Service-Oriented Business Architecture

I’ve been doing quite a bit of enterprise architecture work lately for a couple of clients, which has me thinking about how to “package” business processes as “services” for reusability: a service-oriented business architecture (SOBA), if you will. (I have no idea if anyone else has used that term before, but it fits in describing the componentization and reuse of various functions and processes within an organization, regardless of whether or not the processes are assisted by information systems.)

When we think about SOA, we think about automated processes and services: web services that can be called, or orchestrated, to execute a specific function such as mapping a set of input data to output data. SOBA, however, is for all those unautomated or semi-automated processes (what someone in a client IT department once referred to as “human-interrupted” processes) that may be reused, such as a credit adjudication process that requires human intervention. In many large organizations, the same (or very similar) processes are done by different groups of people in different departments, and if they’re not modeling some of this via enterprise architecture, then they likely have no idea that the redundancy even exists. There are exceptions to this, usually in very paper-intensive processes; most organizations, for example, have some sort of centralized mail room and some sort of centralized filing, although there will be pockets of redundancy even in such a structure.

From a Zachman framework standpoint, most web services are modeled at row 4 (technology model) of column 2 (function), whereas business “services” are modeled at row 2 (business model) of column 2. If you’ve spent some time with Zachman, you know that the lower (higher-numbered) rows are not just more descriptive versions of the upper rows; the rows described fundamentally different perspectives on the enterprise, and often contain models that are unique to that particular row.

In talking about enterprise architecture, I often refer to business function reusability as a key benefit, but most people think purely about IT functions when they think about reusability, and overlook the benefits that could arise from reusing business processes. What’s required to get people thinking about reusing business processes, then? One thing for certain is a common process modeling language, as I discussed here, but there’s more to it than that. There needs to be some recognition of business functions and processes as enterprise assets, not just departmental assets. For quite a while now, information systems and even data have been recognized as belonging to the enterprise rather than a specific department, even if they primarily serve one department, but the same is not true of the human-facing processes around them: most departments think of their business processes as belonging to them, and have no concept of either sharing them with other departments or looking for ways to reduce the redundancy of similar business functions around the enterprise.

These ideas kicked into gear back in the summer when I read Tom Davenport’s HBR article on the commoditization of processes, and gained strength in the past few weeks as I contemplate enterprise architecture. His article focused mainly on how processes could be outsourced once they’re standardized, but I have a slightly different take on it: if processes within an organization are modeled and standardized, there’s a huge opportunity to identify the redundant business processes across an organization within the context of an enterprise architecture, consolidate the functionality into a single business “service”, then enable that service for identification and reuse where appropriate. Sure, some of these business functions may end up being outsourced, but many more may end up being turned into highly-efficient business services within the organization.

There’s common ground with some older (and slightly tarnished) techniques such as reengineering, but I believe that creating business services through enterprise architecture is ultimately a much more powerful concept.

More on the Proforma webinar

I found an answer to EA wanna be!’s comment on my post about the Proforma EA webinar last week: David Ritter responded that the webinar was not recorded, but he’ll be presenting the same webinar again on December 9th at 2pm Eastern. You can sign up for it here. He also said that he’s reworking the material and will be doing a version in January that will be recorded, so if you miss it on the 9th you can still catch it then or (presumably) watch the recorded version on their site.

There’s a couple of other interesting-looking webinars that they’re offering; I’ve signed up for “Accelerated Process Improvement” on December 8th.

