CSK Software Combines Workflow and EAI

- New release of EAI solution X-Gen includes workflow component to automate business processes
- Pre-defined workflows for financial services providers
- Workflows, interfaces and transformation rules graphically defined throughout
- Also new in this release: SWIFTNet integration, new authorisation concept, integration of market data

London 28 October 2003: CSK Software AG (CSK) has extended the scope of its integration software, X-Gen, by adding a workflow component in the latest 3.3 release, just announced.

This represents a decisive product development step for CSK as, with this new release, X-Gen bridges the gap between business process modelling and, from a technical perspective, applications integration. The software allows companies both to define their business processes graphically as workflows and to implement and automate them across system boundaries.

CSK Software's X-Gen is designed for financial services providers with heterogeneous system landscapes who want to use automation to reduce process costs and find flexible ways to adapt their processes. Rather than tackling individual systems that need to be integrated, the workflow component allows these companies to start with the business process, which is implemented through integration. As a result, the focus is on the need to achieve optimal organisation of the business rather than on the technology. Processes specific to the industry, business cases and message standards are pre-configured within the software.

Unlike strictly business process models, which do little more than provide a graphic representation, an X-Gen workflow is actually a process description which can be carried out by a computer - in other words, the graphically defined process logic can be executed automatically by computer systems. On a technical level, the workflow is implemented by X-Gen's integration components, including data flow control, transformation logic and adapters.

The workflow engine controls and monitors the entire life-cycle of a process across any number of systems. Even errors (instances where a time-frame has been exceeded), exceptions and system failures are taken into account and automatically handled or corrected.

The workflow is defined in a Workflow Editor using graphic symbols (based on UML, or Unified Modelling Language), so no programming is involved. This means the company's leading specialists - the people who are most familiar with the business processes - are able to model the workflows themselves, even if they have no detailed IT skills. The technical integration can be carried out in parallel by IT experts to reduce the duration of the project. Technical integration is also implemented using graphic symbols. X-Gen provides a variety of different graphic user interfaces for five levels of a business process: workflow, data flow, transformation rules, data structures and adapters.

All the components were developed by CSK Software and are closely integrated. Starting from a point in the workflow, the user can access the relevant data flows by means of a drill-down function and move from there to, for example, the appropriate transformation rules. Each level, and the elements involved, can be independently defined and generically re-used. No technical details are defined at workflow level, so if a system involved in a workflow needs to be substituted, the workflow itself does not need to be changed.

Example of a workflow

An example will help make this clearer. A particular process step in securities trading is the electronic confirmation of fulfilment of an order sent to the bank by a broker. This is designed to trigger a series of actions at the bank, including the calculation of fees and the average price of the individual partial fulfilments, as well as the dispatch of confirmation to the party that placed the order.

At the workflow level, receipt of confirmation of fulfilment is defined as an event which triggers a change of status within the workflow, as well as the activity's 'price calculation' and 'dispatch of confirmation'. At the data flow level, the route is defined by which the relevant data is to be transmitted to which systems.

Again, at the transformation rule level, the logic governing the calculation of an average price is established. At the data structure level, there is a definition of which data structures (business objects) are to be used. And finally, at the adapter level, the interfaces required to read and process data from different systems (e.g. database adapter, MQ Series adapter) are set up.

Given this structure, the processes can easily be adapted to take account of technical or structural changes within the industry. Further, as the components and levels are discrete, any changes made to a single component or level have a minimal effect on the others.

Also new in this release (selection):

Integration of SWIFTNet standards and services

As well as FIN (Financial Information Network) Messages - supporting more than 240 message standards - X-Gen 3.3 now also supports SWIFTNet's new XML standards and services. SWIFTNet is the IP-based network of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, SWIFT, which is due to replace the old X25 Network (due to cease operation on 31 December 2004).

The message prototypes so far developed by SWIFT for the investment fund business and real-time liquidity management (Nostro Cash Reporting) are integrated into X-Gen. The latter has already been awarded the "SWIFTNetReady Label for Nostro Cash Reporting".

New Authorisation Concept

In addition, the new release includes a new authorisation concept and a graphic Authorisation Editor. This allows user rights to be assigned hierarchically in line with a company's organisational structures.

User rights can be restricted and assigned both flexibly and precisely (via the Unified Resource Identifier). It is even possible to apply a restriction to specific types of messages and transformation rules.

For example, certain SWIFT messages containing funds transfers can be restricted to particular members of staff for security reasons, allowing them to make any corrections that may be necessary. Using the graphic Authorisation Editor integrated into X-Gen's front end, authorisations can be assigned without the need for detailed IT skills.

Integration of market data and static data

The new X-Gen release provides an adapter for market data distribution platforms. As well as CSK's own "Invision" platform, it also supports other platforms such as Reuters' Triach or RDMS.

With the new adapter, financial services providers are able to integrate real-time data (e.g. share prices or exchange rates) directly into their own processes and systems. This new feature is of particular interest because it can be used to integrate assessment data for risk management systems, deal-tracking systems and market suitability testing straight into the relevant systems.

The VDF (Valour Data Feed) data service provided by Swiss company Telekurs has also been integrated into X-Gen. Telekurs supplies master data and event data relating to securities, e.g. information about interest payments on fixed-interest securities or on share-splitting.

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