BizTalk Orchestration Designer for Business Analysts Improvements

It's almost a crime that the Orchestration Designer for Business Analysts (ODBA) tool for BizTalk Server 2006 has been downloaded only half
as much as the BizTalk Server 2006 Beta bits. It has a number of improvements that BizTalk developers should check out.

The primary stated use for the ODBA is for business users to be able to diagram a process and then throw it over the wall to the developers
who can then import that diagram into Visual Studio and begin building an orchestration. Given that in many shops, the same person who
designs the flow is the same person who builds the orchestration, the ODBA can be perceived as unnecessary. However, I submit that an extremely
valid use of the ODBA is for purely documentation purposes. You can take a finished orchestration, save it out via the ODBA to a Visio file
and mark it up with notes and diagrams, and send that to the business community as a reference.

So what's new in the latest ODBA for BizTalk Server 2006? You'll find improvements in two major areas:

  • Layout and usability changes. We've improved the experience of importing an orchestration and creating the initial layout. In the existing
    version of the ODBA, when you import and orchestration, you may often find yourself spending a few minutes just trying to reorganize the diagram
    into something that is humanly readable. Now it's much cleaner from the get-go.
  • BAM integration. This is the most significant change, in my opinion. The ODBA user can now define BAM data, and even identify the
    milestones that matter. Then, a valid BAM XML configuration can be exported and consumed by the BAM Management tool. Technically you don't need
    to use Excel anymore if you don't want to. However, it appears that you cannot define analysis-based dimensions for the data in the
    ODBA, so if you want to create aggregation cubes, you'd still use Excel.

So here's what the new ODBA looks like. In the top left you'll see the data of interest that I defined for this process. Also look at the
text directly below the Begin shape. By right-clicking the connectors between shapes, I can define BAM milestones such as "New Order Received",
or "Order Denied". This seems like a great, logical addition to the tool.

Below is the new ODBA menu that is added to Visio when you install the tool. The user can also set up which BAM Portal to look at, so that
they can be in the ODBA and fire up BAM from within the tool. Neato.

Finally, when defining Data of Interest you do so in a manner similar to the process followed in the Excel BAM wizard. Choose the
data you care about, then choose a data type and add a description.

All in all, good stuff. If you haven't yanked down this latest version, do so.