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Friday, October 15, 2010 by Neil Ward-Dutton
Earlier this week, as part of its autumn 2010 launch of updated ‘business agility’ offerings covering BPM, SOA, virtualisation and cloud computing topics, IBM announced the upcoming launch of a new SaaS offering for organisations pursuing business agility initiatives: Blueworks Live.
Blueworks Live isn’t IBM’s first foray into the world of SaaS tools for customers with BPM interests. It represents the coming together two existing SaaS offerings in the BPM space from IBM: BPM BlueWorks and Blueprint – the latter of which came into the IBM fold via the 2009 acquisition of BPM specialist vendor Lombardi. An integration plan to resolve the overlaps and set out a clear path for users of both Blueprint and BPM BlueWorks has been a priority work in progress for IBM ever since the acquisition of Lombardi closed.
Blueworks Live is set to launch with a price of $10 per user per month. It blends the existing capabilities of the Blueprint service with some features of BPM BlueWorks – so far so good. But there are two other features that are particularly interesting.
The first represents a significant departure for IBM: Blueworks Live is now not only a platform for process discovery and modelling – it’s a platform for process automation and execution. Specifically: lightweight, immediate execution of simple approval worklists and checklist-style sets of activities though the quick creation of ‘process apps’. Process apps created on the platform can be immediately shared with other members of an organisation.
As we’ve pointed out a number times before, even in the most mature BPM adopters, only a small minority of business processes – those which are highly structured and repeatable – have been deeply studied, documented and (partly) automated. The vast majority of knowledge work, for example, has some degree of ‘process-ness’ – but it’s also dynamic – ad hoc even. Other work is more readily subjectable to standardisation, but too ‘simple’ to warrant tackling with a comparatively expensive suite of specialised tools. These kinds of work fall outside the scope of specialised BPM tools: if they’re supported with IT at all, the tools used are spreadsheets and email systems. This is the kind of work that IBM is hoping customers will tackle with Blueworks Live process apps.
(Similar capabilities can be found in offerings like ActionFlow and TIBCO’s FormVine: but those things are standalone simple form/workflow builders rather than being integrated into broader collaborative platforms. ActionBase also has some similarities, but its foundation is specifically designed around email usage.)
The second is an extension of a capability already present in Blueprint, which aims to enrich the scope and depth of social team collaboration and knowledge sharing possible around BPM projects by extending the Blueprint concept of ‘activity streams’. With Blueworks Live, this feature has been extended in two ways:
- Follow processes and work. With the addition of the ability to create process apps (see above), any team member can now follow changes to process apps and progress of activities within process instances – as well as being able to follow changes to blueprints, documents and so on. This is interesting because it means IBM isn’t just tackling the ‘long tail’ of business processes; it’s doing so using social computing and collaboration concepts.
- Availability of public streams. Even though the centre of gravity of Blueworks Live’s community features is around social collaboration within company-internal teams, Blueworks Live also presents an external activity stream within the community environment. This activity stream is curated and filtered by IBM, and is based on relevant Twitter updates from individuals and companies that IBM believes have important BPM expertise.
This is a really interesting new release from IBM. In a couple of weeks, we’ll publish a report that goes into more depth on the service’s features and capabilities, and what it means for IBM and its customers. Watch this space.
Full disclosure: I’ve been told by IBM that my Twitter account (@neilwd) will be one of those monitored and curated for inclusion in the public stream in Blueworks Live. I’m not being paid for this and in fact I only found out recently. I’m very happy to take part – but perhaps I should try to make sure I minimise any tweets about music and cheese from now on…