I had a demo of Lombardi’s business process management (BPM) tooling the other day – Lombardi TeamWorks.

The first thing to note is that the tooling is Eclipse based and uses BPMN notation – in fact at first glance I thought it was IBM WebSphere Business Modeller as I’m more familiar with this! It looks very similar, and all the concepts are equivalent. I guess BPM is BPM and so the “problem space” is what it is and so they will all tend to look the same. The difference is down to the quality of the implementation between vendors. It certainly looked easier to use than WebSphere Integration Developer (WID) – the Java code was all hidden from the designer until you get to wanting to put custom controls in JSPs or invoke external services. Debugging a process flow fired up quickly, no booting up a test instance of WAS required etc. Also, there is no real mention of BPEL, unlike in WPS (WebSphere Process Server).

There is also a SaaS modelling environment for business users called Lombardi BluePrint – this uses a simpler subset of BPMN, and so is essentially a clever online Visio-style tool. You can can pull models from BluePrint into the Eclipse dev tool and flesh out the process with more technical/implementation detail, as you might using WID for Modeller models.

There’s a business portal web app for business users to launch business processes, see what’s “in their inbox” etc – very similar to the ‘Business Space’ portal that WPS v6.2 now has, so I think IBM have caught up a bit here as the ‘human task management’ part of WPS has up until now been a weak area.

Inbuilt rules engine support is weak apparently (like in WPS IMHO, hence IBM bought iLog and got JRules, amongst other things), so you’d need to integrate with external “decision services” if a strong capability was needed.

The other vendor in this space that keeps coming up in our customer engagements is Peg a (strong in the business rules area), and in general my view is that are all pretty much capable of doing the job. One word of caution is that I’d have thought that as an almost “single product” vendor, Lombardi must be at risk of being acquired at some point, which could lead to consolidation into the acquirer’s existing product lines etc.