Sunday, December 03, 2006

Exciting Fusion News for Functional Folks - Oracle's BPA Suite

Years ago, I came into the Oracle world as a functional or business systems analyst type of person. So I get excited when something new and exciting happens for these types of folks. This is one of those times.

Oracle has recently released an evaluation version of the Business Process Analysis ("BPA") Suite. You can download the BPA Suite for evaluation purposes here. The BPA Suite is essentially the IDS Scheer ARIS business process tools reworked to integrate with Fusion Middleware. This early release only includes the Business Process Architect tool; the remaining components will be included at a later time. In my opinion, this release is not ready for any type of "prime time" use. However, it is still most definitely worth exploring!

For Windows Users, the BPA Suite is an easy install - it took me all of 15 minutes to download and install. I worked through the Quick Start Guide, then I was off and running in building my own business processes. For those of us who use non-Windows systems, find a Windows box. I tried to run the BPA Suite on a RedHat Linux box within a WINE environment - save yourself some frustration, swallow the bitter pill, and find a Windows box for this evaluation.

Using the BPA Suite, a functional person can map out or extend a business process, and...wait for it...translate that business process into a BPEL-executable format. Consider building a business process much like you might build a workflow process in Oracle Workflow Builder today, but building it within a Visio-like environment with a Visio-like tool set. The BPA Suite, or at least the Business Process Architect component of the BPA Suite, is very easy use and has a very flat learning curve. For a first iteration, this is good stuff!

As I started building some complex business process designs, I did find it helpful to conceptualize my business processes in four layers: Level 0, which describes all the business processes in an enterprise; Level 1, an end-to-end representation of a major business process (i.e., Procure-to-Pay); Level 2, a detailed, step-by-step representation of a business process; Level 3, where all of the detailed tasks and services are mapped out for a business process. Needless to say, I'm not creative enough to have come up with this on my own. I learned this 4 level model from the "Oracle Business Process Modeling and Analysis" presentation made by Oracle's Pat Krebs at Oracle OpenWorld.

As my imagination races into the future with the BPA Suite, I can visualize delivering a Functional Design for a business process that consists of: 1) The business process design, including the first iteration of a BPEL executable; 2) determinations as to whether each service within the process will be initiated by a service call or human initiation; and 3) a user-interface design for all those services kicked off by human action. If this is the future with Fusion, I can't wait!

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