Product review: Ultimus jump-starts BPM deployment
Microsoft-centric suite offers a respectable low-cost entry into BPM with tools for graphical process design, Web services support, and good administration with minimal technical requirements
Deploying the suite was generally straightforward, although Ultimus routines could better facilitate a number of basics, such as database setup and permissions tweaking. Further, documentation was poor and incomplete, and it generally focused more on basic sys ops rather than provide insight into the Ultimus product. I found this a common theme across all components in the suite. That said, it wasn't long before I had the server and studio configured and I was getting down to business.
BPM Studio is the development hub, providing tools for graphical process layout and definition, management of the component repository including nicely implemented version control, and process verification and simulation testing. Although Ultimus might consider adding some wizardry to guide users through common steps – particularly in the absence of any tutorials or best-practice templates – the capabilities are ultimately decent.
Schema import from XSD, Web services, or DLL helped seed definitions. Routing was good, with opportunity for graphical schema translation. Additionally, everything from e-mail alerts to process constraints was easily accessible via the properties menus.
Although any Word/Excel forms development is external to the suite, built-in Ultimus Web forms can be created internally.
Graphical rules construction was concise and covered basic runtime Boolean operations over process instance variables. Although more advanced processing and combining would enhance development, the result here was a rapid buildup of logic without much demand for technical expertise – both a blessing and potential curse as ad hoc process forks and rules libraries could become unwieldy.
Ultimus fares extremely well in paying attention to process cost. The ability to monetize a process at every step – including combining steps for net totals – is essential in driving process improvement directly to the bottom line. The suite does a great job of helping you recognize it.
Simulation tools, launched right inside Studio, were useful in verifying flow and garnering insight into runtime data and metrics. Although the tool would be bolstered by provisions such as randomization and stress testing, final reports delivered good analysis of throughput and process efficiency.
Seeing the sites
To administer running processes, Ultimus does a very good job with an additional interface for sifting and sorting process instances and peering into user workloads. Stuck processes can be opened and examined, rerouted, or rolled back (although comprehensive transaction compensation is not built in), all with good clarity. Additionally, good security over process permissions and access helps to implement delegation control.
The Ultimus Director interface – used by process experts to manage unmanaged events – is also well thought out. I was able to easily replay process histories, and could manipulate and create rules to address newfound process hiccups.
Although the reporting facility built into the BPM Suite offers only static output, Ultimus addresses dashboards by bundling its Ultimus iBam Suite – a separate installation -- into the mix with its additional repository, dev tools, and server requirements for monitoring real-time KPIs.