vrijdag 20 september 2013

Case management supporting re-landscaping

There are a lot of informal end-to-end processes in organizations. These end-to-end processes are usually supported by scattered applications, email, spreadsheets and a lot of goodwill of the personnel involved. When compliance, regulations and/or customer demands are imposed on an organization, these end-to-end processes do not have the ability to comply with new demands due to lack of support from the current application landscape. In the financial, public and utilities market organizations are re-landscaping their existing application portfolio due to these higher compliance, regulations and customer demands. This often is not a huge  transformation program, with a roadmap spanning over years.
Case management can help cross the bridge from the current landscape towards a landscape aimed at delivering these higher demands.

Let’s explain this with the process of complaints. This functionality is needed in any market where customer contact is present, and where due to increasing compliance and customer demands the bar needs to be raised to deliver better quality, such as delivering an answer within a given timeframe.

The customer is not satisfied and sends a complaint or calls the organization.
The Complaint process is separated in two main parts, the task handling and the case handling.  Task handling covers the receive- and register process of the complaint. If a complaint can be handled directly without internal process, the complaint process can be done by using a task. If a complaint cannot be handled directly because for instance another person must be involved in the process the complaint will be continued by a case.  The complaints end-to-end process is milestone driven. The path towards reaching a milestone includes different tasks. Especially the Assessment phase can include multiple tasks across departments, going back and forth.
Time-out checks and customer intervention can directly interfere with the complaint handling.

Oracle Case management delivers functionality to manage the three key stages of the process, control, automate and improve.

At first the current processes are overarched by a case management wrapper in which the high level milestones determine the steps that need to be taken, and which can be controlled on timing an delivery.
Every main step is designed in Oracle Case Management as a milestone, each milestone can be revoked for example when the customer, after informing him, disagrees with the outcome, and which further investigation needs to be done.

The simplest way to start is attaching Human tasks to the milestones, which acts as a checklist for ensuring that all the activities are done. The complaints specialists and other actors involved keep on doing the work in the same way, additionally they need to update checklists when a certain activity is done. This maintains and audit trail tracking the progress of all complaints processes and ensuring SLA’s are managed, no delayed delivery of answers to the customer and at the same timing enforcing compliance rules and regulations.

The Control phase delivers knowledge which areas are best suitable for automation.
in the next phase Automate the move can be made from 90% manual up to 90% automated, freeing up time for the complaint specialists to spend their time on more value added activities.

An essential step in completing this phase is that the Case management structure within Oracle Case Management acts as the constant controlling elements, the processes underneath can change, the rules for finishing milestones can change, events can change and even the milestones can change, but Case control stays in place.

The optimize phase does not have to wait until the automate phase is completed. Already during the control phase dashboard can be utilized identifying bottlenecks and delays in the process, enabling for root cause analysis and eventually supporting process improvement This can be done via the out-of-the-box functionality within Oracle BPM, showing the activity logging and with the addition of Key Performance Driven measurements with Business Activity Monitoring (BAM).

Want to know how we control the process to make the steps towards automation and optimization?

dinsdag 2 april 2013

An introduction to Oracle Case Management

Oracle makes a habit of adding important functionality to minor patch sets. In the recent 11G Release 2 Patch set 6 of Fusion middleware, Oracle has added a milestone in the BPM stack, the Case management functionality. Discussions around this topic had already been going for a while, but finally the first part of it is included in the Fusion Middleware stack.
In this blog I will elaborate its importance and what is contains Since this an important functional addition we will publish more detailed blogs around this topic in the near future.  

What functionality is needed for Case Management? 

Organizations increasingly need to deal with unstructured processes that Business Process Management Suites are not designed to cope with. Case Management is a way to govern and control these unstructured processes, but Case Management solutions can be challenging to develop. Developing Case Management around a BPM solution preferably in conjunction with an Enterprise Content Management System solves many of these problems.  

What is a case?

A case is a collection of activities that support a specific business objective. Each case has a lifecycle. During that lifecycle there will be a range of activities and requirements; information and content may need to be gathered in a wide range of formats (such as documents, email, minutes, interviews, photos and other data). Throughout there will be process related tasks and actions, human decisions and interventions. At any time in the lifecycle we should be able to have a holistic view of the case, create reports and review audit trails. A case will be subject to organizational policy or procedure, which determines the appropriate outcomes.

High level overview 

The architecture around a case management solution consists of three main components:

Portals and Dashboards – Portals bring together all information around the case, 
lifecycle related activities, finished work, involved persons, gathering media into a 360 degree view. Dashboards give insight in SLAs and KPIs related to the case.

Processes and Rules Management – BPM and rules management play an important role in the execution of all tasks by participants and related applications. 
Flexibility can be added to the solution with rules management.

