From model to execution
Last year at TechEd in Las Vegas, Munich and Bangalore, we publicly lifted the covers on “Project Galaxy”, SAP’s venture to develop the next generation of BPM software. In a nutshell, this new BPM solution has the goal to support a model-driven approach to managing composite business processes throughout their lifecycle, enable both business as well as IT with a state of the art user experience in design as well as runtime.
Now, at SAPPHIRE 2008 in Orlando, as a first result of “Project Galaxy” SAP has announced the planned availability of “SAP NetWeaver BPM” and “SAP NetWeaver Business Rules Management (BRM)” as brand new components of SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment (CE), that will be shipped this year with SAP NetWeaver CE 7.1.1.
Designing a Composite Business Process with the Process Composer
There are a number of benefits if you embedd a BPM solution within an Integrated Composition Environment; one of them is obviously that the design of a composite business process that orchestrates human as well as automated activities needs native access to the user interface (UI) as well as to web service definitions or, even better, to SAP’s Enterprise Services via the ESR browser or the service registry. SAP NetWeaver BPM’s process composer leverages Web Dynpro Foundation for the task UI assignment and assignment of service definitions (WSDL) to automated activities. With SAP NetWeaver BRM (based on the product formerly known as QuickRules by Yasu technolgies, a company which SAP had acquired in the fourth quarter of 2007), the process composer will also provide easy access to business rules, as, e.g., in the form of decision tables.
The process composer is seamlessly integrated in the Eclipse-based design time of CE as a separate perspective and provides BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) process modeling capabilities.This notation allows easy and intuitive process modeling both for Business Process Experts as well as developers in one common environment. The process composer will support all stages of process modeling from high-level definition of the process down to the enrichment for the actual development into deployment and execution. Life cycle aspects (versioning, transport, etc.) are fully supported through SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment. Notice that with the first release of SAP NetWeaver BPM, we will focus more on the developer role, but already received very positive feedback on the usability of the tool for business analysts.
SAP’s BPMN notation differentiates activities into human and automated activities. Those activities can be structured within nested processes (sub-processes). Human activities normally trigger tasks which are executed through end users whereas automated activities allow to execute web services and provide therefore full integration into SAP’s enterprise SOA enabled business applications.
As the process server (the ‘dark side’), a newly developed Java-based process runtime, executes after deployment the composite process, the process desk provides capabilities for business users to access, investigate and execute tasks assigned to them. The process desk leverages existing assets such as Universal Work List (UWL) as a first channel, others will follow. SAP’s UI technologies, such as Web Dynpro and Interactive Forms can be integrated for the end-user interaction within the modeled processes. Rapid UI prototyping capabilities will in future releases enhance and speed up the design and specification of process interaction components.
Embedded Business Rules Management
Business Process Management and Business Rules Management have co-existed for many years – a process modeling & management experience that delivers automated decision making and business rules management as an integrated experience, however, is not that common today.
The Situation Today
Rule Engines and BPM systems can be integrated, but in a very loose fashion through service calls or direct java method call integration.
Business rules are organizational assets that will need to be managed and reused in a coherent fashion like any other asset as process models, organizational models etc. But because no standards exist in the rules space, BPM tools will have to rely on 3rd party rule management tools adding to increased administration and governance costs. SAP is dedicated to offer an integrated experience when it comes to managing processes and decisions in a logical, coherent and unified fashion.
Towards integrated Business Process & Rules Management
For SAP, the acquisition of YASU Technologies offered a perfect fit into SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment and the new BPM solution. A staged approach will integrate business process with business rule composition, execution and management:
In the first release of SAP NetWeaver Business Rules Management (BRM), we will focus on providing an Eclipse based rule composition capability that is tightly integrated with process composition (integrated design of process and rules), as well as a providing a “standalone” rules management capability externalizing business rules as re-usable assets (services) fo, e.g. Java-based development.
A roadmap of what we plan to deliver in future release will soon be available on the deicated SDN pages for Business Process Management and Business Rules Management.
As this blog is supposed to be a quick introduction to the topic only, we will from now on start publishing more detailed information on the tools, on usage scenarios and previews of how-to-guides as well as sharing more information of what we learned from our design partners that provide us with valuable input and food for thought on the way ahead. So stay tuned, an watch out for my colleagues Greg Prickril (Lead Product Design), Rajgo Narayanan (Product Manager BRM), Donka Dimitrova, Jie Deng, Stephan Schluchter (Product Manager BPM).
If you are attending SAPPHIRE in Orlando or Berlin, join me and customers like Intel and Coca-Cola for a session on how early adopters made their first experiences with our new BPM capabilities.