First Impression: Serena Lean BPM

First Impressions
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One of the core advantages of BPM is that it need not require “boiling the ocean” to deliver positive results. Proof-points can and should be demonstrated early, by focusing on discrete business area. In the words of management sage Peter Drucker, “Continuous process improvements in any one area eventually transform the business. They lead to innovation. They lead to new processes. They lead to new business.”

In other words, to realize long-term, transformational results, start with a pragmatic approach. Use short-term project wins to show proof-points and build credibility, and then to leverage this into large projects areas. Leverage the incremental and measurable qualities of BPM to achieve repeatable success.

Knowing this about business process management and which factors correlate closet to the best chances for BPM success, we were particularly impressed by Serena Software’s Lean BPM solution. Does “Lean” mean simply de-scoping traditional BPMS capabilities? No. Serena’s Lean BPM provides a full set of capabilities for building and deploying process-based applications, including of course a GUI-based designer for process flows as well as forms and user interface, in addition to reporting tools and auditing capabilities.

What the Serena Lean BPM framework lacks compared to some other BPMS platforms is the infrastructure components common to large system, transactional deployment environments, such as an ESB, preconfigured application connectors, document/records management repository, ETL tools, or a separate rules engine.

These capabilities have their place, but are not necessarily consistent (or at least not required) with a pragmatic approach to business process management.

What you will find, however, a set of capabilities uniquely tuned to creating quick, effective and repeatable BPM applications. This includes subtle nuances, such as a strong versioning capability in the process designer, facilitating reuse of process model. It extends to a focus on wholesale application reusability, whereby any existing process or application can be used to quickly develop a new application.

The advantages of course include saving time and development resources with each additional application or automated process, however, a potentially more compelling benefit is the ability to modularize the development process in a relatively simplistic manner (read “agile”). Specifically, common process and groups of tasks can easily reused, enforcing greater governance and consistency but without imposing any particularly restrictive in the development process. This is delivered through an inherent packaging capability that stores processes as portal components, combined with an integrated ‘path-to-production’ deployment capability that allows an application to move it from test mode to live production through relatively simple, guided process.

On the Ground or In the Clouds

Serena’s Lean BPM can be deployed either 'on-premise' as a local application within an enterprise's firewall, or ‘in the cloud’ as an on-demand application. This allows greater leverage of the inherent path-to-production ease of deployment, as well as the overall notion of a pragmatic approach to BPM. On-premise deployment resolves any perceived risks or actual regulatory issues relating to data stored outside of a firm's physical control, while on-demand deployment eliminates the overhead involved with deploying and managing server infrastructure. A particular area of differentiation is ‘mashup’ functionality that uses lightweight, web protocols for integration, such as REST and SOAP. This is combined with an integrated Mashup Manager to build and manage ‘mashed’ objects or widgets combining data sources within Flash or Silverlight objects that can be drag-and-dropped into applications and processes.

Another area of differentiation, particularly in regards to building and deploying web applications, is the built-in security and session management capabilities. Session management a critical component to managing the user experience and security. It is impossible to effectively support mashups or web-based processes without a session management capability, yet this is not functionality particularly common in BPMS environments.

For example, is a web app is comprised of various third party widgets, activity occurring in one will not affect others unless they are specifically integrated, or unless there is a foundational session management capability which flows security and identity parameters between them. Another benefit of session management is that it allows web applications to behave like desktop applications, for example if communication with the web browser is broken or the user hits “refresh” then whatever has been done within the application will not be lost, as would be the case without session management.