Put to the Test: Savvion BPM

Once business users master Savvion's modeling tool, it's easy for IT to turn the designs into executable processes.

Bruce Silver, Contributor

December 8, 2006

7 Min Read


• Free downloadable modeling and simulation analysis tool; supporting Web site offers collaboration with growing process modeling community.

•Ease of development by nontechnical users, fostering business-IT collaboration on implementation..


• Rich human workflow support, including user-defined forms, rule-based task assignment, collaborative tasks and prebuilt reports.

• Exception handling is hidden in scripts that aren't surfaced in the model diagram.

• Lacks data transformation tools for mapping process data objects to adapter parameters.

Savvion BusinessManager breaks down the walls between process modeling and executable process design. Modeling and design use essentially the same tool, encouraging business-IT collaboration and ensuring that the model and executable process always stay in sync.

Business analysts using Savvion's modeling tool can define design components such as process data and task user interfaces, activities deemed "too technical for business users" by other business process management suite (BPMS) vendors. In addition, Savvion offers a version of Process Modeler, including simulation analysis, as a free download, and has established a ProcessXchange Web site through which modelers can post and share their creations. The site has successfully grown the community of process modelers, and after modeling their processes, they find themselves just a short step away from generating executable business processes.

Savvion's strategy of giving away the modeling tool reinforces the business-driven aspect of BPMS, and also tends to make human-centric processes the vendor's sweet spot. But this is by no means a low-end product. Savvion BusinessManager (SBM) runs as Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) on WebSphere or WebLogic application servers, leveraging J2EE integration standards such as Java Connector Architecture (JCA) and Java Messaging Service (JMS), and it's architected for high-volume scalability and enterprise-class "nonstop" operation. Moreover, SBM provides the production workflow features demanded by business process outsourcers (BPOs), such as complex rule-based task assignment, rich task user interfaces and out-of-the-box performance management reports supporting workload and group productivity analysis.

Building The Model

Savvion's Process Modeler is based on a subset of the OMG Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) standard, including tasks, subprocesses and gateways, with swimlanes mapped to participant roles. SBM 7.0 adds limited support for BPMN's intermediate events, which trigger exception flows. Support for the full BPMN notation is expected in version 7.5, around mid-2007.

Process Modeler includes a powerful simulation-analysis capabilities that let analysts estimate average task duration and cost, resource cost, and flow path probabilities. The tool projects backlogs, cycle times and costs for various configuration scenarios. Other vendors offer process diagramming tools for free, but Savvion is unique in providing free simulation analysis and reporting.

Process Asset Manager is an enterprise repository for process models that provides version control, access control and advanced search. The browser-accessible Process Asset Manager is also useful for sharing designs and best practices broadly across the organization.

Moving To Execution

Savvion BPM Studio is an Eclipse-based environment for executable process design. It extends models created in Process Modeler with implementation details such as integration adapter configurations, exception handling, business rules and business activity monitoring (BAM). The Studio supports all Modeler functionality, including simulation and process documentation, as well as its own enterprise repository for design artifacts. Any process component, from forms to integration adapters to management dashboards, can be reused in multiple processes across the enterprise.

The Studio layers configuration properties on top of the BPMN model, making executable design quite intuitive and IT's as-built implementation understandable to business users. In the past, graphical manipulation of process data elements was limited, and dealing with complex data objects required scripting or Java code. SBM 7.0 improves the tools for managing and using complex data objects, but Savvion still doesn't provide transformation tools for mapping process data objects to Web service parameters.

Version 7.0 reduces the need for Java code to manipulate data, but still relies heavily on scripting to handle exceptions and events. User-selected Advanced Workstep Properties define JavaScript that is executed at various lifecycle transitions of a workstep: when the task is created, opened by a user, completed, expired and so on. Workstep Properties can also direct the process to wait for a particular condition, supporting synchronization with external events or other process conditions.

Savvion provides a business-friendly form editor for building task user interfaces. Starting from a standard template, users can select from a palette of basic layouts and then drag textboxes, checkboxes, data grids and other graphical widgets onto the design canvas. These elements are then mapped to process variables or external data tables. Users can create multitabbed forms and add JavaScript for form validation and other custom-event scripting actions. Studio also lets process designers create task user interfaces that are multipage Web applications (or "screenflows") in which users can perform lookups or other actions. Pages are interconnected in a flow governed by buttons and links, but all within the context of a single process task. All of this can be done in BPM Studio or the Process Modeler, and SBM also supports Adobe and Microsoft InfoPath forms.

Automated worksteps are performed by adapters, integration middleware components that let the process engine execute API methods on external systems such as databases, file systems or enterprise apps. Savvion provides its own adapters for SQL, FTP, e-mail, Web services, Excel and QuickRules rule engine, and supports iWay's catalog of hundreds of adapters. SBM includes a UDDI browser that can search Web service registries and handle both .Net and Java-based services. Adapter worksteps are configured by introspecting the system or registry in the Studio, then mapping dataslots to the appropriate input and output parameters.

Applying Rules

SBM includes the QuickRules business rules engine from Yasu Technology, which runs as an EJB in the BPM Server environment. Rules are executed from the process using an Adapter workstep. Savvion provides a wizard to define rule sets based on process data. There's a wide choice of rule representations, including If-Then statements, decision tables and FlowRuleSets that combine rules and actions in a graphical flow. QuickRules also provides a rule maintenance application that lets authorized users modify rule parameter values on the fly through a simple Web interface.

SBM provides a second rule engine used both for responding to external business events and for business activity monitoring (BAM). This event rule engine listens for JMS messages, SOAP messages, file-system changes and process-engine events, then processes these events by updating performance data tables and monitoring them with user-defined rules. Actions can include sending alerts, starting a new process, invoking a Web service or completing a workstep.

Savvion provides a wizard that lets business users define custom performance measures and dimensions used for both process analytics and BAM. Other wizards let users create dashboards with reports and charts based on performance measures, including OLAP-style drilldowns for problem resolution. SBM provides more than 50 reports that can be run out of the box to analyze process status, time and workloads. These reports can be applied at the process, instance, workstep or performer level, and users can configure personalized dashboards at runtime.

Summing Up

SBM 7.0 packs the complete checklist of BPMS functionality into a unified suite that encourages collaborative implementation by business and IT. Most aspects of process design can be configured by nonprogrammers through diagrams and point-and-click wizards, and much of the design can be done in the free Process Modeler. By giving away modeling and simulation, Savvion is not only teaching business analysts the power of BPM, it's making a direct connection between process analysis and executable implementation. This link works best for human-centric processes that do not require manipulation of complex data structures, but SBM provides the necessary wizards and scripting hooks to handle virtually any kind of business process.

Savvion BusinessManager 7.0 starts at $100,000, but most deployments are priced in the $250,000 to $500,000 range

Bruce Silver ([email protected]) is an independent industry analyst and author of the blog BPMS Watch. Engage in the discussion at www.brsilver.com/wordpress.

About the Author(s)

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights