Review: Lombardi Teamworks conquers BPM with superb tools

Lombardi Teamworks 6 Enterprise sets the curve with superior simulation and analysis tools, nicely integrated performance monitoring, and unmatched ease of development for IT and business users

The most well-rounded business process management system (BPMS) we've tested to date, Lombardi Software's Teamworks combines an execution and events monitoring engine with a close-knit IDE and tools for modeling and simulation analysis. With the inclusion of human-centric, collaborative workflow and services-based integration hooks, Teamworks can deliver near-seamless mapping, testing, and deployment to execute most any enterprise workflow. Where Teamworks truly stands out from other players is its well-integrated performance server, which draws on a unified tracking data store for both real-time process optimization and historical playback in design phase analysis, where testing for optimal flow and efficiency can be challenging.

Teamworks gains additional yardage with a superb simulation facility. Embedded directly within the IDE, the process simulator allows analysts to test multiple "what if" scenarios, displaying heat maps that highlight pain points in process flows and even offering suggestions for optimization.

On the downside, although Teamworks uses standard BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) for designs, its runtime engine is proprietary. This could limit execution portability compared to engines such as BEA/Fuego or Fiorano that handle BPEL natively.

I also found the business rule development tools, although well put together, not quite as easy to use as those of Appian, and not as capable as those of Pegasystems. Nevertheless, the drop-down configuration interface is sufficient for directing most common scenarios, and hooks to outside rule engines including Fair Isaac's Blaze Advisor and ILOG JRules are included.

A number of new features highlight this Teamworks release, including a Web services interface that augments the Java API, ad hoc process intervention for in-flight flexibility, and improvements to Lombardi's SaaS (software as a service) add-on, Blueprint, that bolster collaborative process discovery and lifecycle management.

With its clean portal interface, good reporting facilities and performance dashboards, and superb development environment, Teamworks offers a solid BPM solution that doesn't demand the development expertise required by most high-end solutions. Lombardi Software has scored a touchdown with this latest release.

Tooling for BPM

Lombardi has done a terrific job building its Eclipse-based IDE. Perspectives for process and service modeling, as well as validation, debugging, and optimization, will help developers quickly find their footing.

Modeling tools consist of the usual palette of drag-and-drop, BPMN-compliant constructs and familiar swimlane layouts. Drill-down into services is good, and the Teamworks Library of saved services and connections encourages the encapsulation and reuse of best practices.

The Activity Wizard made creating rules, and defining human- and system-side interactions, much easier tasks. Solid introspection across Java and Web services -- including a new UDDI tool -- helped hasten discovery and development. Transports are well represented with SOAP and HTTP/REST-style invocations, as well as JMS and others. Support for BPMN intermediate events helps you flag exceptions and initiate compensation rollback procedures in the absence of more ACID-grade transaction management.

SLA definitions -- used at runtime to trigger corrective processes, e-mail alerts, or updates to a manager's scoreboard -- were easy to implement. Other capabilities, such as organizational routing (based on employee competencies) and built-in audit trails, round out an unusually rich feature set by today's standards.

I did find minor nits in the process modeler. For example, you must manually reroute flows whenever you insert new steps into an existing process. But other time-savers -- such as built-in dependency tracking, which is essential for change management and often overlooked by vendors -- more than make up for the blemishes.

The built-in forms editor offers easy creation and testing of AJAX-based forms. These "coaches," as Lombardi calls them, help keep collaborative processes on track with an integrated help facility that guides users. While Lombardi could enhance certain aspects of forms development -- by providing AJAX widgets and tools for CSS, JavaScript, and XSL manipulation, for example -- the editor provides a good start to creating dynamic, forms-based interfaces.

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