During a residency at the IBM facility in Raleigh, NC USA, where was helping to write the IBM Redbooks publication IBM Business Process Manager V8.0 Production Topologies, I started to think about whether more is better than less.
Before I start, let me point out something about my intention: I wrote this article from a non-technical point-of-view. For sure – from a technical point-of-view – you have a lot of functions, features, and extensions that are really different in the three IBM Business Process Manager product configurations. But, because we are talking about Business Process Management, you should not look at it that much from a technical point-of-view. The main word in Business Process Management is Business! There is nothing about IT in it.
For sure “less,” which means IBM Business Process Manager Express is not really rocket science. If you want to start with a Business Process Management approach in your company, or you really want to implement only one process where not that many things are included, you can use IBM Business Process Manager Express.
More or everything?
This is the point where I have many discussions. As a lot of technical people say, “It’s just a sales and license question.” But is it really? Certainly not.
When I meet with customers, I typically hear: "We are already using the SOA approach and we have our own service layer in place. We do not want to get an additional service layer with IBM Business Process Manager Advanced. So, we are going with IBM Business Process Manager Standard.” But again, is it really just this part that determines which configuration to use? For me, no.
Other people ask themselves, ”Do we plan to integrate with another system?” When the answer is yes, the thought is that you need to use IBM Business Process Manager Advanced. Sorry, but this answer is too easy for me too. Has anyone implemented a real process without any integration or communication with another system? No. In each process, you want, or have to, integrate or communicate with another system. Otherwise, it does not make that much sense. Why do you want to automate an informal process where people still have to look for the data that they need?
For me, it can be very difficult to point out the right things and make the right decision in the end.
My opinion (and please do not hesitate to correct me if I’m wrong) is this: You can’t answer these questions in a general way. You need to analyze what is the best choice for your situation.
Some points that might help you:
Find the long term goal that you have with the Business Process Management approach
If you just want to test the Business Process Management methodology and you do not have the right people to support it, it does not make any sense to go with the biggest platform you can get. Just start and grow into it!
Analyze the processes that you want implement and determine how you want them implemented
It does not make sense to start with the largest and most important process that you have and try to implement everything in the first release. Again, just start and grow into it! If you are doing it right, you will see – your Business Process Management implementation will grow.
Analyze the landscape in which you are working
If you are working in a large company, maybe there are also important factors to consider around you.
At first, forget the money!
Analyze which systems that you want to integrate and look to the future. If you have only one system with a simple web service integration point, maybe IBM Business Process Manager Standard can fulfill your requirements.
Afterward, think in money!
Analyze the pros and cons from a budget perspective. It does not make that much sense for you buy everything. Then, afterward, you discover that you are not able to find the budget for the system or the staffing for your projects.
A very good reference on how to plan and how to start is in the IBM Redbooks publication entitled, Scaling BPM Adoption: From Project to Program with IBM Business Process Manager. You really should have a look at it.
You see – it is not just a purchasing and, for sure, it is not just a technical question. The best approach I see is to go with a Business Process Management Solution Architect to fulfill the steps and help with the decision. But be careful, I am not talking about an IT Architect. It should be a Business Process Management Solution Architect that has experience in other Business Process Management projects. The Business Process Management Solution Architect looks from a business point-of-view with one eye on the IT point-of-view.
So, how do you determine which IBM Business Process Manager product to use? I really would appreciate hearing your opinion about it. Maybe you have your own experiences, have your own view, or you can add a point that I forgot. Perhaps we will get a full list of all of the considerations. Add a comment below so we can find a better or, maybe a general answer, for this question!
Matthias Warkentin is a Business Process Management Analyst, Consultant, and Developer for the IBM Software Services for WebSphere Team. He is based in Zurich, Switzerland.