Today I read a post by ebiz blogger Keith Harrison-Broninski about Mashups and process. He took a look at mashups from two perspectives represented by mashup tool vendors JackBe and NexaWeb.
(As an aside, do you think JackBe allowed him to evlauate their tool? Readers will remember that JackBe declined to let me evaluate Presto, as I've noted here and here.)
I'm in the middle of evaluating Dapper, and so far I really like what I see. I had to take time out to respond to Harrison-Broninski, however, because while I agree with most of what he says, I have to take exception to his conclusion.
Here is the money quote from his post.
...there are essentially 2 types of mashup: siloed and process-aware. For now, mashup tools are siloed. However, in due course they will become process-aware via integration with HIMS technology - and once this happens, the combination of [Human Interaction Management System] HIMS processes and mashup applications will be an extremely powerful way to leverage both Web 2.0 and your legacy infrastructure.
I'm very confused by this post because we've been saying for months that true business mashups are not only human-process aware, they are human-process centric. Mashing up the data is a great step forward. Mashing up visual and data elements at the glass is a very interesting technique, perhaps more relevant to the consumer world than the business world, but a useful technique nonetheless. However, these aren't business mashups. They are presentation and data mashups.
Hinchcliffe noted in a recent and widely cited post that there aren't yet killer mashup apps. I believe that's because we've concentrated only on putting the data and presentation components together and haven't put the results in the context of a business activity. I go into more detail in my response to Hinchcliffe, so I won't repeat myself here. The bottom line is that Harrison-Broninski has it exactly right about the need for human-centric process.
What he doesn't have right is his assertion that there are no process-aware mashup tools. He notes that BPM is a possibility, but thinks processes appropriate for BPM aren't really appropriate for mashups. Read his post for his perspective on the difference between BPM processes and HIMS processes. I'm not sure I agree with that conclusion since there are BPM vendors who have strong roots in human workflow. In fact, Forrester has an entire wave for Human-centric BPM. (I'd include a summary here, but then Forrester would insist on approving my post.)
Instead, I think the reason BPM tools haven't invaded the mashup market is because BPM practitioners haven't yet made the connection. (See my post on the subject.) Until that happens the tools won't evolve to make it easy to create mashup applications within a BPM context. I'm sure that will change, but for now read the comments from long-time BPM practitioner Sandy Kemsley.
Until the BPM tools do evolve, I'd like to point out that there are at least two process-aware mashup tools already on the market. The first is ActiveGrid, which I've already reviewed. The second is Serena Mashup Composer which has been released to the public this week. Both of these tools let users create mashup applications, and both enable mashers to define human workflow to put the mashups in the context of a business activity.
Go read Harrison-Broninski's post for an interesting discussion about the difference between BPM and human-centric applications. He makes a great case for mashups of the future incorporating HIMS. But don't think you have to wait for 'the future' for a business mashup construction environment. To steal the title of a very old movie shamelessly stolen in many, many marketing taglines, "The future is now."