Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Book Review: Business Process Management with JBoss jBPM

Business Process Management with JBoss jBPM
A Practical Guide for Business Analysts, by Matt Cumberlidge

I have been working on Service Orchestration in JBossESB, using jBPM, and a few weeks back PACKT Publishing asked me to review the JBoss jBPM book. I have been reading it whenever I had a spare moment. I have to admit the book was not what I initially expected it to be. For some reason I thought the book would be an in depth text book about jBPM and it's features. It is not, well it's got some of that, but what it really is, is what the title already says: “Business Process Management with JBoss jBPM; A Practical Guide for the Business Analyst”. So I guess I skipped over the 'for the Business Analyst' part. However after actually reading the book, I think the author picked the right subject by explaining how to do a BPM project in the first place.

Truth be told I may have some idea about it, but I never read anything that formal on the matter, and the best part is that Matt simply follows a fictitious (or is it?) project about a record company called “Bland Records”. In Matt's words “Bland Records' specialty is in finding talentless, yet attractive youths, assembling them into bands of four or five, partnering the ready-made band with a songwriter and some real musicians, who finish the product with an addictive set of tunes. The end product is released on an unsuspecting public who promptly shoot the band to number one in the charts”.

The book is to the point and an easy read. The first few chapters are about what a Business Process actually is, what the interaction the Business Analyst and the Developer should be and how to set up interaction channels with the customer, how to put together the project team and how to find the right project sponsors to optimize the chances to deliver a successful product. In his book he sets up a workshop for the project team where the business process is analyzed and a flow diagram is created, before breaking for lunch. After lunch the team goes through the flow diagram to identify the roles and responsibilities. He goes over terminology like PID (Process Identification Document), SME (Subject Matter Experts) and RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed), and how to use the RACI Matrix, and finishes by how to end up with a realistic implementation plan. I really enjoyed these two chapters.

Chapter 3 explains how to install jBPM and it gives a quick introduction to the product. The chapter has plenty of screenshots to keep you on track and you should get a good visual picture in your mind about jBPM capabilities, the chapter finishes by implementing the business process as a proof-of-concept system. Chapter 4 adds a user interface to the prototype and by the end of the chapter you have a fully functional system, for which you can get sign off from the client. This is a nice break point in the project where some wrinkles can get ironed out before putting more time into making the thing look nice. Chapter 5 speaks to how to deploy and setup the proof-of-concept and how to go through some iterations with the team. At this point the integration points with other systems should still be stubbed out. Finally, when the iterations have honed the business process implementation, another sign off follows and in Chapter 6 he describes how to convert the proof-of-concept to a production ready system and by setting up a BAM (Business Activity Monitor) to gather process metrics in production. At the end of chapter 6 the project goes to production and in chapter 7 the team comes together for a post mortem, where they try to evaluate the success of the project, and they try to come up with an ROI of the system. Assuming all is in order a final sign-off from the client can now be obtained. Over time the process metrics can be tracked and future projects may implement process change requests.

The book is a quick read and I think it very wise to hand out a copy to each of the members on your team when starting a BPM project. The price may be a little steep, but part of it goes to the jBPM project and I'm sure those costs can be expensed on the project anyway ;). Thumbs up on this one.

1 comment:

Tarcio Saraiva said...

I've bought the book a few weeks ago and didn't have the chance to read it - properly - yet, just reading some chapters here and there.

I must say that, as you, my first impression was that the book was not exactly what I was hoping to be. And, as you, I skipped the "for business analyst" part.

However, after reading some chapters here and there, I found that the reading is quite pleasant and easy to interpret the details. jBPM itself is a bit complicated to understand at first glance - even if you want to input some additional functionality to it that your company's business process must have. However, for a business analyst, it works very well.

Very nice to read an opinion of someone that is actually using the tool.