Benoit Lheureux from Gartner’s Infrastructure and Architecture group gave a presentation on process implementation patterns. I think that he sees BPM as just part of SOA, and presents as such, but I’m willing to give him a pass on that.
He discussed five styles of flow management in SOA:
- Microflows: fine-grained services implemented via flows amongst software components. This is a process from a software development standpoint, not a business-level process: probably 3GL code snippets assembled into what we old-timers might refer to as a “subroutine”. 🙂
- Service composition: coarse-grained services implemented by assembling fine-grained flows (microflows). This may be done with a BPMS tool, but is low-level service composition rather than business processes.
- Straight-through process: automating business processes involving multiple services across systems, but without human intervention.
- Workflow: pretty much the same as STP, but with human intervention at points in the process.
- Semi-structured processes: a combination of structured processes with unstructured activities or collaboration.
He has some good strategic planning assumptions based on these four patterns, such as 75% of companies will use at least three different products to implement at least three different styles of flows. His primary focus, however, is on B2B, and how internal process connect to multi-enterprise processes, and the ultimate goal of shared process execution across enterprises. This led to the four B2B flow management styles:
- Blind document/transaction exchange: loosely-coupled, with each partner managing their own internal processes, and no visibility outside their own processes.
- Intelligent document/transaction exchange: visibility across the shared process to provide a shared version of the truth, such as a BAM dashboard that provides an end-to-end view of an order-to-cash process across enterprises. Although this isn’t that popular yet, it is providing significant benefits for companies that are implementing it, and Lheureux estimates that 50% of B2B relationships will include this by 2013.
- Multi-enterprise applications: shared execution of a process that spans the enterprises, such as vendor-managed inventory. This may be hosted by one of the partners, or may be hosted by a third-party service provider.
- Multi-enterprise BPMS and rules: centralized processes and rules, such as shared compliance management on a shared process. By 2013, he predicts that at least 40% of new multi-enterprise integration projects will leverage BPMS technology.
He showed a chart that I’ve seen at earlier conferences on identifying process characteristics, classifying your processes as case management, form-driven workflow, content collaboration, multiparty transactional workflow, participant-driven workflow, and optimization of network relationships based on the unit of work, process duration, degree of expertise required, exception rate, and critical milestones that progress work. Then, consider when to use BPMS technology rather than code when there are specific process characteristics such as complexity and changeability.
The final recommendations: don’t try to use the same tool to handle every type of process implementation, but be aware of which ones can be best handled by a BPMS (and by different types of BPMS) and which are best handled in code.