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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Testing Business Processes with iLog Business Rules

This morning (Oct 28, 2009) I attended a iLog Business Rules Management System (BRMS) Demo and it gave me an idea.

iLog has a great tool for testing rules. It allows to design test cases using MS Excell that are sent to the Rules Engine in order to determine if a rule set provides the expected decision.

In the past I ave been involved with the difficult exercice of generating test data for Business Processes. Using the iLog testing tool, this could be realized like this :

1. Before the process is designed, use the BRMS to design the process vocabulary.

2. Create some basic rules which from process inputs produce process outputs. In fact these rules simulate the process.

3. Create the rules test cases such that the rule responds the right process output from a given process input. In fact the rules set must simulates the process for the foreseen test cases.

4. Communicate the rules and their test cases to the Process developpers so they can design and build the process using the test cases.

5. For automating the tests, at the end of the process (or at intervals if the process is composed of serveral parts), send the process inputs to the business rules and ask the rules engine to compare process results with the expected process results (this requires a comparison rule which allows to determine of two result sets are considered equivalent).

To illustrate this, I used the opportunity to test gliffy to make a diagram:


http://www.gliffy.com/publish/1872505/

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BPMN isn't the Panacea for Business Process Management

A typical approach when thinking about Business Process Management is to try to draw two types of diagrams:
  • the AS-IS Diagram: represents how the process is executed today
  • the TO-BE Diagram : how we would like to execute the process in the future
The TO-BE diagram aims at improving the business efficiency by for example automating certain tasks. The Business Process Modeling Notation is the standardized notation for such Process Diagrams. Once the process is modeled in BPMN it can be implemented using the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL).

BPMN seems to be the way to go to manage a company's business process.

So the question is : Is BPMN the panacea (a cure to all pains) for Business Process Management ?

I dont think so. Here is why...

If the BPMN approach sounds logical, it has nevertheless some drawbacks:
  • How to get non architects draw their processes, they prefer natural language = to talk about it. Drawing and agreeing the right process is a painful exercise in most companies.

  • Some of the Process Drawing tools like ARIS, MEGA, System Architect require some training before they can be properly used. They are perceived as complex.

  • BPMN diagram don't represent the reality. It's sometimes very difficult to draw the reality because there are numerous exceptions to the process (exceptions are the rule...)
Alternative approaches to BPMN are than very useful. One can find at least 2 types of alternatives : Middelware and Applications.

Middelware (other than BPEL Engines) allow businesses to manage their processes. Here are some examples:
  • Business Rules Engines allow to determine what is the best next step to be executed in a process (decision), or determine how an activity should be performed (planning). At IBM this would be the iLOG BRMS.

  • Business Activity Monitoring and Complex Events Processing allow to monitor a process though relevant events (product purchased, payment completed...). At IBM we implement this with Websphere Business Monitor and Websphere Business Events.

  • Business Intelligence tools allow to create reports and dashboards which help Business Managers to lead their teams to execute the processes in the right way.
Companies have also been managing their business processes without modeling them. They have purchased applications or frameworks which contained ready to use processes:
  • Horizontal Applications like ECM solutions include standard document flows for publication and approval of information

  • Vertical Applications Packages like SAP, Temenos T24 or PTC Windchill include pre-canned business processes that "just" need to be customized to the company needs.

  • Industry Specific Frameworks include Business Processes. For example IBM proposes the Insurance Process Acceleration Framework. I the Media sector, IBM proposes the Media Hub.
The drawbacks and the alternatives of BPMN, demonstrate that BPMN isn't the Panacea for Business Process Management.

So, If you are interested in BPM, I would recommend you the following :

If you want to be closer to the business…

When thinking about BPM

Don’t think immediately BPMN, AS-IS and TO-BE

Rather, think
  • Natural Language
  • Business Intelligence
  • Business Events
  • Business Activities

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Some HTML for the WII

What to do when there is nothing on TV ? Play with your WII.

I did that yesterday but not as you would expect.

I tried to develop web pages for my WII opera browser in order to:
  • play web radios on the WII. I developped the page thanks to some hacking pages but... on the same pages they explain there is a memory leak in the WII flash player that makes that the music stops after a few minutes. I also tried http://www.wiihear.com/ but it seems also to suffer the memory management problem.
  • Display photos on the WII. This works great thanks to Picasaweb.
I also tried iGoogle and Netvibes and it works, except when there is too much Flash.

Too bad there is this Flash memory leak because otherwise the WII could become a really great platform. My experience is that much of the new technology seems to have some glitch somewhere.

I just hope Adobe and Nintendo will upgrade Opera with a new flash player soon.

Entreprise Modernization : Switching between Web Applications with JavaScript

Some IBM customers have a lot of assets on "older" (or shouls we say more mature) platforms as zSeries or iSeries. Traditionnally those applications have "green screens".

Rational Host Access Transformation Services allows to easilly convert those 5250 or 3270 screens into Web pages exposing exactly the same functionality.

This allows to extend the reach of the i or z code.

