BPM seems to be all a-buzz with the ‘simulation’ word right now, with some vendor announcements and Gartner predictions already coming out in the first quarter this year. I’ve been using iGrafx 2007 with a recent client but found it a little tired looking (felt like I was peering at Windows NT again) so I was invited to look at their current 2009 offering and given some insight into their incoming 2010 release soon.
My immediate impression was ‘thank God’ for the refreshed look, taking its cue now from more up to date Microsoft UI. iGrafx windows can be docked, stacked and there’s an auto-hide feature also. The formatting and shape palette has also received a make over. Something which wasn’t in the 2007 version is the new Quick Zoom feature which displays a small version of the process model and allows you to zoom into any aspect with using the usual zoom drop-down box in the top bar. Not sure if this is more gimmick than actual use but I can see potential for larger process maps spread over a number of pages. iGrafx now uses GDI+ to render the process models so things should appear more smoothly and less pixelated when zooming large scale.
There is a new Themes window which allows users to choose from preselected colour palettes and then applied wholesale across the process map in one go. iGrafx now can accommodate Excel-like functions by creating sheets with formulae, something which users couldn’t do in 2007 and seems more suited to on the fly process optimisation work considering that iGrafx possesses simulation capabilities.
Talking of which, and linking back to the beginning, works really well. As with all simulation products it’s the quality of the information plugged into the tool which drives how well a simulation will run and the results which fall out of it. What’s particularly interesting is that iGrafx allows a user to follow a simulated transaction into another process which is useful to see and understand downstream effects of any change applied. Steps/ Activities can be colour coded so it’s more obvious to users where delays are occurring, where flow appears uninterrupted, lack of resources are available etc in a visual format
Simulation reports can be configured and gleaned which are useful for building a business case for change and targeting areas for improvement, which would be an interesting study into how many people actually use reports in this manner rather than producing reams of stats for the sake of it. Given this is the Six Sigma version it’s a given that it interfaces with Minitab out of the box.
Picking up on the Enterprise version allows an organisation to apply reference models like ITSM, the (rather old) Process Classification Framework, Regulatory rules to the process which is useful for building up a framework and compliance regime around the repository.
I can’t talk too much about the 2010 version at this point in time but can point to some features to expect that are coming:
- Embed documentation into the process a lot easier, multiple item links and external linking also
- BPMN 2.0 template with automatic validation
- Integration with another major toolset….
Obviously there is more to iGrafx than a simple BPA drawing tool, the usual array of modelling functionality exists in the Process versions, with the Web Central and Process Central extensions creating web and server repositories for the organisation, and the Enterprise version allowing full blown enterprise architecture to be catered for. The simulation functionality from what I saw was very slick indeed and a patch better than what I’ve seen from Casewise and IBM Websphere Business Modeler (in terms of actually working and accessibility to a business user)
If you’re looking for a good solid BPA tool and want to take advantage of BPM’s latest hot topic, simulation, then iGrafx is well worth a look.