Proforma Enterprise Architecture webinar

I’ve just finished viewing a webinar put on by Proforma that talks about building, using and managing an enterprise architecture, featuring David Ritter, Proforma’s VP of Enterprise Solutions. He came out of the EA group at United Airlines so really knows how this stuff works, which is a nice change from the usual vendor webinars where they need to bring in an outside expert to lend some real-world credibility to their message. He spent a full 20 minutes up front giving an excellent background of EA before moving on to their ProVision product, then walked through a number of their different models that are used for modelling strategic direction, business architecture, system (application and data) architecture and technology architecture. More importantly, he showed how the EA artifacts (objects or models) are linked together, and how they interact: how a workflow model links to a data model and a network model, for example. He also went through an EA benefits model based on some work by Mary Knox at Gartner, showing where the different types of architecture fit on the benefits map:

After the initial 30 minutes of “what is EA” and “what is ProVision”, he dug into a more interesting topic: how to use and manage EA within your organization. I loved one diagram that he showed about where EA govenance belongs:

This reinforces what I’ve been telling people about how EA isn’t the same as IT architecture, and it can’t be “owned” by IT. He also showed the results of a survey by the Institute for Enterprise Architecture Developments, which indicates that the two biggest reasons why organizations are implementing EA are business-IT alignment (21%), and business change (17%): business reasons, not IT, are driving EA today. Even Gartner Group, following their ingestion of META Group and their robust EA practice earlier this year, has a Golden Rule of the New Enterprise Architecture that reflects this — “always make technology decisions based on business principles” — and go on to state that by 2010, companies that have not aligned their technology with their business strategy will no longer be competitive.

Some of this information is available on the Proforma website as white papers (such as the benefits map), and some is from analyst reports. With any luck, the webinar will be available for replay soon.

Wrapping up Monday

I did my breakout presentation at the end of day yesterday — after the two solid days on the weekend, an hour-long presentation is a piece of cake, and in fact I had to cut out material on the fly because I enthused overly long about enterprise architecture. Some great feedback from that: many people who attended are starting to think about the bigger picture of enterprise architecture and corporate performance management when they think about BPM, which means that more and more of these systems are actually going to start making a difference for the companies that install them.

The surprise hit of the conference is my business card: I now have people asking me for my card because they want to see the graphic on the back. Just last week, my cards with Hugh‘s “read my blog” cartoon arrived, and I’ve been using those as my standard business card here at the conference. A few people tried to hand them back, thinking that I had given them a card that I had doodled on; a few read it and don’t get it, but very many have a good laugh over it and (I hope) come here to check out what I have to say. When it comes down to it, this blog really is my primary marketing activity, if you can call it that, and I’m totally sold on many of Hugh’s ideas about how blogging is changing the face of PR and advertising, especially for small companies.

Lots of interesting contacts: I’m talking to Cognos about what they’re doing in corporate performance management (which is very interesting) and, in the context of this conference, how that can be integrated into BPM. Also spending a bit of time with BWise, who does a compliance solution built on top of FileNet. Since most of my customers are in financial services, both of these topics are of great interest to them.

Expecting some good sessions today: a hands-on session is scheduled for the business process framework (which is being productized), and some detailed sessions on the new BAM releases.

Blogging by email is a bit hit-and-miss. Since Blogger has to publish via ftp to my own domain, sometimes it doesn’t succeed in the unattended process and the posts don’t appear, requiring me to get onto one of the public terminals available in the conference centre and give it a whack on the side of the head. Because of that, posts can be a bit delayed.

BPM: a moving target

I’m prepping for the 2-day Making BPM Mean Business course that I’ll be delivering this weekend in Las Vegas, and it’s giving me a chance for a complete end-to-end review of a lot of material that I’ve been gathering, thinking about, presenting and rewriting over the past several months. One thing that immediately strikes me is the constant state of change: since I sent these materials for printing three weeks ago, there’s new things that I just have to include. The BPEL for People initiative (IBM-SAP white paper here), for example, which is a critical step to having BPMS products use BPEL more extensively. The ongoing effects of the OMGBPMI merger. New versions of Enterprise Architecture modelling tools such as ProVision, since I position BPM in an EA context in this course.

There’s also a lot of wisdom that I’ve gathered over time that it will be fun to discuss with the course participants: how to do a business walkthrough, analyzing and designing business processes, and ROI calculations for BPM.

