Ultimus jump-starts BPM deployment

Adaptive Suite 8 brings ease and agility to BPM, enabling users to redirect business processes in real time

The success of a BPM (business process management) initiative hangs on a good plan. Spend too little time developing a snapshot of your company's inner workings, and the resulting system of misfiring rules and unhandled exceptions will find you mired in costly troubleshooting. But, sure enough, you can also lean too far in the other direction. Spend too much time charting workflow definitions, control points, and exception management, and the delays will start whittling away at your ROI.

Enter the Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite 8, a Windows-based server and development toolset that helps streamline the BPM launch cycle. The key to Ultimus is an added window into process execution that allows experts to catch unhandled events at runtime and control them by creating new rules or rerouting flows in real time. Replacing in-depth mappings with on-the-fly process governance cuts short the development cycle -- a selling point for executives in need of quick results that can justify BPM startup costs.

In general, I found the Ultimus solution to undervalue good planning. In comparison to offerings from vendors such as Lombardi that recognize the necessity for discovery/documentation tools, Ultimus has a huge hole to plug.

Moreover, several traits make the proprietary engine difficult to work with, including no integration with standardized design-time tools (surprisingly not even Visio, given Ultimus' Microsoft-centric focus), no native support for BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation), and no comprehensive onboard rules-management facility.

On the bright side, Ultimus flaunts a no-code approach to BPM that will have you up and running quickly when implementing document-centric workgroup processes. Despite Ultimus' buggy and often unintuitive interface, I did warm up to BPM Studio, which offers a graphical design canvas for flow, schema, and rules definition. Its encapsulated connector logic (Flobots) makes easy work of tapping databases, Microsoft Exchange, and Microsoft SharePoint, as well as data in Word and Excel forms.

Although systems integration adapters are light, new Web services hooks in this release add services-enabled apps to the mix, on top of its .Net support.

The Ultimus client (both Windows-native and browser-based) provides a good interface for task workers to be productive with a very minimal learning curve. And I found the administrative and reporting interfaces delivered good insight with excellent functionality.

Overall, I found the Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite 8 to perform well and demonstrate a good first step toward reaping benefits from BPM while reducing the complexity of deployment. Small workgroups and medium-sized businesses with limited integration requirements will also appreciate this solution's affordability.

Engine blocked

The Ultimus suite comprises a number of components, all requiring Microsoft underpinnings: a BPM server, a graphical development studio with simulation tools built on top of a unified repository (Microsoft or Oracle), a graphical org chart tool that defines corporate hierarchy and workgroups for use in routing (tapping AD or LDAP), and a Windows desktop client for task workers.

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.

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