End users also have an easier way to switch between their different screens. They can do that by:
  • having several browsers and using ALT-TAB to switch between them
  • having a browser with Multi-tab (like FireFox or IE7)
  • toggle between web applications in a page using javascript and iFrames for instance
I have built a small demo to show the last possibility.

By showing or hiding a div containing an iframe, one can easilly navigate between different web apps and stay logged in and in context (the hidden iframe just stays on the same page, until i is shown again).

You can test it here in 2 different flavors:
Of course this is a very simple and cheap solution, the ultimate way to do this would be to use Lotus Mashup Center.

Friday, October 16, 2009

L'eBook m a tuer : Réponse à Yann Queffelec

Hier matin (jeudi 15 octobre 2009) sur Europe 1, dans la Polémique Culturelle de Olivier Faugiel, il y avait un débat sur l'ebook, intitulé l'e-book m'a tuer. Vous pouvez le revoir sur le site de Europe 1.

Yann Queffelec y a détruit l'ebook :"Le livre sera toujours là lorsque l'ebook sera 6 pieds sous terre". D'après Mr Queffelec rien ne peut remplacer de sentir un bon vieux bouquin et le plaisir de le toucher d'une main à 5 doigts.

Mr Laurent Picard, co-fondateur de Booken a bien essayé de le défendre mais j'aurais voulu mieux défendre cette technologie face à un comportement qui me semble un peu trop fermé.

Si j'avais été présent, j'aurais voulu poser à Mr Queffelec les quelques questions suivantes :
  • Quel plaisir y a t-il à sentir, ou plutôt à porter au container, les tonnes de publicité papier et journaux que l'on reçoit a la maison toutes les semaines ?

  • Quel plaisir y a t-il a chercher à la main les spécifications d'une pièce d'avion dans un manuel de 5000 pages ?

  • Quel plaisir y a t-il de stocker dans son grenier 10 mètres de classeurs de nos cours d'université qu'on ne relit jamais car on a aucune chance d'y retrouver le petit bout de théorie dont on a besoin et dont on ne se souvient que vaguement ?

  • La lecture lire un sketch de Raymond Devos sur un écran d'ordinateur ou dans un livre ne procurent-elles pas le même rire ?

  • Les mots sont-ils différents quand ils sont sur papier ?

  • Quel plaisir y a t-il à porter un Harry Potter de 1/2 Kg à bout de bras dans son lit, qu'on finit par en avoir mal au poignets ?

  • Quel plaisir a t-on à lire un livre avec une loupe car notre vision ne sait plus de lire la police de taille normale ? (Dans ce cas, on voudrait peut être tout de même 10 doigts...)

  • Quel plaisir a t-on a imprimer des documents dont on sait qu'on va les jeter dans une semaine ?

  • Quel plaisir a t-on à lire ses extraits de comptes ?

  • Quel plaisir à avoir une valise 5 Kg plus lourde dans l'avion car on lit beaucoup en vacances ?

  • Quel plaisir à partir chez un client avec seulement 10 brochures papier alors qu'on a 100 produits à vendre ?

  • Quel plaisir à imprimer des codes barres sur des papiers qui ont une durée de vie de 2 jours (produits frais), ou même 1 minute (tickets de caisse) ?

  • Quel plaisir ont les écoliers à porter un cartable de plusieurs kilos chaque jour ?

Il est évident que le livre électronique ne remplacera pas intégralement le papier. Mais l'ePaper en général et l'ebook en particulier présentent cependant pas mal d'avantages par rapport au même contenu au format papier.

Et puis il y a certains eBook qui fonctionneront tant que le soleil sera la et n'iront pas 6 pieds sous terre. L'eBook solaire de LG, par exemple..

Monday, October 12, 2009

Balloon Trip we did this summer

Here are some pictures of the Balloon trip we did in August this summer above the "Vlaamse Ardennen".

It was our first time in an Air Balloon.

After helping to fill the balloon with ambient air, warm air was blown for take off.

Take off is quiet quick and at that moment you think "My god, what am I doing here ?". But after 2 minutes you figure out it's perfectly working and also very quiet : there is no apparent wind. You can than start to enjoy.

The pilot of Balloon Heli did - I think -a very good landing, we had only two chocs to stop.

Once again Thank You to Maggie, Dimi and Julie who offered us this trip as a wedding gift.

Click on the photo below to see the Album on Picasaweb.

20090816BallonVaart


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Worst Web Shopping Experience ever : Kinepolis.be

Have your ever bought tickets on kinepolis.be ?

It's my worst Internet Shopping Experience ever:

1. You have to re-type your name and email address each time you change movie or schedule. If only flash was not used for that my browser could fill it for me...

2. You have to do the complete process before finding out the session is fully booked...

3. The payment process is scary, you have to pay without being sure it's the right cinema, movie and schedule.

4. In the payment process you are all a sudden required a ING password that you never use. Hopefully there was a forgotten password procedure that worked.

I have never liked the Kinepolis website because of its poor performance (Flash abuse). Now the content delivery seems to be faster, they managed to screw the next step : the shopping experience...