Enterprises are trying to better integrate business processes and access while managing and exploiting data to make more informed decisions. Efficiency and flexibility can be gained by formalizing many processes using business process management. Research company Gartner emphasizes enterprises are beginning to see themselves and their industries as collections of processes, rather than collections of functions, territorial units and companies. This trend will continue and accelerate so that by 2009 it will be the norm in major enterprises and public bodies.
In the absence of broadly adopted standards, the process solutions market will remain fragmented until a sufficient number of Business Process Management technology vendors have achieved interoperability between process models. It will then boom and the combination of leading BPMS and standards-based process component set will deliver functionality beyond that of traditional packaged applications. Adoption of BPMS and SOA technologies will enable managers to make an increasing proportion of necessary changes with little to no involvement of technical personnel, Gartner said.
Key ingredient for delivering services
In his report, “Findings for Next Generation BPM”, Gartner analyst Jim Sinur, emphasized the next generation of developers will operate primarily at the business service level, dynamically aggregating often-disparate software applets, process, infrastructure, application and process components that deliver coherent functionality to the business. “BPM will be a key ingredient for delivering such services efficiently and flexibly,” he said. “However, formalization in how enterprises model business, how they collaborate and how they build and enhance application services is required to achieve increase benefits from BPM.”
According to Sinur’s report, many enterprises are taking a bottom-up approach to BPM. He said they can discover/access many buried business artifacts to build their models, such as a service-level agreement that identifies the key elements of an outsourced system and specifies communication, remediation and other mechanisms, including arbitration. “Working from the bottom up and selecting key business processes to model, (leveraging established artifacts) and improve, leading enterprises are accumulating knowledge about the business and how software supports it,” he said. “This approach is gaining a surprising degree of acceptance, even in previously process-averse businesses and cultures.”
BPM “will strengthen competive advantage”
At the start of 2006, there were more than 140 suppliers of BPM-enabling technology, most of them supplying specialty tools rather than BPMSs. By 2009, 20 percent of business processes of Global 2000 companies will be supported on BPMSs (0.7 probability), according to Gartner, who said these processes will predominately involve a considerable amount of human work that differentiates the company from its competitors and that is poorly supported by established IT systems. By 2012, the proportion of business processes in Global 2000 companies supported by BPMS will have reached 40 percent, according to Gartner.
Gartner also pointed out the work of IT departments will shift progressively from defining processes to enabling business managers to evolve and adapt their processes. “The adoption of BPM will strengthen competitive advantage in well-positioned companies,” Gartner reported. “The companies will enjoy increased efficiency, less-intrusive compliance, increased alignment between operations and strategy and greater agility. They will also get to play stronger roles in inter-organization processes.”
With regard to interoperability between different business process models, the OASIS international standards consortium earlier this year confirmed its members have approved the Business-Centric Methodology (BCM) version 1.0 as an OASIS standard. BCM is a set of layered methods for acquiring interoperable e-business information within communities of interest. The BCM OASIS standard acts as a road map, enabling companies to identify and exploit business success factors in a technology-neutral manner, based on open standards. BCM complements positively Enterprise Architectures (EA), service-oriented architectures (SOA), WS-Reliability, ebXML Messaging, UDDI and frameworks such as the Federal Architecture Reference Models. In addition, BCM maximizes the use of Web services, providing for the interpretation of messages and business documents from an enterprise viewpoint.
Process standards are the key
Clark pointed out some of our fundamental methods are becoming settled and tooled. “We know how to do basic AS2, ebXML, WSDL-centric web services, and so on,” he said. “With the plumbing layer mostly sorted out, now attention is turning to process standardization.” In a nutshell this means robust experimentation and development of business operations functions issues are more feasible, now that the “plumbing” layer or “foundation” is becoming more established.
However, Clark mentioned there are strategic issues for enterprise users that make BP automation a more cautious undertaking. “If my message-notification method is baked into middleware, that’s probably fine,” he said. “But is it OK to have my customer fulfillment routine, or invoicing operation, or my service warranty terms, “baked in” and hostage to someone else’s canned software, customized code, or licensing restriction?” As open standards for BP build out, automation of these core functions will become a safer and easier proposition for everyday enterprises.”
The technology of Web services is the most likely connection technology of service-oriented architectures (SOA). One area where the technology has been gaining ground is in its power as a mechanism for defining business services and operating models.
Less black box and more Lego blocks
James Bryce Clark, director of standards, development, OASIS said standards create safety. “People who build on open standards are better insulated from single source and vendor lock-in,” he said. “SOA brings more modularity and substitutability: your systems become less black box and more Lego blocks. In a Lego world, it’s far more important that all those hot-swap pieces can snap together interchangeably, with all kinds of other things. Without real modularity, using vendor-neutral standards, you don’t get the agility or cost benefits of an open component architecture.”
In describing how the integration of business processes changed over the last few years and how this affected the standards, Clark remarked: “Big question and every analyst has their own theory.” According to Clark, the demand is for a palette of commonly understood business data services and objects that can be invoked and exchanged by a wide range of users and tools. “Standardization of this is at an early stage,” he said. “Things to watch carefully include UBL, BPEL, UN/ECE’s core components work, and a fairly new set of projects to homogenize business rule expressions. OMG, W3C, OASIS and others all have stakes in that effort and we hope to see some convergence soon.”
Even so, Clark emphasized it’s early days for BPM “It’s not uncommon for the plumbing technologies (moving messages and services around) to advance ahead of the structuring and control of the business content itself,” he said. “Happened with EDI … and telegraph and telephone. Same thing is happening in XML and SOA.” When it comes to standards, time and time again the ‘functional service’ layer, including messaging, transport and registries, are more mature than higher logical level operations like business data objects and business process representation … the ‘business operations’ layer.