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Bridging the language gap between business and IT: Red Hat interview

AvantiKumar | April 14, 2014
Red Hat's GM for Middleware, Mike Piech outlines some of the reasons why the company's new BPM Suite 6 has received an enthusiastic welcome from customers.

Following the recent release of open source enterprise systems firm Red Hat's JBoss BPM Suite 6, a solution that brings in a single offering applications for business process management (BPM), business rules management and complex event processing (CEP), Computerworld Malaysia asked Red Hat's general manager, middleware, Mike Piech to outline how the solution is being received by customers.


Mike Piech, General Manager, Middleware, Red Hat - mod 

Photo - Mike Piech, GM, Middleware, Red Hat,


Why is Red Hat deepening its focus on the business process management sector and what are helped to inspire the development of JBoss BPM Suite 6?

Expanding our offerings to cover business process management is a natural next step for us. From the feedback we have received from customers, business process initiatives can be a challenge for organisations and we realised there was a need to incorporate all the key elements needed by business process management (BPM) projects to document, simulate, manage, automate, and monitor business processes and policies.

We took a look at our existing business rules management solution, JBoss BRMS, that is used to host an organisation's business rules and to make business decisions based on those rules, and felt that there was an opportunity for Red Hat to bring a unique combination of business process management (BPM), business rules management (BRM) and complex event processing (CEP) technologies together in a single product offering. Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite 6 includes the next version of its business rules platform, JBoss BRMS 6.

What are the difficulties of bridging the gap between business and IT and how is the new solution better at closing this gap?

The Business side and IT side of an organisation often speak a different language and their expectations of one another and concerns may also be very different. Through simple guidelines, Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite 6 bridges the gap as both teams can describe a business challenge using a common language that will later help create the solutions needed.

With JBoss BPM Suite 6, Red Hat brings a unique combination of BPM, business rules management (BRM) and complex event processing (CEP) technologies together in a single product offering.

The complementary technologies help organisations respond to changing market conditions faster and easier through advanced decision and process automation capabilities, and empower business users to make the necessary changes without requiring IT to manually rewrite application code. BPM Suite 6 begins by bridging the gap in communication between both teams, fostering effective collaboration so changes can be made easily and quickly. It continues with process design and simulation, data modelling, real-time dashboards, business rules configuration, connection of the process to the outside world, and business process improvement.

In addition, JBoss BPM Suite components (such as the workflow and rules engines) are embeddable in applications, delivering a new dimension in business process automation flexibility not available in traditional BPM offerings. This enterprise ready, yet lightweight architecture is also planned to be delivered on Red Hat OpenShift and will maintain compatibility with the current on-premise JBoss offering enabling business automation across hybrid cloud architectures.

 What kind of benefits will adopting this solution benefit businesses generally?

It is important to realise that business processes are constantly evolving and improving. With so many tools at your fingertips, execution shouldn't be the last step in BPM. Comparing initial simulation results to actual data from dashboards can help organisations realise places where change is necessary or improvement is possible. Organisations may find that a rarely used step is worth eliminating, a branch is too long and can be decomposed into a sub-process, or information manually fetched from an external source could be connected into the system. Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite allows organisations to change their business processes to meet their ever changing business needs - simply, quickly, and automatically.

Could you elaborate on some of the main design objectives behind the JBoss BPM Suite?

The BPM Suite is a comprehensive platform for business process management that can be deployed across physical, virtual, mobile, and cloud environments. One of the main design objectives is to empower non-technical users to define and automate business processes without compromising flexibility or scalability. This vision has led Red Hat to a fully model-driven approach to managing business processes, business data, and forms, and for creating advanced dashboards for business activity monitoring (BAM). Below is a detailed explanation for each phase.


Process design
JBoss BPM Suite is based on Business Process Model and Notation 2.0 (BPMN2), a standard, easy-to-understand notation that describes all the processes in an organisation. This includes where activities start and finish and what decisions are taken along the way. With JBoss BPM Suite's process designer, now, organisations can easily see all the different paths and options the process can follow depending on the decisions made across the execution of the process.

Once the process is modelled, the simulation functionality built into JBoss BPM Suite lets organisations see into the future. For example, enter how long each task takes to perform, how many people will be assigned to each task, and what percentage of cases go on each branch of a decision point, and JBoss BPM Suite will show the expected results of a scenario so organisations can fine-tune the process and resources assigned to it.

Data and forms
Users and systems make manual or automated decisions based on the information the process manages. JBoss BPM Suite emphasises the importance of data in processes by incorporating an innovative data and forms management component. From a web interface, users can decide what type of information the process needs to manage, its structure, and what forms will be needed to use the information during the process. This helps to answer important questions in the design phase, such as where information comes from.

Introducing data and forms early (during the design phase) helps streamline the process from the beginning. Knowing what information is needed and where it lives, as well as where it needs to go and how it needs to be presented means the design and workflow can be created correctly, as opposed to making difficult changes later when additional redesigns can be costly.

Many organisations store data disparately over multiple systems. Customer information may be stored in accounting for billing, in the customer relationship management (CRM) system for marketing purposes, and in the warehouse for shipping. For advanced integration needs like these, organisations a complement JBoss BPM Suite with Red Hat JBoss Data Virtualisation, a platform that consolidates views of multiple, disparate, and even distributed data sources into a single view for users and applications.

Deciding early what needs to be measured is key to meeting the objectives of the implementation. Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite provides an advanced and powerful web-based component that lets users drag and drop graphics to create sophisticated dashboards that focus on specific data. These dashboards can contain indicators that are connected to data sources in disparate systems. Customization means that organisations can easily create the view of key performance indicators (KPIs) needed for agile decision making.

Business Rules
JBoss BPM Suite includes native support for integrating business processes with web services. In addition, it is fully certified for use with the Red Hat JBoss Middleware portfolio of integration products, including Red Hat JBoss Fuse, Red Hat JBoss Fuse Service Works, and Red Hat JBoss Data Virtualisation. These provide straightforward mechanisms for users to connect business processes with external applications and data.

What has been the response from your customers to this solution and what are your plans to encourage existing customers to move from BRMS to the more comprehensive BPM suite?

We've received an enthusiastic response. In addition, we are offering promotional pricing for existing customers who wish to upgrade to JBoss BPM Suite. For users that require full-fledged business process management capabilities, including decision management and automation, JBoss BPM Suite is designed to meet their needs.

Do you note an increasing shift toward open source solutions adoption in Malaysia and Asia?

We're definitely seeing an upward trend in the adoption of open source in this region, including Malaysia. Today, there's no longer any question whether or not open source provide viable alternatives to proprietary solutions. While businesses value effective open source consumption, enterprise organisations continuously seek mentoring and proven techniques on how to proactively harness the power of open source and overcome organisational objections. We continue to tell our customers that the best method to reap maximum benefits from open source is to implement policies around the adoption, consumption and management of technologies and community development practices.

In addition, the shift to enterprise mobility has made us keenly aware of the need to provide instant access to our solutions from any location and any device.  BPM Suite 6 includes support for mobile devices, and during 2014 we will begin to offer many of our middleware solutions in the cloud, via our OpenShift PaaS.  This will make it easier for users anywhere to quickly access BPM and business rules services.


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