Bluespring's Suite 4.5 whets appetite for BPM
Innovative Microsoft-centric suite wades into shallow waters of business process management
All told, I found this to be one of the easiest BPM products in the market to roll out -- a good way to reduce custom code costs. It has a particularly user-friendly Web portal interface that will get users quickly on board. Companies invested in Microsoft apps and looking to swim into the deep end of BPM will find a refreshing change in the cool waters of Bluespring BPM Suite.
Charting a course
The Bluespring Designer offers a fine path to productive process development for business analysts.
The easy-to-use visual interface presents a palette of drag-and-drop activities covering all types of automated behaviors, along with access to Active Directory and other MS-specific apps such as SharePoint. The palette also works with MSMQ (Microsoft Message Queuing) and XML, plus it handles synchronous Web services calls. Just drag them to the canvas and fill in the blanks to configure.
I found good tools for defining path logic, support for subprocesses and multibranch parallel routing, thanks to "wait on" and "timeout" event activities and active monitoring of external data sources such as e-mail, files, and SharePoint.
There were some minor bumps in the IDE: the absence of swim lanes for clear delineation of responsibilities across departmental boundaries; easy collapse or selection of subprocesses; or even a simple undo option to backtrack from a formatting error. But, the platform otherwise performed well and really made quick work of process layout and configuration.
The IDE also presented some top-notch wizardry for generating Web form skeletons, WSDL, and SQL queries.
I would like to see tighter integration of a rules engine to foster management and reuse, although a connector for InRule Technology's engine is included. And stronger process dependency tracking would benefit ongoing change management.
For launching and monitoring my processes, Designer included two added interfaces, Process Management and Task Management, which I could use during debugging as well as to check running activities.
I found the graphical interface for drilling into data and logs to locate errant tasks to be rather cumbersome. I would have preferred better data control and access to KPI (key performance indicators) metrics. Also, the interface would do well to improve insight into the logic and parameters encapsulated by each graphical icon -- say, via mouseover data pops -- rather than forcing me to spawn the original process design diagram or route through lengthy trace logs.
For many implementations, user task management from within Outlook or via custom clients and Web forms will work like a charm.
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The Bluespring Web portal offered crisply delineated access to personal data (such as location and out-of-office notices), task management (including escalation and reassignment), and permissions-based access to reporting features. Permissioned workers can even view color-coded process diagrams highlighting activity status.