Adobe brings on the BPM with LiveCycle 7.0

Adobe LiveCycle 7.0 brings to fruition Adobe Systems' May 2004 acquisition of Q-Link Technologies, maker of Java-based business process management software. Finally incorporating Q-Link's component-based workflow engine into Adobe's Intelligent Document Platform, LiveCycle 7.0 promises not only to streamline PDF-based workflows, but also to extend document-centric processes to back-end systems and to users and systems outside the firewall. The revamped process management suite now also includes BAM (business activity monitoring) capabilities, allowing end-users to configure thresholds and alerts, and to keep an eye on key performance indicators through Web-based dashboards.

In an online demo, Adobe showed off a nice graphical designer that allows business analysts to assemble processes by dragging together logical components called QPACs (Quick Process Action Components). More than 50 prebuilt QPACs make it a snap to insert decision points, branches, task delegations, data transformations, etc., and to integrate processes with directory servers, e-mail, FTP, Web services, databases, message queues, and other systems. As you might expect, QPACs also offer ready-made integration with Adobe Document Services such as PDF generation, bar coding, digital signing, document policies, and rights management. For scenarios not supported by stock and third-party QPACs, LiveCycle includes an Eclipse-based development environment for creating and debugging your own QPACs.

The results can be spectacular. In the demo, when a customer clicked a Get Help button in an invoice PDF, this launched a connection to a customer service Web site, offered an interactive 3-D view of the product to identify the problem, and dynamically generated a trouble ticket populated with the relevant data from customer, product, and sales databases. Once a customer service rep clicked his approval, a digitally signed, password-protected and bar-coded RMA (return merchandise authorization) -- set to expire in 30 days -- arrived in the customer's e-mail in-box.

For enterprises willing to standardize on Adobe, the combination of LiveCycle, PDF, and Adobe XML makes a powerful cocktail.

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Doug Dineley

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