Business Process Management Reimagined – New Services for Application Developers

You may be familiar with Business Process Management (BPM).  It is a discipline in which people use various methods to discover, model, analyze, measure, improve, optimize, and automate business processes. Today BPM, or more specifically the technology that supports BPM, is widely used in organizations large and small to automate business operations. The story of BPM is long, with roots going back to the early 1990’s, and it has constantly reinvented itself to meet the evolving needs of enterprises.  Once focused on driving efficiencies into back-office functions, BPM platforms have evolved into essential tools for enterprises looking to digitally transform operations, and to deliver a personalized customer experience that’s integrated across points of interaction.  

BPM in the Application Environment

The focus on digital transformation has led to the modern role of BPM solutions in application development, and to the rearchitecting of the old monolithic BPMS as a set of middleware services that developers can easily incorporate into applications.  Now often referred to as a Digital Application Platform (DAP), the BPMS has become part of the application environment – a catalog of components that can be included in applications requiring process management, decision management or optimization capabilities.  Now, for example, when building an application that requires, say, to make a determination of whether an insurance application complies with underwriting rules, a developer can quickly locate the corresponding decision service within their app environment and include it in their application.  Conversely, it’s the new DAP solutions that enable such application services to be quickly created from models provided by the business. Business friendly tools support the creation of a range of model types – from decision models, built with the new graphical Decision Model & Notation (DMN) standard, to models of entire business processes constructed in Business Process Model & Notation (BPMN).  DAP technology today is truly making it possible for business users to contribute to application development alongside developers.

Cloud-Native Digital Automation

The advantages of modern digital automation middleware are not limited to application development, however.  Once built, those new applications must be deployed on a variety of cloud platforms, they must scale automatically to meet varying demands, they must be secure, and they must be easy to replace or upgrade without impacting the user experience.  At Red Hat, the application environment, in which DAP services are included, is designed from the ground up to be cloud-native. DAP services are deployed in containers, and managed by Kubernetes, to provide the scalability and resiliency that enterprises need.

Digital automation today is an essential part of modern applications, and its importance is only likely to increase as we look to the future role of the Digital Automation Platform as the logical home for emerging technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and artificial intelligence / machine learning.  At Red Hat, we are focused on growing our application environment to support this widening technology landscape, so that our customers can succeed in an ever more digital world.

Decision Model & Notation – A new approach to business rules

Business rule engines (BRE) have been around for a long time. Introduced in the early 1990s, BREs have found application in many industries, particularly those that are heavily regulated where compliance and auditability are key concerns. A BRE enables complex rules and regulations to be encoded in a rule language, some of which bear a passing resemblance to English. The BRE can then evaluate the rules against enterprise data to ensure that the business transactions, etc. that the enterprise is performing comply with those rules. Today one of the most popular rule engines is Drools, an open source engine sponsored by Red Hat with a powerful rule language, called DRL, and a highly efficient algorithm that can scale to support hundreds of thousands of rules and terabytes of data.

Rule engines are a great idea. It’s much easier to simply specify all the rules that should apply to a particular transaction than it is to write a program in a traditional language like Java to verify compliance. And it’s much easier to change the rules in a BRE when needed than to modify and test a traditional application. Today’s focus on digital transformation is finding ever wider applications for BREs, from cleansing big data, to fraud detection to identifying patterns in event streams from the Internet of Things.

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Digital Automation Platforms: Injecting speed into application development

Red Hat has just published a new study by Carl Lehmann of the 451 Group, “Intelligent Process Automation and the Emergence of Digital Automation Platforms,” that examines the increasing importance of business automation technologies in modern business, and the ways that converged solutions (digital automation platforms) are bringing value to organizations engaged in digital transformation projects.

Carl writes that competitive advantage is enabled when an organization either does the same things as its rivals, but differently, or it does different things that are acknowledged as superior by customers. In today’s competitive markets, businesses are turning to next-generation digital automation platforms (DAP) to enable greater automation of key business functions and greater flexibility in responding to their customers’ needs.

A DAP is a set of tools and resources structured within a uniform framework to enable developers to rapidly design, prototype, develop, deploy, manage, and monitor process-oriented applications – from simple task-related workflows to dynamic unstructured collaborative activity streams and even highly structured cross-functional enterprise applications. To do so, DAPs are equipped with a range of new capabilities that go beyond those of their BPM and application development predecessors.

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