This week I attended the WIUG meeting at IBM’s South Bank. The meeting was a half day event consisting of a Connectivity Stream with presentations on the new features in MQ V7 and Message Broker V7 and a Business Process Management Stream with presentations on BPM and Business Rules.

The Connectivity Stream was the more popular by at least a factor of five but I was interested in the BPM stream and was hoping to gain a little more clarity around the plethora of offerings IBM have in this space and I believe Business Rules Management Suites have a lot to offer as organisations get further down their SOA journey.

The presentations were interesting, both presenters were experts with their subject matter and as it was a small group it was very informal and interactive. I won’t regurgatate the presentations, which I believe will be posted on the WIUG site soon but here are my thoughts following a couple of days to reflect.

IBM’s BPM suite is still slightly confusing. Although I know that Process Server, Dynamic Process Edition and Business Services Fabric are essentially Process Server based bundlings and FileNet is for document centric business processes, it’s not clear where Lotus, Lombardi and Business Space fit into the equation. I guess clearing this up is going to take a little more effort on my part but it would be nice if the guys at IBM had a clear route map.

As well as extracting the Business Rules from your process IBM are talking about Composite Business Applications. The policy about which task is executed next in your process is extracted making it possible to dynamically alter your business process at runtime based on factors such as the channel servicing the request, the platinum status of the customer making the request etc. This higher level of abstraction will allow you to simplify your business process into its core tasks extracting the complex if, then else decisions that don’t form the meat and veg of the process itself.

ILOG BRMS looks pretty cool in action and I look forward to the guys coming into the office next month to talk to our WebSphere practice.

I need to look into Business Space, this came up in both the BPM and BRMS talks and I don’t know anything about it (yet) and also look into BlueWorks BPM again (when I first looked at this a while back it didn’t work – turns out it doesn’t work in IE yet).

For me the most important point of the day was policy extraction from business processes. With a SO approach it becomes much easier to implement business processes by plugging services together. When you’ve got that sorted just make sure you haven’t moved the inflexibility of the past into a higher layer. Look for opportunities for reuse, simplification and policy extraction throughout your model / design.