Integration – A core component in the solution enabling integration of case management with the application landscape, including connections with an Enterprise Content Management system.

Case Management in Oracle Fusion Middleware

Case Management is ‘just another’ set of functionality needed in the Oracle Fusion Middleware stack to support Fusion Applications. Oracle Fusion Middleware has been created from the ground up with the principles Complete, Open and Integrated in mind. Added to that is the principle of re-use to the max;  

Re-use of components across the Oracle 11G Fusion Middleware stack, for instance a Database Adapter, is essential. It improves stability and predictability of the solution. BPM just is one of the components plugging into the stack and reuses all other components.

The result of this principle is that adding Case Management to the Fusion Middleware is ‘only’ a matter of adding core Case Management capabilities, such as lifecycle management, the ability to combine together processes and activate case functionalities based upon events.
In the current version all design and run-time case management functionality is included except the portal component, this will likely to be part of release 12c.  

Main components of Oracle BPM/Case Management

After creation of a Case Management in Oracle BPM the two main components of the implementation appear, a Case object and a Case related rules set.

The case object gives the ability to define the case definition on a high level. Milestones, Data and Documents, User Events, Permissions to name the most important. Here an example of data objects as defined in an example case provided by Oracle (the car loan example).   

The Case Rule engine is the work-horse of the Case management implementation, which is based upon the well-known Oracle Business Rules engine. In this Rules engine a predefined set of Case Management data objects can be used to steer anything going on in the case. This rules engine enables a complete event driven case management solution.

Examples of the Case Management rules engine when an event occurs; a sequence of actions; Closing of Milestones (reach milestone); Withdrawing of activities.

How do processes and a case work together

An (asynchronous) process can easily be connected to a case. After creation, the process can be promoted to a Case Activity. This will make the process part of the Case lifecycle and enables it to be used in the Rules engine.

First experiences

It takes some time to understand the true power of Case Management as part of Oracle BPM. There is maximum reuse of existing BPM assets. The shared data & documents environment enables easy sharing of information across case activities, and the complete event based rules approach enables complete lifecycle management in a simplified way. This all enables fast delivery of a case management solution. Improvement points however are the current lack of a portal component and a more business oriented design environment, since Business rules is rather techie aimed.

Léon Smiers works as a Solution Architect for Capgemini The Netherlands in the area of Oracle Technology and Architecture, where he is one of the leading Oracle specialists. He has done a lot of work and research in the field of Integration and new technologies, like RFID, SOA, EDA and BPM, on which he wrote articles and presented on international conferences. Currently Léon is setting up Solution Architectures for large Oracle based projects and is Oracle BPM Thought leader for Capgemini. Based upon his close cooperation with Oracle development and product management Léon was awarded with the Oracle ACE title in 2010.

Léon is co-inventor of the Common Reference Architecture mode or CORA model, which helps in getting control over the IT landscape in a Hybrid environment and delivers a predictable, repeatable and risk-aware solution design (http://www.coramodel.com).
Prior to Capgemini Léon worked for Ernst & Young Consulting, USoft, the City of Rotterdam and has over 20 years of experience in IT. Léon obtained his Master of Science in Astronomy at the Leiden University

zondag 20 november 2011

The Capgemini Oracle BPM/Case management Blog index

Capgemini has been sharing the last couple of years quite a bit around Oracle BPM. I'll keep this post as an index towards these blogs and presentations.

Presentations & White papers

Case Management with Oracle white paper (2014, Léon Smiers)

2013, Léon Smiers, Nicholas Kitson, Oracle Open World

Presentation around the Stedin Work Management Case
2011, Léon Smiers/Björn Ampting, Oracle Open World

Oracle SOA and E2.0 Parner Community Forum, BPM
(2011 Léon Smiers)

Capgemini on Oracle BPM
(2010 Léon Smiers Youtube)


Oracle Business Analytic Monitoring (BAM) 12C, an excellent product improved (2014, Léon Smiers)

Implementing deadline functionality with Oracle Adaptive Case Management (2014 Léon Smiers, Mark Kuijpers)

Case Management support re-landscaping (2013, Léon Smiers)

The Oracle Case management API (2013, Koen van Dijk)

Oracle Policy Automation in a web service environment: making the most of time based reasoning (Els Booij 2013)

Oracle Policy Automation in a web service environment: performance versus traceability (2013, Els Booij)

An Introduction to Oracle Case Management (2013 Léon Smiers)

Oracle Process Accelerators … the path to process excellence … faster! (2012, Andrew Richards) 

Capgemini NL is officially Specialized by Oracle in BPM (2012, Martijn van der Kamp)

Oracle BPM: Suspend and alter process (2012, Martijn van der Kamp)

