BPM in the SOA strategy
Business Process Management (BPM) is a discipline in itself that, in principle, is not related to SOA. It pursues the optimization of the effectiveness of an organization from the analysis, documentation and continuous improvement of its business processes. However, analyzing business processes brings a lot of information that is key to the SOA strategy. So much so, that BPM is one of the three key elements of an SOA strategy. In this entry we will see why.
When we talk about SOA we are talking about integrating information systems. But not in the traditional or usual way. Not based on buttons that embed applications within other applications, access to remote databases, copies of tables, complex batch process chains, or proprietary web services to be remotely invoked. When we talk about SOA we talk about integrating information systems based on a set of good practices, tactics and approaches that offer, as we have been commenting on this blog, numerous and important advantages.
Among these characteristics that distinguish SOA from other traditional approaches to information systems integration, we will consider here the following:
- Business Knowledge
- Events Orientation
- Reduction of time-to-market
- Reduction of costs in ICT projects
It is clear that you can not pretend to optimize something that you do not know, and that the better you know it, the more options you have to find weaknesses and improvements to contribute to that optimization. In order to optimize the business processes of an organization, it is necessary to know the business processes well, which includes knowing the actors involved in the business processes, the business events that occur throughout each process, the business rules that determine the process flow according to certain criteria, the execution deadlines of the business processes, etc.
BPM therefore covers the first of our criteria. The modeling and analysis of business processes, thanks to the BPMN standard notation, allows to know, understand and analyze the business processes and all the information involved.
In the analysis of business processes different components exist that allow us to model them in a standard way: the actors involved (including humans), the tasks that are performed, the sequence of those tasks, the business rules that direct that sequence, events that trigger such tasks, etc., etc. Events, in particular, represent a real-world or information system change that trigger a given set of tasks, processes, rules, or even new events. Identifying these business events correctly allows guiding the integration of information systems in a much more efficient way for the organization than any other approach, because it allows information to flow through the different information systems in real time, practically at the same time as real events occur in the business of the organization, along its value chain.
Notice that improving the flow of information along an organization’s value chain to the point of doing it in real time, is an absolutely key competitive advance compared to other organizations. Not in vain, in recent years the globalization of markets and different industries has put in the foreground, not to place on the market the best product or service, but above all place it before the competition.
Therefore, BPM allows us to also cover event orientation in how to focus the integration of information systems, and the reduction of time-to-market by improving the flow of information along the value chain of organization in real-time, our points 2 and 3 in the characteristics we had selected from the SOA strategy.
On the other hand, as we have said in other entries, the map of spaghetti-type systems that are suffering many organizations today is rooted, in a large part, in the vertical approach that organizations have in formulating their needs and functional requirements in Information systems. We refer to the frequent disconnection between the different functional areas, when it comes to raising their IT needs.
This scenario often causes repeated requirements, since certain processes are common to several functional areas. However, its technological solution is undertaken several times, by different suppliers, under different supervisors and validators. All this has repercussions on deadlines and costs in ICT projects by increasing them unnecessarily. It also increases the risk of errors, and decreases the quality in the exploitation of information.
BPM allows analyzing the business processes in a transversal way, through the different functional areas. In this way, you can identify business processes, events, and rules, which are repeated throughout the flow of business processes of the organization. These repeating patterns can be analyzed and solved using one-time designed, one-time tested, and one-time validated services to be re-used in all functional areas by all information systems that need it.
It is evident the quantitative impact of this qualitative leap for the costs of the organization’s ICT projects (our fourth point), for the optimization of the organization’s systems map and for its competitiveness in the market.
In conclusion, BPM brings to the SOA strategy some of its most important advantages:
- Business processes orientation, as opposed to the traditional approach oriented to functional areas. It allows to optimize the management of the requirements of information systems, by identifying the patterns of processes, rules and events that are repeated, to be able to implement them once with a standard reusable service, thus reducing the costs of ICT projects and maintenance.
- Events orientation, in front of the traditional approach of integration based on reactive queries and massive post-processing of information. It allows real-time response to the events of the business process flow, significantly accelerating the flow of information and thereby shortening the time-to-market, giving a competitive advantage to the organization.
What better way to align the technology with the business, than starting by knowing in depth and understanding the business. BPM is the key to achieving it in a simple and standard way.