Friday, February 21, 2014

A Review of the "jBPM5 Developer Guide"

Those who know me, know that I am passionate about business processes and about open-source software.

I was asked some weeks ago to review a new book called "jBPM5 Developer Guide". I am no developer, but I consider jBPM as one of the key components of a lightweight, flexible and ultimately inexpensive technology stack that seriously addresses business processes.

So I was easily excited to talk about it, especially since the book, available at Packt Publishing here, is written by two of the biggest contributors to the jBPM project: 
Mauricio Salatino and Esteban Aliverti.

jBPM is THE open-source BPM suite. It provides a workflow engine, a visual modelling tool, a process repository, a visual forms editor and an integration with the Drools rules engine. I am sure it provides a bunch of other stuff, being an open architecture, but for a tech-minded business person like me, these are the must-have components. It is also compatible with the BPMN 2.0 standard, which is useful since BPMN 2.0 incorporates, most significantly, the process execution logic. A lot of commercial BPMS's still struggle to incorporate BPMN 2.0, just for perspective.

The books starts off with a smooth introduction into the world of BPM, just to familiarize new developers with the key concepts they ought to be manipulating by playing with the jBPM framework.

The following chapter describes the structure of the suite, with introduction to critical components: the core, the semantic module, the process engine, the rules engine, the API's, the WS-BPEL and other service orchestration concepts, SoA, ESB, the audit / logging facility, the identity management component etc. All very important, to anyone concerned with Business Architecture

The next few chapters go into a lot of details for developers, I'm sure all are highly useful but frankly a bit obscure to me :-)

But one key takeaway for business people from this book is how well jBPM tackles complex event processing and the proper design of business rules in a separate rules engine rather than by implementing them in the process logic. This is such a critical aspect and I have seen so many cases where business people struggle to embed an inherently changeable rules logic into a hopefully persistent process logic, leading to frequent redesigns followed by lots of debugging...

I think we are witnessing the dawn of highly intelligent, highly customizable business processes that are built for change, not built to last. 

By its modern design, jBPM is correctly addressing forthcoming development challenges related to this new BPM paradigm and for that the book is worth reading and gifting to your developers and IT managers.