BlueworksLive Update – December 2011

Scott Francis
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IBM has released a new update to BlueworksLive, on December 17th.  We had a preview just two days before it went live to discuss some of the thought behind the features. What interests me isn’t just the outcome but the thought and direction behind it.  Once again the specific features seem “small” but have interesting consequences and implications. Starting with the shorter topics first: The Word Export is much more pleasing to the eye than previous versions.  Having the graphics of severity and the diagram itself exported are a big help to the overall readability of the document. The expand-all/collapse-all functionality in the Process Diagram is also convenient – especially when prepping to export a large diagram. The BPMN export API works as advertised.  This is an important step to allow people to use BlueworksLive without feeling locked in.  After all, in a cloud “rental” model, one of the big fears is that your data is residing on someone else’s servers.  IBM needed to provide a clean way to get at that data and make it portable.  Not to mention, this lets customers apply some of their more standard SDLC to their requirements production in BlueworksLive. First, there was quite a bit of attention given the Decision Discovery feature added to BlueworksLive.  I’d heard that this was coming, but I was picturing it as something that would be added to the automation features of BlueworksLive – I should have realized that the “Discovery” in the name implied that it would be part of the modeling (“Blueprinting”) part of the product. The premise is that you set up a few Considerations (one or more).  The combination of these considerations is like a truth table.  However, BlueworksLive also lets you provide more than one conclusion – which is nice.  When modeling, we can label the column headers smartly, allowing the contents of each cell to be concise and simple (Yes/No, >$500/<$500, etc.).  Finally, we can label the conclusions well- “Adjustment Required”.  If we have more than one conclusion, it gets its own column to keep ideas separate. An Example Decision Table A couple of surprising perks:  you can reorder columns and rows with a simple drag-and-drop.  Look, this makes sense given the point of the tool – flexible discovery of decisions.  But this is the kind of fit-and-finish often missing in enterprise software. I also appreciated that they thought through why the cells should be free-form rather than constrained to integers or strings or a particular data type. The goal is to leave discovery unconstrained.  Plenty of time for constraints when you move into modeling for execution (had this been targeted at execution, you can bet there would have been tight treatment of data types). Like David Brakoniecki, I think BlueworksLive is showing that it will live up to its promise as a BPM discovery tool.  Not because it does everything it needs to do today, but because IBM have shown that they’ll keep turning the screws until they get there.  His take on the impact of tiny changes at this point in the maturity of the product:
Now, at the push of a button, the process documentation and process diagram can be exported into a single word document. Basically, this document becomes the high-level scope of any potential BPM deployment or process improvement initiative. All of the great power of Blueworks around social collaboration and process discovery now can painless produce a document to playback to the client or business teams for review and iterative improvement.
SaaS products really emphasize the benefit of incremental improvement.