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Using BPM And SOA To Maximum Business Value

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Industry analyst Neil Ward-Dutton writes that the combination of Business Process Management (BPM) and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is seen as technically complementary. There are different views on how the two concepts play together, however, the author maintains that there is enough synergy between them to increase business value.

Neil explores the reasons as to why the idea of BPM and SOA together has the industries predisposed to thinking of them as complementary technologies.

1. The adoption of BPEL within mainstream software products. Through 2004-05, the suppliers selling new middleware products aimed at customers pursuing SOA initiatives started to offer […] multi-step logic flows spanning multiple external services engines [and] implemented a standard called Business Process Execution Language (BPEL),  This overloaded use of “Business Process” terminology caused many commentators to blend and confuse the topics of SOA and BPM.

2. Software suppliers with products that appealed to technology buyers, looking for ways to sell to business leaders. Branding their new technology capabilities as “BPM” was seen as a great way to [sell to business users in addition to traditional technology buyers].

3. BPM technology products making use of Web services. At the same time, a group of startup software suppliers was selling a new type of software platform built specially for BPM initiatives, which came to be known as the Business Process Management System (BPMS)[…] Interest in SOA was spreading rapidly [and] It made sense for these vendors to piggy-back on the new Web services protocols as a way to make their products “open” for customers to integrate new automated processes with existing back-end applications, systems and data sources.

He believes that the two are really the result of different perspectives SOA, the bottom-up approach, which is primarily IT driven, and BPM, the top-down approach, which is business driven. He attributes the failure to capitalize on the synergies between the two approaches to the diverging interests of the drivers of the initaitives.

  • Failure to leverage "integration services" effectively in BPM implementations.
  • Failure to consider opportunities for process reuse.
  • Failure to capitalise on information architecture value. Within SOA implementations, the definition of "common information models" is crucial to minimising the amount of translation of information flows that has to be performed when services are being combined and re-combined in different environments.

Neil advocates Creating a “service context” for both the business architecture as well as technology architecture while designing the business processes and their supporting services. Service designs that are purely business driven may not be optimal in terms of re-use, efficient use of resources and information. Same goes for completely IT driven services, which may not be especially well designed to participate in an orchestrated business process.

In a business architecture driven approach to SOA, a portfolio of services isn’t created by solely focusing on how existing software applications and resources can be more effectively exposed to be reused. An equally important starting-point is an understanding of the high-level business service commitments that an organisation makes to external parties […]. Service models acting at different levels of granularity and abstraction decompose these top-level business service commitments, and inform requirements for service commitments at different levels within an organisation and its systems.

As he had concluded earlier, “the truth is that *outcomes* come first, and services and processes are two sides of the same coin in achieving the right results.", he urges the drivers of these initiatives, to broaden their perspective and design their system holistically that satisfies both IT as well as business need.

When you look at how to combine BPM and SOA initiatives, don’t just focus on the obvious integration-enablement aspects. If you broaden your view to see how BPM and SOA fit into the broader perspective of Business Architecture, more profound relationships and opportunities will become apparent.

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