BEAParticipate: Brian Abrahamson

Last up before the morning break was Brian Abrahamson, Director of Enterprise Architecture at PG&E; although I’ve been interested in the portal presentations prior to this, I was relieved to finally get some BPM/SOA content. They started on a huge business transformation strategy two years ago due to various factors such as deregulation and changing legislation that are impacting the competitive landscape in the utility industry, forcing them to become more competitive. Price is certainly a point of competition, but they also have customer service issues such as managing unexpected outages (e.g., what Abrahamson referred to as a “car-pole incident”), installing new residential service, and managing regular maintenance and work orders.

They made an explicit decision to create an SOA layer that would leverage their SAP and Oracle systems in order to provide a more agile development environment. They’ve been using EAI technologies for a number of years to create integration between enterprise applications, but most of the business processes were embedded in these applications rather than being explicitly defined and executed. Their current direction, therefore, is moving from application-centric to process-centric by allowing the construction of composite applications and business processes from the services provided by the enterprise applications. They consider BPM to be a strategic enabler of their future vision.

What they’ve done so far is to expose services from the enterprise applications, and used ALSB as an enterprise service bus. ALBPM then allows those services to be used, via the bus, to create executable business processes using those services. As soon as they started exposing BPM to their internal clients, however, there was an immediate demand for modelling, simulation and analytics; now, they’re planning for a business process modelling layer that allows their business analysts to do all of these with some type of more comprehensive BPA tool, with round-tripping as a key requirement. Above all of layers is a process architecture and governance layer that, like the modelling layer below it, is business-driven, whereas they see the BPM, ESB and SOA layers as being IT’s domain.

They have realized a couple of key points: from the IT side, SOA provides a service layer than greatly expedites BPM; from the business side, cross-departmental process optimization is key to future growth. They have a business process competency centre that does mainly paper-based and manual modelling and analysis, which is a big driver for getting the business process modelling layer in place in their BPM stack.

They learned some valuable lessons along the way: put SOA principles and practices in place early; get executive sponsorship of BPM initiatives; business process modelling, management and governance is more of a business issue than a technology tool issue; and lastly, the market is still maturing and requires partnering with some key technology partners.

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