I recently had an opportunity to review the eClarus Business Process Modeler from eClarus Software. I found it to be an intuitive, very feature rich and versatile tool mainly targeted to business analysts and developers who are designing and developing SOA solutions.
The product suite is positioned as a tool that is standards based and enables roundtrip business process and SOA modelling. eClarus is available is targeted at two categories of user:
- Business Analysts
- SOA Architects
The product has some interesting capabilities that can definitely be useful to individual users and small teams. The integration with other products e.g. Eclipse (using a plugin) is especially useful, even though it tends to be focused at development teams and the related tools sets used for configuration management etc.
In my opinion this can be a double edged sword as it increases the costs and dependencies and may act as a barrier to adoption. New/existing customers need to buy all the additional products to get a complete capability as opposed to some existing modelling and engineering products in the market (IBM) that have most of this capability already out the box.
Collaboration is also a important feature that helps support how design and development teams can work together to support accelerated roundtriping. This is further improved by the ability to do process simulation that is provided by Active Endpoints (an OEM partner) in its full BPMS suite activevos 6.0
Taking a wider Business Transformation stance and having worked with various leading BPA, BPM and EA modeling tools I find a couple of things lacking that I would normally expect to be part of a tools such as eClarus if it was to be adopted by the wider business. This is by no means a criticism of the product or approach the vendor has taken but rather an opinion based on my experiences and that SOA is not just an IT activity. Things that I think would be great to include:
- A repository to store all models, data, meta data etc. This will ensure that models can be stored and retrieved in one place for execution and reporting purposes. eClarus does however support integration with Eclipse-based repositories such as CVS and Rational ClearCase and etc. of which CVS is free.
- A well defined meta model that can support assets, meta data per asset and relationships between assets and groups of assets (domains). eClarus does have this capability but it seems to be limited which is mainly due to a process being held in xml files and not in a central repository.
- The ability to traverse the relationships that exist between assets e.g. service is connected to process activity is connected to role/group is connected to kpi is connected to objective etc.
- Being able to export data in models into not just Word but PDF and Excel as well.
- The ability to create and run simple reports to improve decision making would also be a great asset to bridge the gap between business users and IT implementers.
- Data integration with various other data sources across the organisation to give a more complete view of the KPI and business/operational data. This is especially important when assigning the various data dimensions used in KPIs during simulation i.e. process optimisation/improvement.
This is obviously not an exhaustive (wish) list and as the product already supports round tripping and import/export of models using standards such as BPMN and BPEL, this may be a natural extension of the existing capabilities.
Taking a wider Business Transformation view, in my experience not all real world business/IT users are too interested in what technical standards are supported. This tends to be more of a tick in the box consideration for tools selection.
To date, most BPA/BPMS/EA tools I am aware of have the ability support BPMN and BPEL. Casewise and Aris are just two that spring to mind. That said, not all support BPEL equally well but it is largely due to BPEL implementations being very technical and implementation specific. Vendor products (Oracle, IBM etc.) that the business already uses are also a factor as each tends to be proprietary in the way they deal with this.
In summary, the eClarus product has a development focus and is niche but very flexible and therefore should have a good adoption in future. Future released will include web based BPMN modeling and a build in repository.
I do however anticipate that the fact that eClarus is very much focused on being aligned with specific technical standards and go to market as a plugin/OEM to existing products means that for a largely technical audience this can be a blessing and a curse.
eClarus does what it says on the tin but if a business is looking for more comprehensive/integrated EA/BPA/BPMS platform that supports Enterprise Architecture and IT Development they will probably want to consider moving towards the best of breed/market leaders that are focused on supporting end to end visibility and functionality for transformation initiatives.