“Business Process Management Has no Expiration Date”

Dr. Wolfram Jost
Dr. Wolfram Jost

Dr. Jost, why did IDS Scheer recently organize its product offerings into solutions?

Jost: Several years ago, IDS Scheer began to work with the idea of describing business processes graphically and in terms of the business itself. We also began to offer assistance with optimizing business processes and with realizing them technologically during implementation. Stated briefly, we began to work with business process management (BPM). The ARIS Toolset was our first product. As the years went on, the topic of BPM became broader. How do you design an implementation of SAP software with an orientation toward processes? How do you design the processes according to legal requirements, such as compliance management? A pressing question has arisen recently about how business processes can be implemented in a service-oriented architecture (SOA). That’s why IDS Scheer has developed various tools for this purpose – tools that are combined in the ARIS Platform.

The nucleus of the topic always remains the business process. And of course, our customers don’t want to search through a variety of software tools to find what they need for their implementation of SAP software, for a compliance solution, for setting up SOA, or for reorganizing their business processes. That’s why we have now bundled our tools for modeling or audit management into six convenient solutions, the ARIS Solutions, that consist of software and methods for successful BPM. We have created packages for process-driven SAP; enterprise BPM; business-driven SOA; enterprise architecture management; process intelligence and performance management; and governance, risk, and compliance. The solutions are more transparent to our customers.

The bundling occurred at the behest of your customers?

Jost: Yes. Consider the example of Audi. For a fairly long time, the company was dealing with BPM. Then the IT department began to set up an enterprise architecture. And another team worked out the service definitions for the architecture. All that is connected, of course. The services use the business processes as a foundation, and the services must be integrated into the enterprise architecture. That’s how the idea arose to bundle the required products. Companies often begin by representing processes – the transparency and optimization of the processes. Companies go on to use the process and then implement SAP software on top of the processes. But then the accounting department comes in to say that the solution must take compliance or auditing into consideration. One phase flows into the next, which corresponds to how we thought about the solutions.

The common element of the solutions is that they all rest on the core of process management – describing the processes, implementing, the processes, and monitoring the processes. What has changed is the point of view I use to look at the whole. When a given company needs compliance management, I have to describe, implement, and monitor processes. But I look at the processes in a different way. I ask myself about the risks inherent in specific processes. How great are the risks? How can I measure risk? How can I avoid risk? If I implement SAP software, I must ask myself how I can use the SAP software to support my processes most efficiently. If I want to set up SOA, I have to ask myself how I can turn the processes into services. How can I implement the services? How can I monitor the processes?

What’s special about the collaboration between SAP and IDS Scheer?

Jost: For a long time, SAP and IDS Scheer have worked toward a common goal of making our customers’ processes more efficient and innovative. The foundation is process-oriented implementation, operation, and monitoring of SAP software. In the first step of our collaboration, we tied to make the business processes that were mapped with the SAP software more transparent. In the second step, we offered customers an option to implement the business processes that had been described using SAP software. Toward that end, we jointly developed an interface between ARIS and SAP Solution Manager. The third step is enterprise SOA. With enterprise SOA, SAP no longer simply offers a complete enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) packages. It offers enterprise services that can be assembled into specific, end-to-end processes with a process-description language. Customers now have the flexibility to assemble enterprise services into end-to-end processes, such as sell from stock, that are required for a specific business model. If the requirements change, the customer simply changes the assembly instructions – not the source code. Once that has been done, the customer can move from the relevant enterprise services to configuration and then configure the software with an orientation to processes. In other words, once the processes have been made visible, or exposed, they can be mapped to the enterprise services, at which point the services from SAP have been configured as process oriented.

SAP and IDS Scheer are far ahead of the competition with this integration, which begins with business administration and continues all the way to a configured system. Of course, other suppliers, such as IBM, have modeling tools, but only from a purely technological and system viewpoint. Business-oriented modeling, which defines the first step and is independent of the software, needs a neutral partner. That’s why SAP entered into a partnership with IDS Scheer. ARIS is an integrated component of the business process platform offerings from SAP. The flexibility that customers have to adjust business process to changing market requirements – without a great deal of effort – is the greatest advantage of this platform. This kind of process flexibility is absolutely necessary because cycles of change are becoming shorter and shorter.

But don’t the boundaries of ARIS solutions begin to blur? For example, can I seriously undertake business process modeling without enterprise architecture management?

Jost: Of course the boundaries blur. A company can certainly decide if it wants to model its processes separately for compliance, enterprise architecture, or the SAP software. But the logical question would be whether all three areas can use common modeling. The processes exist only once. Yet many companies do not see this connection. We want to lead companies to seeing it with our solutions.

How does all this apply to midsize companies? Aren’t the modeling tools of ARIS too powerful for these purposes?

Jost: The need to manage processes actively exists independently of the size of a company. Every company, regardless of its size, has processes, and the efficiency of the processes is critical for success. The budgets and resources available to large or small companies differ, of course. The business process platform offerings of SAP and the new SAP solutions for midsize companies make the technology simpler. At the beginning, new technologies are always difficult and complex. The first automobiles were driven only by chauffeurs; the first computers were operated only by specialists. The first BPM solutions were used only by specialists. But now, after ten years of BPM, the effort and knowledge needed for BPM solutions are not longer as great.

That’s why I’m convinced that BPM will also establish itself among midsize companies. I also dare to question if it will reach into companies with fewer than 50 employees. But I think that companies with 300 to 500 employees will make BPM part of their operations in the future, especially because the business process platform offerings from SAP already offer integration with ARIS products. These companies might not work with BPM as extensively as large corporate groups, but they will nonetheless be unable to avoid it.

Is BPM something like an industry darling?

Jost: The automobile industry was the first to work with BPM, followed by banks. With the recent expansion of rules and the requirements of deregulation, public agencies, telecommunications companies, and energy suppliers have also jumped on board. And the defense sector is not to be underestimated. That’s no surprise. In principle, every army supplies itself. An army has everything: kitchens, waste removal, energy supply, communications units, motor pools and maintenance facilities, clothing and laundry, and replenishment. In other words, an army is a complete world in and of itself, with all the associated logistics. But in principle, BPM is a task that exists independently of a specific industry.

Is BPM a regional or a global phenomenon?

Jost: Europe in general and Germany in particular have always had a stronger orientation toward methodology. Processes predominately have a certain engineering character. In the United States, people have tended to work with business processes with their shirtsleeves rolled up. Ironically, the first wave of business process reengineering (BPR) came from the United States. But that BPR displayed a procedural approach more than a methodological conception. Once a flow chart has been created, the business processes will flow as indicated. That approach has been over with for a long time. You might be able to use a flow chart to visualize business processes – to see if they really correspond to reality, but you can’t use it for analysis and measurement. The United Sates is catching up with the methodological approach – as driven by compliance requirements like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and by enterprise SOA. The same holds true in Asia.

Are SOA designs or compliance requirements therefore the “new” drivers for BPM?

Jost: In principle, yes. But it’s important that if the current topic is e-business or SOA, no path can avoid business processes. They are the core of every company. The goal will always be to design business processes more efficiently and with more innovation – with or without the presence of additional drivers. BPM has no expiration date.