ActiveVOS AFA Lets IT Provide ‘BPM Building Blocks’ For Business Analysts
Active Endpoints, creators of the ActiveVOS SOA-based BPM (business process management) platform, is helping IT supply easy-to-deploy, self-service BPM to business users. Automation for Analysts (AFA) lets devs design and pre-build adaptable BPM building blocks analysts can use to quickly assemble, deploy and update processes.
Active Endpoints, creators of the ActiveVOS SOA-based BPM (business process management) platform, is helping IT supply easy-to-deploy, self-service BPM to business users. Automation for Analysts (AFA) lets devs design and pre-build adaptable BPM building blocks, which business analysts can use to quickly assemble, deploy and update processes.
“AFA is changing how business and IT collaborate for BPM,” Active Endpoints CTO Michael Rowley told IDN. “Rather than have business analysts share Visio diagrams with IT or explain how they want a process to work, AFA lets IT give business analysts a palette of pre-built components from which they easily assemble what they need.”
AFA’s goal is to provide companies faster and more agile business processes, with assurances they work properly and comply with policy, Rowley added.
“During the first [AFA] rollouts, we’ve seen business analysts are thrilled to see the boxes they can now work with are real executables, not just empty boxes as they’d get with Visio,” Rowley said. AFA’s smart building blocks include all the under-the-cover executables process flow would need to operate such as format transformation, service calls, hand-offs to other systems, approvals, etc.), he said.
Using these “smart Visio blocks,” AFA actually avoids the Video round trip because business analysts already have a set of components, pre-built for their special needs, they can work with, he added.
The AFA palette components abstract away a lot of the real programming from the analyst, but the functionality remains. “Calling a script is not what a BA does, so we enable the developer to create a more specific type of palette that offers the business analyst [components] specific to their needs,” he said. So, the AFA building blocks include many required configuration and parameters for a process, with very IT-specific aspects already included, such as flow, event handling, transformations and more.
IT also likes the AFA pre-built blocks because they include all the compliance, integration and other code that let IT ensure processes abide data handling, rules, security and policy issues and will properly work across departmental silos, Rowley added.
“We’ve heard from IT [that] they are looking for technologies to make BPM projects more self-serviced [for analysts]. But they don’t want to totally lose control,” Rowley said. “And we didn’t want to just give business analysts a ‘toy’ version of programming.”
AFA’s approach was a sweet spot between the middle, “where IT can design and deliver a well-defined set of components for making BPM easier to deploy, customize and update,” Rowley added.
To pre-build AFA components, the developer:
- Creates all associated resources for the processes, such as request form, task form, sample data, and runtime parameters;
- Creates and preconfigures services and patterns which he adds to the AFA palette as custom palette entries;
- Creates a deployment descriptor template that allows analysts to perform one-click publish of new and updated processes;
- Updates palette entries, requiring an updated workspace.
No two organizations will have the same pallet, and that’s a really key point. Meeting specific needs can’t be done with generic components directly from vendors. “To promote success, our approach is to let the developers assemble the components so they will be tailored to the company’s needs right from the start,” Rowley said.
Rowley admits there is a similarity between AFA’s approach to BPM components and long-practiced SOA principals. But he noted one major difference between SOA and AFA’s BPM technique.
“When you are writing SOA services, a rule of thumb tends to be ‘keep it general’ so you get flexibility and reuse because you have general-purpose components,” Rowley said. “For BPM, the reverse is true. The more specific the components, the more useful they are. That’s because many processes or tasks are industry-specific or even unique to an individual company.
Rowley cited the well-known “order-to-cash” process as an example.
“Many companies use the term ‘order-to-cash’ to generally describe a process, but in practice these ‘order to cash’ operations are very dependent on meeting very specific requirements,” Rowley told IDN. Just some of those factors include ways to access backend systems, schema, purchase orders, data formats, regulations and so on. “For truly agile processes, the devil is in the details, and for us the AFA building blocks are how we deal with all those details, and where the rubber meets the road,” he said.