A Shared Language for Business and IT

Feature Article | July 26, 2004 by admin

The efficiency of business processes is crucial for long-term corporate success. Organizations that want to survive in a competitive environment need transparent business models that can be adapted at any time. In order to implement innovative business strategies successfully, business-management concepts need to be transferred efficiently to the IT environment. As well as the question of suitable, process-oriented organizational structures and minimizing interfaces within process workflows, the automation of subprocesses that always run in the same way is one of the main tasks of process management.

Overcoming communication barriers

Despite new technologies, implementing new ideas is often difficult, time-consuming and costly. The results of many process optimization projects do not match expectations. The IT department takes a technical view of data, systems and interfaces for integrating heterogeneous system landscapes that have evolved over a period of time, and this point of view is hard to communicate to top management and other departments. However, various factors require flexible adaptation of business processes. These include opening up new markets, launching new products, changes to legal requirements, expanding the business partner network, acquisitions and, last but not least, outsourcing of processes (BPO). The communication problems between the IT department and other specialist departments make it hard to fulfil strategic requirements quickly and efficiently. Top management and the specialist department define “what” needs to be done, the IT experts know the “why” and “how”. However, because concepts, tools and procedures do not tally, coordinating all parties is a lengthy process.

Business Process Management lifecycle

Business Process Management lifecycle

Business Process Management overcomes these communication barriers by delivering methods and procedural models for process monitoring throughout the company’s value-added chain. Internal, enterprise-wide business processes are viewed as a whole, from the design (Business Strategy) and modeling (Business Model) stages to configuration, automated execution and technical and business-management monitoring.

The advantages of BPM

The advantages of BPM

With BPM, different users with various roles, e.g. the process manager from the specialist department, the application consultant and the integration specialist, take on specific tasks for modeling the processes. This enables process knowledge to be documented so that it can be understood and reused. BPM extends from the description of the business-management process architecture to implementation of the applications and integration of cross-component processes. This goes far beyond technical process integration approaches that control business processes above and beyond application landscapes using classic EAI tools (Enterprise Application Integration).

Modeling instead of programming

Within the framework of a development partnership, SAP and IDS Scheer provide their customers with methods, technologies and reference content for all their process management needs. The comprehensive integration and application platform SAP NetWeaver brings together users, information and business processes enterprise-wide and across technological boundaries. It reduces the complexity of heterogeneous infrastructures and cuts operating costs (Total Cost of Ownership). SAP NetWeaver forms the technological basis for all solutions in the mySAP Business Suite and SAP xApps and enables mission-critical business processes to be adapted to changing requirements.
SAP NetWeaver provides all the integrated functions of a classic BPM suite in one platform. SAP Business Workflow controls processes within the business application based on application-specific business objects (e.g. order, offer or job) and standard business rules. Cross-component BPM with SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) controls automation-friendly integration processes based on rules and events and on the exchange of information between SAP and non-SAP systems. Ad hoc Workflow and the Universal Worklist (UWL) in the SAP Enterprise Portal allow all users to be efficiently incorporated in the process workflows. Tasks, work items and alerts from different systems can be processed in a central inbox, the Universal Worklist. Thanks to a user-friendly method, each user can add their own workflows as subprocesses to existing application processes or develop independent team processes, either from the UWL or from a collaboration room.
ARIS for SAP NetWeaver augments this approach with business-management modeling. This jointly developed solution features a detailed description of the process architecture, including business models, process implementation via the SAP Solution Manager, integration of executable processes in SAP XI and applications with the SAP Business Workflow.

End-to-end process architecture

Process architecture

Process architecture

Aris for SAP NetWeaver works on three levels. At the highest level (Process Architecture Model), the process architecture of the company is set up purely from a business-management point of view without any regard for the technical aspects. This architecture model forms the basis for describing the company’s process strategy and, if necessary, flexibly reformulating it.
Configuration models (Process Configuration Model) describe processes and process steps above and beyond the various components of the mySAP Business Suite. These models are used to derive customizing activities and enable navigation to SAP systems and definition of monitoring-related information such as transaction threshold values. SAP Solution Manager, the lifecycle management solution from SAP NetWeaver, provides reference processes that can be customized and used for operation, implementation, support and process monitoring. Process models are synchronized between ARIS for SAP NetWeaver and the SAP Solution Manager. Users arrange the SAP reference models in the process architecture and adapt them to the company’s specific requirements (blueprint).
The next level (Process Execution Model) uses modeled process flows for execution via SAP XI and the applications. SAP XI uses a BPEL-standard-based (Business Process Execution Language) development environment from which abstract process logic is transferred to the runtime environment of SAP XI where it is executed by a business process engine. Cross-component processes are flexibly linked to the application processes. Individual interfaces of SAP and non-SAP systems and workflows – e.g. an authorization workflow in an ERP solution – can be controlled using comprehensive process logic. The process architecture model in ARIS can also incorporate integration knowledge which is partially used in industry-specific form for communication between business partners (e.g. RosettaNet).

From process orientation to service orientation

Unified Modeling Environment

Unified Modeling Environment

A key component of the cooperation between SAP and IDS Scheer is to develop methods and tools for consistent process modeling in order to support the Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA). With the next release of SAP NetWeaver, therefore, the partners are planning to intermesh their products and their know-how even more closely. Design, modeling and model-based configuration can then be performed in a technically integrated solution, a unified modeling environment as a component of the Service Repository of SAP NetWeaver. Based on a standard metamodel, users can try out different role-specific tasks in a unified modeling environment.
Integrating business-management process knowledge with the technical “orchestration” of enterprise services allows the evolutionary implementation of a service-oriented architecture based on business requirements. New processes, “next practices”, can be specified from a business-management point of view and developed using models based on existing “best practice” applications and their various functions, business objects and application logic. Companies can already start introducing end-to-end, methodical integration of business processes, from the business management side right through to the technical realization. Models currently being produced for process architecture, process configuration and process execution can also be used in future, thereby safeguarding investments.

Thomas Volmering

Torsten Scholz

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