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InfoQ Homepage News BPM + SOA as a Composite Application Model is Gaining Mindshare

BPM + SOA as a Composite Application Model is Gaining Mindshare

Innovating at the business process level has become critical for most companies in 2007. In a classical case of the innovator’s dilemma, Google looked at Overture’s processes to publish ads on participating sites and quickly figured out they could do better.  Armed with only a few optimized processes, they took over Overture’s business in 18 months and grew the web ads market to unimaginable levels. This is what business process innovation can do.

Overture was unable to react, partly because they did not see it coming and felt little pressure at first to optimize their processes, but mostly because once they were built Overture could not change its systems which involved critical manual steps that Google eliminated or offered in a self-service mode.

It has long been recognized that traditional application models are not geared towards changing business processes easily.  In a J2EE or .Net programming model, processes are hard coded. Charles Simonyi –the cosmonaut developer and founder of intentional software- compares this type of coding to an “encryption” process.  In most companies, and over time, employees tend to “go around” systems as new process optimizations are discovered or certain exceptions can’t be handled and tracked by the systems. Ultimately, critical pieces of the business process context or analytics are captured in notes or spreadsheets at best.

The effort to create and leverage business process formalisms in software is not new. In his thesis “the state of the art of business process modeling and execution” (2007), Jungmin Ju, is retracing the history of BPM standards. Yet, as of today, the attempts to integrate BPM within the application model are timid to say the least. Microsoft does provide some building blocks with WF and Acropolis, but for the most part, BPM products are developed as solutions and therefore require integration with application models such as JEE or proprietary environments.

This latest survey from Aberdeen confirms that most people indeed need to change their processes often and that they are committed to do it with a BPM infrastructure. The survey reports that:

“51% employ manual processes to get the job done” and “21% say their applications force them to limit service offering”. As a result “50% of those surveyed are turning to BPM in 2007.”

Another interesting fact is how clear the link is between SOA and BPM, which was also noted by Sandy Carter, IBM VP of SOA Strategy, when she said eloquently:  “BPM and SOA are the two faces of the same coin”. And, in this article, Alex Cullen, Forrester analyst, shows how SOA is refactoring the application model towards being more process centric (see Figure 1 in the article).

“SOA technology and web services is the glue that 67% indicate they will use to tie BPM to ERP and other enterprise applications”, while 62% acknowledge that the driver of their SOA initiative is “the need to support new, agile business processes”. Aberdeen concludes “Commitment to and interest in both SOA and BPM spells the difference between Best in Class organizations and the rest of the survey pool.”

Based on these numbers, Aberdeen is suggesting that 2007 will be the year of BPM. The BPM market is growing and healthy: just published their latest survey of BPM products.

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