BEA to launch interactive BPM tool

BEA Systems has unveiled plans to enter the market for people-based business process management for the first time, with a new version of a tool that will allow companies to build and manage collaborative business processes.

AquaLogic Interaction Process 1.5 is designed to extend to users through a portal the business process management (BPM) that BEA traditionally has focused on back-end systems, said Christine Wan, BEA's director of product marketing. The tool is built from software gained from the company's acquisition of Plumtree Software,

BEA's previous BPM efforts have focused on tools to allow companies to tie together business processes from existing back-end systems with Web services to build new composite applications, she said. This new release is designed to allow users to interact with processes, she added.

The software, formerly known as Plumtree Process Server, can attach collaboration documents to work items, map a business process to a collaboration project and allow users to participate in threaded discussions within a process. Potential use cases include expense approval, benefits administration, customer management, field service management, inventory management and sales cycle management, she added.

"It is the first time that BEA is addressing the human workflow side," she said. "Ultimately, it is those end users who are doing the work, who are struggling with paper-based processes and trying to tie together and aggregate data from the various back-end systems."

The new tool includes a process designer to allow business analysts to model and design a business process and to designate the roles for participants in a process. The designer also allows the user to simulate a business process as it would behave in production and allocate potential costs to each point of the process, Wan said.

The new software also includes a process execution engine that orchestrates the activities of users and their roles with the back-end system, and it notifies users when they have a task that needs to be performed.

Version 1.5 also integrates with BEA's AquaLogic Interaction Collaboration product so users can share documents with others who need to work with a process by checking documents in and out.

Andrew Reid, vice president of software development at Red Bank, N.J.-based home builder K. Hovnanian Homes, said his company plans to use the updated BEA tool to help it automate paper-based processes for employees to get supervisor approval to access certain applications or data that require security clearance.

The software will make the process of moving requests through supervisors and district managers more efficient, and it will allow the company to have an electronic record of approvals for processes -- like providing an employee access to accounts payable -- that fall under the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act, he added.

In addition, the company, which now uses Plumtree's software, will evaluate the tool to be used to queue data updates -- such as updating the status of a home under construction -- for employees to use when hosted applications go down or when users don't have connectivity, he said.

"We are finding ourselves using a lot more hosted solutions for different functionality, so we need a basis for managing those integration [points] in a partially connected scenario, because you can't always guarantee connectivity to those solutions," he said. "Our field offices are widely distributed with varying reliability for connection on a construction site. It is a question of being able to work in a connected and disconnected mode and queueing up [data] to be delivered later as connectivity comes up again."

The software began shipping at the end of January.

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