While ARIS is a fantastic product for large organisations, smaller groups or projects may not need it’s full capabilities. It is with this in mind, and the significantly reduced associated price tag, that I investigated the Blueprint product from Lombardi Software.
Firstly Blueprint differs from other applications in that it is a Software as a Service (SAAS) application, that is, it is an online application rather than an installed programmed. While this makes collaboration extremely straightforward it may make some organisations nervous, having there process flows held not on there own servers. In my experience with any form of BPM project there is a constant need to keep many people in the loop with the latest version, the more the better, online makes this very straightforward. As most workshops involve at least one facilitator, one other person recording information and one or more SME’s from the organisation simple collaboration is vital.
Blueprint does not provide the richness of ARIS’s versions, comments and change requests tracking, but it does provide versions – a good start. Unfortunately Lombardi’s licensing only allows named users (ie. paying users) to view the content, limiting the use as a real time publishing system. The current Powerpoint and Word exports are a little limited.
I should mention Blueprint does support the Business Process Definition Meta-Model (BPDM) XML standard. BPDM was an early push within the Object Management Group (OMG) for a standardised way to transfer BPMN models between products. Unfortunately BPDM seems to have only been implemented by Lombardi, limiting it’s utility! If Lombardi was to implement the Workflow Management Coalitions (WfMC) XPDL standard, transfer and publishing would be simple, as Lombardi are a strong advocate within OMG for BPDM this is unlikely.
Probably the biggest feature of Blueprint that I have not seen in any other product is the ability to switch between a process listing view, process flows and full documentation. This works extremely well, the DMAIC style shown below is perfect for use in a workshop setting.
One happy with the text description the next step is to define actual BPMN process steps, the tool can happily swap back and forward between these modes.
Finally there is a very effective documentation mode, which lists issues you have identified in creating the processes.
These multiple modes is a very clever idea and make the tool very effective to use.
The biggest feature gap in the Blueprint product is around the artefacts used within the process flows. There is limited ability to reuse artefacts that have been identified elsewhere in other processes. For example, an output of one process could easily be an input to another. When you are specifying an input, output, data item etc. it will list existing text items and allows you to select from the list. An option is available to export these artefacts in excel pivot tables for analysis, there is only limited identification from the original process and there is no way to identify what ‘type’ of information it is, vital for SOA analysis. If this is contrasted to ARIS which has superb reuse of artefacts, the ability to show the same artefacts in different contexts (for example. process versus system interface), and rich reporting it is clearly lacking.
Overall the tool is definitely worth looking at for consulting engagements, I have yet to see any other product with such clean integration between initial workshop information gathering, detailed process and supporting documentation. The visual editor needs work, but Lombardi are actively developing it and it is certain to get better over time, it already beats Visio by far.