Seagull Heightens Human Interaction with LegaSuite BPM
July 12, 2005 Alex Woodie
Seagull Software wasted no time last month rolling out a new suite of business process management (BPM) tools just weeks after acquiring BPM software maker Oak Grove Systems and integrating that technology into LegaSuite, Seagull’s flagship collection of application modernization and integration tools for iSeries and other hosts. With LegaSuite BPM, Seagull now offers organizations the capability to integrate human decision-making into newly created business process workflows, something the company says is lacking in other BPM products.
Atlanta-based Seagull acquired California-based Oak Grove Systems four weeks ago for an undisclosed sum of money (see “Seagull Acquires Oak Grove for BPM Wares”). Oak Grove, which was a spin-off of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, offered a suite of BPM products written in Java and XML. Those products were grouped under the Reactor brand name.
At the JavaOne conference in San Francisco two weeks ago, Seagull unveiled LegaSuite BPM, the re-branded version of Oak Grove’s Reactor suite. LegaSuite BPM includes four parts: the BPM Engine, which runs inside a Java application server like WebSphere or JBoss, and executes the flow of automated and manual activities across applications; the BPM Application Framework, which is a collection of APIs for exposing the BPM Engine as Java, Web services, or XML over HTTP; the BPM Studio, a program that lets people create workflows in a visual drag-and-drop environment; and the BPM Manager, which keeps tabs on the execution of workflows with audit logs.
While Seagull previously offered software for transforming legacy business processes into more easily consumable Web services, including the LegaSuite Web Services Studio, which was launched two years ago (see “New SEAGULL Tool Delivers iSeries GUI as Microsoft Web Service”), the new LegaSuite BPM toolset surpasses the LegaSuite Web Services Studio in one important aspect: the inclusion of human interaction in business process modeling, says Tom Barnes, Seagull’s vice president of business development.
“The LegaSuite Web Services Studio did give us the ability to do some modeling of process for the user interface. But one of the things we wanted to do is expand from user interface modeling and look at orchestrating business processes,” Barnes says. “We had some orchestration, but I wouldn’t say it was industrial-strength.”
The orchestration capability is key for Seagull because it enables LegaSuite users to include people and the decisions they make–not just computerized business processes–at strategic points along a business process workflow. “More important than anything is the human interaction. That’s where we see a lot of BPM engines missing the boat,” Barnes says.
A good example of the value of including human decision-making with new BPM workflows is the case of Macnica, a Japanese semiconductor manufacturer that deployed Oak Grove’s Reactor BPM suite to augment an SAP ERP system. Macnica had an issue with its representatives selling products at a variety of discounts and trying to get those orders into the SAP system, says Steven Katz, Oak Grove’s vice president of sales and marketing.
“The problem is, they didn’t want to give them access to SAP,” Katz says. “So what they did is build a new Web front end to do that. So when a sales representative takes an order, it applies a discount threshold that requires human approval. Once it’s approved, and somebody says go, then it’s submitted to SAP, and it does every thing it does–pick, pack, and ship, inventory and accounting. So what we’ve done is enhanced a current application’s functionality, but we’re not substituting the core business process of the application.”
Seagull officials expect LegaSuite BPM to be used by both its ISV customers–which includes software companies like Oracle‘s J.D. Edwards business and JDA Software–and by end-user organizations looking to augment their home-grown ERP applications with new functionality. In either case, LegaSuite BPM–in combination with other LegaSuite components, like Transidiom, which can repackage the 5250 datastream as Java or .NET objects–will provide them with a framework for breaking up monolithic applications, giving them new integration points, and adding new functionality that’s compatible with services-oriented architecture (SOA).
While work remains in integrating the Oak Grove Systems’ software with Seagull’s LegaSuite, it shouldn’t pose much of a problem, considering Oak Grove’s adherence to J2EE standards, and Seagull’s plans to make its tools compatible with Eclipse by the end of the summer. “Architecturally, [the two company’s products are] very compatible,” Barnes says. “We’re in the early stages of getting all our Transidiom tools Eclipse-oriented. We just added that onto the roadmap . . . It was just perfect timing.”
In the not-to-distant future, Seagull will work on adding additional business activity monitoring (BAM) capabilities, including business analytics and dashboards. “You’re going to start seeing those types of capabilities,” Barnes says.