How Data and BPM are married to get the right information to the right people at the right time (Léon Smiers, 2012)

Designing Business Agility with Oracle Process Composer (2012, Léon Smiers)

Measuring the Human Task activity in Oracle BPM (2011 Léon Smiers)

The importance of Data in Process Modeling(2011 Léon Smiers)

Oracle BAM – Look before you leap (2011 Martijn van der Kamp, Jan Willem Pas)

BPM or BPEL, that is the question (2011 Léon Smiers)

Enhance your business with Oracle Business Activity Monitoring (2011 Martijn van der Kamp)

Shifting towards ‘build-to-change’ processes, where’s the flexibility (2011 Léon Smiers)

Oracle BPM Suite, The importance of sub-processes within BPMN20 (2010 Léon Smiers)

Oracle BPM 11g less is more (2010 Léon Smiers) 

dinsdag 12 april 2011

Capgemini Oracle Blog and CORA model


Since last year I'm heavily involved in the Capgemini Oracle Blog and the CORA model. So if you'd like to find more of my blogs and material please go to these websites.


woensdag 28 april 2010

Oracle BPM 11G, less is more

Oracle has just launched the 'new' Business Process Management Suite (BPMN). Though special as it is, it has just been announced as a patch set of the Fusion Middleware stack. There is a reason for that. Oracle has been working now for years to implement the vision of creating a product stack that is based upon Complete, Open and Integrated. Opportunity driven but still with this clear vision in mind, and aimed at supporting the Application part of Oracle. This resulted in a continuous stream of software companies being taken over and components added to the stack in order to complete this stack. In order to avoid a mess, Oracle continuously evaluates what product parts are strategic, and advocates reuse to the max. Reuse of components across the Oracle 11G Fusion Middleware stack, like for instance a Database Adapter, is essential. It improves stability and predictability of the solution. BPM just is one of the components plugging into the stack and reuses all other components. Compared to one of its predecessors, BEA BPM, the BPMN product is stripped to its core functionality, less is more!
What is the 'new' BPMN stack? The core of BPMN is based upon the BPMN2.0 specification. The goal is to give one integrated view from architecture all the way to implementation. For every role in the Process life cycle the BPMN stack contains a component, which is more or less connected. All these components can work in unison, but also act separately.

In this blog we’ll detail out the first two phases, Design and Build. In later blogs we’ll elaborate on the other process life cycle phases.

Oracle offers three tools for the design.

Design on Enterprise level is executed by the IDS Scheer ARIS Design Platform. There is currently no connection between ARIS and the rest of the (new) BPMN stack, but it can be expected that Oracle will provide this in the (near) future.

High level process flow design can be done within the browser based Process Composer (Business Analyst type of tool). The Process Composer adds the ability to discuss the shape and structure of a process in a Business user friendly way with a rich set of functionality. This has huge potential for usage in Rapid Design Visualization type of user sessions.

The design can also been done within JDeveloper BPM Studio, which is more suited for developers. Typically this design activity in JDeveloper BPM Studio is done when a solid functional design already exists. Processes and process templates can be shared between Process Composer and the JDeveloper BPM studio.

BPM process development in JDeveloper BPM Studio is created as part of a SCA Composite.
Every component within the SCA composite can be developed in isolation which enables delivery of components by different development teams. This is a big advantage compared to the 'old' BEA BPM tool, where everything was contained in one project. The JDeveloper BPM Studio is very GUI oriented, where you drag-and-drop components on the process canvas. Swim lanes enable to separate Human Tasks, as part of the process, over different user roles. Simulation can help give insight in the behavior of a process, though simulation is an art of its own.
In the next blog we will elaborate on the Build and Deploy phase.

Oracle BPM group Capgemini The Netherlands, Léon Smiers, Alexander Bijl, Gert Jan Kersten
(a repost from Capping IT Off)

dinsdag 2 februari 2010

Larry's doing hardware (again)

Some 20 years ago Larry introduced the first hardware appliance with Oracle, the Network computer, which was aimed at the customer market, to replace the fat clients. As history showed, that was not a very big succes. Even though is was visonair sight twenty years ahead of time, look at the popularity of netbooks (I write this blog for instance on my Asus EEE netbook with which I'm very happy with).

In 2008 Oracle tried again hardware in joined cooperation with HP. The HP Oracle Exadata Server Grid and the Oracle HP Database machine was introduced. This hardware was not aimed at customers but at the high end back-end market. Data Warehouses larger then one Tera Byte get to the problem that the data traffic between the database and the storage server (for instance a SAN) slows down, there is a Data Bandwidth problem. The combined HP Oracle server reduces data going through the pipes, it passes query results and not data disk blocks. It has been tested at different sites with huge data loads, like Amazon, Yahoo and Telco's. In extreme data and processing situations this sounds like a good, and at first sight, cheaper solution. This machine is typically aimed at the large customer market, and therefore not sold in large amounts.

