Linking Business Processes, Web Services

Q-Link's new Q-PAC software provides an integrated development environment and business process management platform that will take any Web service and automatically write it into a business process.

Providing a Web services link to business process management, Q-Link Technologies Inc. will announce at mid-month its Q-Process Action Component for Web services.

Q-Link provides an integrated development environment and BPM platform for building process-centric applications. The new offering, aptly named Q-PAC Web Services, will take any Web service and automatically write it into a business process (a workflow in an SAP AG application, for instance) without any coding. The idea is that a business analyst can change a business process without having to go in and change the application integration platform.

Q-Link, of Tampa, Fla., has taken specific workflow components – send an email, execute a script, run a SQL query – and implemented each as a Q-PAC. With the new Web services Q-PAC, workflow components have the ability to interact with a Web service as a step in a business process, according to Greg Wilson, Q-Links founder and CTO.

"A lot of companies are coming out with Web services but the shortfall is there are no tool sets," said Wilson. "We are able to integrate a Web service into a companys environment as part of a business process."

Wilson provides the example of a manufacturer that invokes a Web services to obtain credit scoring on a potential buyer or supplier. "With Q-Link, you would take an icon that represents that Web services and graphically drop it into the process. Vendors provide a way to interact with a Web service, but its much more technical and comes down to writing code," he said.

With the new Q-PAC Wilson said his company is providing the other end of Web services creation – the platform that ties Web services together with an ERP (enterprise resource planning) or CRM (customer relationship management) system.

In the future, Q-Link will bring to market additional interfaces to IBMs WebSphere integration framework, as well as additional human-interaction types of Q-PACs, according to Wilson.

Colin McCarthy, director of global customer support at Quadrem International Ltd., an industry-backed consortium for mining, minerals and metals, is using Q-Link in place of a major CRM suite he had planned on installing.

"I have a global infrastructure for dealing with all the issues customers may experience in dealing with Quadrem," said McCarthy, in Dallas. "We were initially going to do an aggressive CRM rollout. We opted to go with Q-Link because [they were able to] put up a Web front that gave our customers access to us."

McCarthy said he was looking for the ability to automate Quadrems back-end resolution process and found that Q-Link enabled him to route and process resolution processes a lot quicker than the CRM software would have.

"Q-Link was built on process routing rules as opposed to information management rules," said McCarthy. "The difference to me is that instead of having to assign tasks we can build a process and people can go into a cue and interact with that process in real time."

The goal of business process management is to drive a process; Web services need to be automated into how Web services play in that process, according to Barry Murphy, senior analyst with the Delphi Group, in Boston.

"That does get nebulous," said Murphy, "but if you look back at how ERP was going to solve all these problems, the reality is it created more headaches – there are so many systems to be integrated. Now with the convergence of Web services and BPM, there is a chance to leverage all that information."

Users can offer up information in an ERP system as a Web service and the process management tool directs that Web service where to go.

"In theory, everyones happy," said Murphy. "In reality, it takes a little more than that and standards are still immature."