JAX 2009: Process Composition in Real World Customer Scenarios

(Disclaimer: this text was written while listening to the presentation – please be forgiving with errors that might result from both listening and writing)

The second keynote of the day – this day from Thomas Volmering of SAP. It was announced as one of more practical keynotes with real world examples. How was it really?

Thomas announces to show how composite processes in connection with BPN are used to discover business cases and build SOA infrastructures. He also will show results of “project galaxy” (the internal code name). Additionally he wants to show how integration scenarios can be easier depicted. Thomas stresses that SAP built a community in order to design the technologies together with customers.

He shows various customer examples in a quick overview indicating that SAP processes can be very fast. An experience I yet have to make, but I’d be happy to do so.

He continues by stating that around 80% of all day to day activities are manjual acivities, only 20% of the activities can be standardized. Of those 20% more than 80% seem to be standardizable although this depends on the customer. The other 20% are very good candidates for SOA architectures because they are differentiating capabilities. Again I wondered if the underlying investments in a complex infrastructure are really worth the effort to be flexible in about 4% of a companies activities. But that’s just me.

Then I started to get drowned in marketing slides showing layers upon layers of architecture while trying to imply that all this can be done very quickly and in an agile manner. Forgive me my doubts.

SAP tries to achive as much “model to code” generation as possible, intermediate languages like BPEL are something they try to avoid. Additionally they want to have rules engine in order to manage business rules.

After explaining some very generic use cases he started to stress SAP standardization attempts… yeah, ok. Content please, not history. Next Thomas also stressed that SAP strives for one domain specific process modell. He nicely added that top down views are a must haves in such models, a lesson I still miss from many UML tools that just spout out information load upon information load. There I heartily agree with my namesake. Then he demonstrated the importance of actually implementing real business rules, something not yet very deeply ingrained in SAP and thus an important new addition to the SAP portfolio. Then he continued to stress the concept of a process context where roles, data, rules, etc. all are part of the definition.

Finally he started a demo and showed (a quite nice) process editor in Eclipse. In the outlook he hinted at the future “Common Process Layer” which will show all internal SAP workings in BPM notation (extended by certain features not included in standard BPM). Additionally he hinted at more abstract and complexity hiding versions of the SAP tools, more extensions into the SAP world, etc. Code generation plays a big role in all that. That concluded the presentation.

As you can see I was not very happy with the presentation – too much fog and too little information except for the final demo. I could have taken that from a marketing flyer… in five minutes. Sorry,  Thomas, for a keynote I expect visions and the big picture. You crammed too many details and too little interesting visionary stuff (except a kind of “me too” version from SAPs point of view) into the presentation. And you needed 15 minutes more than you were given to do that. But technically it was a decent presentation (although many slides were too crowded).

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