The credo of Oracle is Complete, Open and Integrated. In order to fill in the white space around hardware Oracle finalized last week the deal with Sun, see Oracle-Sun strategy for details. Oracle started some 30 years ago with developing their software on Sun software, so it's like a coming home experience. Oracle is aiming at selling solutions straight from the hardware factory, a machine containing hardware, operating system, database, middleware and applications aimed at a specific market. Oracle is starting with Telco-out-of-the-box. It sounds like an interesting experiment, but still this offer is aimed at the high end customer market. I hope the next move will be aiming at the more common market, selling out-of-the-box middleware or database box. If these machines can contain automatic updates of the database and or middleware, then I'll be happy.

dinsdag 17 november 2009

Oracle Business Process Management Suite, the best of both worlds

This is a joint effort post from the Dutch Capgemini Oracle Technology team Léon Smiers, Ruben Spekle and Arjan Kramer on Oracle Business Process Management Suite.

Since the acquirement of BEA there has been a lot of discussion with clients around the topic of Business Processes Management or BPM. Oracle has now got two strategic components in this arena. Firstly the already existing component BPEL Process Manager (BPEL PM) in combination with the OEM-ed product Aris (Oracle BPA), and secondly the former BEA Aqualogic BPM product, now called Oracle BPM. On Oracle Open World, last October Oracle announced the unification of both products. What is the impact of this unification and when will this take place?

Oracle placed BPEL PM in its stack with the acquirement of Collaxa some years ago. In the years after the BPEL PM product was enriched with adapter functionality and a Human Task component. BPEL PM is aimed at the more low level process integration which is also known as orchestration. Because of this, designing a BPEL application is a rather technical process. For Business Analysts BPEL is too technical. In order to fill the gap for designing Business processes Oracle OEM-ed Aris and enabled the creation of BPEL models based upon Aris Business Process models. Aris is the de facto standard in the market for Business Process Management Modeling, and contains a huge stack of reference (industry) models.

In BPM creating Workflows is much easier, a Business Analyst models all the processes and creates the lines in between the process steps, based upon which run time components are created automatically. It is a complete framework for creating workflow type of applications. Besides the ease of creation of the workflow processes, BPM is very strong in the build-in mechanism for simulating processes. The designer (Business Analyst) sets timings for each step in the process and can simulate the process. Based on this simulation bottlenecks, like human tasks or asynchronous services can be easily spotted already in a design time stage, without even involving real services yet. During the runtime of a business process, audit information is captured and can be fed back to the process to be able to tune the process based on runtime information as well. This means a real roundtrip lifecycle for business processes. A third strong point is the versioning capability of components (processes, variables) within BPM which allow current versions to run in parallel. Oracle BPM hasn’t (yet) got as many adapters as BPEL, but integration with the use of Web Services works very well.

On Oracle Open World (October 2009), Oracle announced BPM, BPEL PM and Human Tasks will be moved into one Business Process Management Suite. During OOW there were possibilities to get hands-on with this new stack which looked really promising, the same excellent process definition functionality BEA Aqualogic BPM users were used to, extended with integration with BPEL, Human Tasks and other service components all combined in one single stack. In this process of unification predominately the BPM part will be changed. BPM will be based upon the BPMN 2.0 standard, the design time moves towards to both JDeveloper (the implementation part) and the Browser (Design time) and the run time will be based upon a shared runtime environment with BPEL PM. The BPEL PM product on the other hand stays rather untouched in the unification process.
In this architecture BPM, BPEL, Human Tasks and Aris support the following functionality:

BPM supports the Choreography type of functionality, and is more aimed at Business Analysts.
BPEL PM supports Orchestration, low level process integration, and is more aimed at technical people.
Human Tasks support the workflow component of a process, whether this is started from within BPM or BPEL PM.
Aris is used by Enterprise Architects and Business Analysts on a high level.
Unfortunately Oracle does not provide any dates when a version will be released and what functionality it will contain, but we can be convident that it will be available somewhere in the first half of 2010. In the meantime we still can use both separate Process Management solutions, with a preference for the BPEL over BPM, because of expected minor migration complexities towards future releases.

Léon Smiers is Oracle Solution Architect at Capgemini, you can follow him on Twitter
Arjan Kramer is leading an Expert group of Java based Integration Technologists and is thoughtleader on Oracle Fusion Middleware at Capgemini. Follow his thoughts on Twitter
Ruben Spekle is Oracle Solution Architect within Capgemini, you can follow him on Twitter

Soon to be posted on the Capping IT Off blog


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