BPM Think Tank Day 3: BPM & SOA panel

We’re starting to wind down a bit, and many of the east coast people have taken off already to avoid the red-eye flight home so the audience is getting a bit sparse. Those of us with presentations this afternoon, however, are still here.

First after lunch is a panel on BPM & SOA, and how they complement each other, with Tony  Baer of onStrategies and Brenda Michelson of the SOA Consortium. This is more of the mini-presentation format rather than a true panel, but I promised Brenda that I wouldn’t blame the presenters for that. 🙂

Tony started out with the “BPM is from Venus, SOA is from Mars” phrase, which we’ve all been bandying about for a while, although he really meant ‘business is from Venus and IT is from Mars). Considering, however, that Venus is the goddess of love (collaboration in its most basic form, perhaps?) and Mars is the god of war (technology shoot-outs and other battle language), that may not be far from the truth.

He addressed the culture issues: both business and IT talk about business processes, but business tends to take a top-down approach versus IT’s bottom-up approach, and business is using BPM to rationalize the business whereas IT is using SOA as the next great way to integrate applications. He sees a process orchestration battleground between BPM and SOA about where to do integration in a process. He also pointed out that BPEL is still at the “checklist” level (that is, it’s on the RFP checklist but not actually used) for most BPM applications, an opinion that I stated here a couple of weeks ago.

Brenda was up next talking about business-driven SOA and the SOA Consortium, and looked at the correlation between an Economist survey of late last year with her personal findings in touring around talking to CIOs and CTOs: the top thing that they state is critical for both revenue generation and cost cutting is the creation of services. One CTO saw BPM, SOA, Lean and Six Sigma all as the same basic thing, namely business strategy and structure, and they need to work together without artificial divisions between them in order to enable a platform for business agility.

Before SOA, business and IT strategy weren’t well aligned and were often developed independently, and the business process became an output of an IT solution rather than driven directly by business requirements. Business and IT need to collaborate on both strategy and architecture, which in turn drives out portfolio planning and delivery of the business solutions. She pointed out that also “enterprise architecture” is currently mostly technology architecture with a bit of business architecture on the side (if you’re lucky), in the future it will become more balanced with equal contributions from business and technical architecture.

Part of what the SOA Consortium is doing is providing guidelines for how the too-technical technology architects can become more valuable enterprise architects, and to break the artificial divide between business and IT. Part of this, I think, is similar to something I posted a year and a half ago, where enterprise architecture is not an IT function, but something that is in a strategic position between business and IT.

We’re off to do the last of the roundtables now, where I’ll be leading one on Enterprise 2.0 and BPM mashups. My notes will be on paper, and I’ll summarize them over here sometime on that overnight flight home tonight.

2 thoughts on “BPM Think Tank Day 3: BPM & SOA panel”

  1. Hi,

    There is still a point that nobody seems to discuss about and I am interested in.
    Hopefully, your experience will help me to solve that issue.

    Let’s imagine a successful SOA implementation in a large system landscape based on several vendor applications. As example, as end-user, I create a new bank account in a Microsoft UI which communicates via IBM Websphere to SAP Banking products and to an appropriate mainframe.

    Let’s imagine a BPM implementation retrieving valuable key figures from those applications and aggregating them. For instance, I collect the average think time and the number of created account from the Microsoft front-end, the number of transactions in/out in Websphere etc.

    Now, the business department is interested in having KPIs like the value of unprocessed account creation i.e., if the creation of the account failed, was it an important customer or not? To be honnest, I cannot see any possibility to answer to that question without implementing a special exception handling over the whole landscape.

    From my perspective only a BPM implementation over an EAI can offer such a complex key indicator … well, except if all BPM vendors agree on generic services notifications which would avoid that every SOA component is a blackbox for the other ones.

    Hopefully, you will understand my question.
    Kind Regards,

  2. Ludo, good point (if I’m understanding it correctly) — another advantage provided by BPM, in addition in orchestrating services, is to collect the necessary data to monitor and report on KPIs across the entire process, including what happens in each of the services. Even if each service provided its own execution metrics to some sort of centralized BI facility, BPM would still provide a big advantage in terms of linking together the services that contribute to a specific process, rather than the designer having to ensure that they tease out the threads of information from the BI tool to match what services are invoked by BPM.

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