By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-08-25 Print this article Print

Pegasystems SmartBPM Suite 5.1 business process management application provides a strong tool set for companies that want to efficiently codify custom business processes. SmartBPM Suite 5.1 wont allow companies to get by without developers, but it does such a good job of simplifying process building that well-trained business analysts should be able to use it to move an application along before developers need to finish the job.

Available since June, SmartBPM Suite 5.1 performed well in eWEEK Labs tests, providing a well-designed tool set for building, using and maintaining process-based applications. Implementations of SmartBPM Suite 5.1 are priced starting in the $125,000 to $150,000 range. SmartBPM Suite 5.1 can be licensed on a per-user basis or by number of transactions.
Per-user pricing covers users who perform heavy transaction volumes, such as claims processing agents. SmartBPM Suite 5.1 also can be licensed on a transaction volume basis, where the PegaRules engine is deployed as part of an application that uses SOA (service-oriented architecture) to process transactions without user intervention.

Also available separately are Pegasystems Solutions Frameworks—modules built on SmartBPM Suite 5.1 for specific industries, such as insurance, health care and financial services.

Visio Vision

SmartBPM Suite is different from most BPM products in that it doesnt include its own process-mapping application. Instead, it relies on Microsofts Visio. Otherwise, SmartBPM Suite 5.1 offers a fully Web-based suite of tools for building and deploying process-based applications. (The suite does require the use of Microsofts Internet Explorer.)

Like most of its rivals, SmartBPM Suite 5.1 includes a rules engine and Web-based development environment. Pegasystems development environment, called PegaRules Process Commander, is used for creating decision and declarative rules; building user interfaces, including forms; and documenting applications.

BPM vendors explore their options. Click here to read more. We used Process Commander to build and manage applications as part of our testing. We liked that a single tool allowed us to do just about everything necessary to build an application—from defining fields and forms to managing business rules.

In fact, we didnt even need to leave Process Commander when working on process flows in Visio because Visio runs embedded in the browser window. We could drag and drop objects to add elements and create or redefine connections between objects. But we did notice some minor hiccups—for example, double clicking on an object sometimes caused a scripting error that prevented object assignment properties from displaying in the left-hand column.

Using Visio as opposed to the tools built into competing BPM systems has no distinct advantage unless a companys business analysts and developers are already familiar with the Microsoft tool. In that case, companies can import process maps already created in Visio to speed application development.

Pegasystems uses a BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation)-compliant tool set within Visio, but most competing Web-based or proprietary process mapping tools use BPMN-compliant notations as well. Also, like Visio, these other tools will save process maps in a BPEL (Business Process Execution Language)-compatible format. Process maps created in Visio are saved in an XML data format. When a new set of rules is deployed, the PegaRules engine converts this XML data to Java code for execution on the server.

Relying on Visio does have a downside: Companies that arent already using the tool will have to buy, install and manage it on the desktop.

Master and Commander

From an application design standpoint, Process Commander organizes object properties in a tree view in the left-hand pane and provides an action and design work space in the center view. The tree view is organized across tabs that display application elements, classes and rules.

Next Page: Simple shortcuts and design elements.


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