even take corrective action.
  • Send alerts to users, via various delivery channels, based on threshold violations or risks for certain key metrics, as mentioned above. Besides simple notifications, alerts can also be used to trigger automated responses or invoke structured workflows to deal with more complex situations. For example, if DSL line provisioning takes more than 20% of the average completion time in a 48-hour period, this could be flagged to an operations manager, or a set of business processes could be automatically fired directly from the BAM solution. BAM provides the missing link between process execution and redesign - with BAM, you can, for instance, actually find out if a supplier fulfills orders in stipulated SLAs. BAM also helps with simulations. Traditionally, process simulations were based on guesstimates, making the results only as reliable as the assumptions made during the modeling phase. With BAM, real-time as well as historical data can be used to model the as-is process and create the optimal to-be process. With successive iterations, the process can be refined to generate significant resource and cost savings. This feedback - closing the loop - is key to achieving business optimization. Feedback can be manual (a person sees trends and takes action based on them) or automated (the BAM system fires events that make in-flight adjustments to processes and systems).

More Stories By Mohamad Afshar

Mohamad Afshar, PhD, is VP of Product Management at Oracle. He has product management responsibilities for Oracle's middleware portfolio and is part of the team driving Oracle's investments in SOA on Application Grid - which brings together SOA and data grid technologies to ensure predictable low latency for SOA applications. Prior to joining Oracle, he founded Apama, a complex event processing vendor acquired by Progress Software. He has a PhD in Parallel Systems from Cambridge University, where he built a system for processing massive data sets using a MapReduce framework.

More Stories By Bhagat Nainani

Bhagat Nainani is a product development manager in the Oracle Application Server division. He currently leads the development of BPM services for the Oracle BPEL Process Manager. He has more than 10 years of experience with distributed systems, enterprise software, and integration technologies.

More Stories By Jog Raj

Jog Raj is the senior BPM consultant at Popkin Software. Jog has been involved in the early days of the development of the BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) at www.bpmi.org. Jog has also been responsible for the development of the mapping of BPMN to BPEL in System Architect. Jog has been involved in modeling business processes for over five years. He has been instrumental in the success of many major blue chip clients' projects both in the U.S. and Europe.

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