I spent this morning sitting in a local café (a good place to get away from all distractions except the Crackberry, which I am unable to detach from my psyche), putting the final touches on the workshop exercises that I’ll be having the participants do during the course. It’s a small class which should result in a lot of interaction amongst the attendees, and since they’re all from different companies, I’ve decided to do individual projects rather than group projects so that they actually have something usable to take home about their own business processes at the end of the two days. It’s sort of like speed-consulting for me, which should be fun all around.

I’m all a-quiver with anticipation.

Bits and pieces

I’m heads-down on a project this week so not much time for catching up on the news and blogging. However, interesting things keep happening whether I’m watching or not…

  • RUNA WFE 1.0.1, an open-source workflow based on JBOSS-JBPM was released. More details here, including a link to an online demo. Open source BPM is going to be a market force in some sectors, so best to be aware of what’s happening there.
  • Greg Wdowiak published an interesting post on the role of integration brokers within an integration stack. In particular, he discusses what you should expect to get from the integration broker portion of the stack, and where some of the vendors are lacking. If you’re new to EAI, you can read his excellent background post on bus versus broker models. In particular, he talks about how organizations move from a broker to a bus model as their integration needs become larger and more complex.
  • BEA buying Plumtree has been all over the tech news, with lots of interesting analysis. MWD blog thinks that the purchase may not be about what BEA says that it’s about, but more about moving away from complete Java-centricity and into a more neutral technology territory by supporting .Net. The Butler Group sees this as a better fit than some of the previous portal buy-outs, although an earlier post ponders the fate of the Plumtree-Fuego OEM agreement in light of BEA’s existing BPM strategy.
  • On the enterprise architecture front, The first issue of the Journal of Enterprise Architecture was published. Via Nick Mudge’s blog.

Lastly, if you’re free today at noon Eastern, there’s a webinar roundtable on Winning at BPM discussing IBM‘s WebSphere process integration products.


EA in the past

This was pretty funny… I received this email yesterday:

Looked interesting, so I clicked to read the abstract:

Butler Group believes that now is the time for organisations to start considering and deploying Enterprise Architecture based around a balanced business process and information view of operations. It is crucial that business and information requirements drive the creation of IT services. In many instances a rudderless IT department adopts a technology push approach due to the absence of any easily understood corporate direction and poorly articulated strategy.

To remain competitive organisations must urgently address the growing dislocation between the business requirements and IT deliverables. This issue is directly impacting the enterprise’s ability to make quick, accurate decisions and causing the slow implementation of the determined course of action. The gap between IT capability and business needs cannot be allowed to continue. Adoption of an end-to-end Enterprise Architecture approach will help to re-align IT developments with business objectives.

Excellent stuff, I completely agree with all that. Then I glanced at the report publication date: February 2004. 2004??!! February 2005 would have been bad enough, but eBizq is hyping an enterprise architecture report that’s 18 months old? Maybe they should have edited the abstract to begin “A year and a half ago, Butler Group believed that it was then the time for organisations to start considering and deploying Enterprise Architecture…”

To be fair, however, so few companies are taking EA seriously that there is probably still a lot of timely information in the report, but I’m not sure who would shell out the big bucks to look at last year’s news.

BPM and measuring performance

A week ago today, I was in a tutorial by Roger Burlton of the Process Renewal Group on Enterprise Business Architecture: Strategy, Process and Capabilty Alignment while at the BPMG conference in London. He made a great analogy regarding performance measures: knowing the final score doesn’t tell you if it was a good game. (Although after once watching the Blue Jays lose 22-2, I posit that you could have told that it was a crappy game by the score alone.) Roger was one of many people at the conference who spoke about BPM in the context of measuring business goals. To quote Terry Schurter, who I heard speak the following day at his session BPMS – Selection by Business Value, “goals that can’t be measured aren’t goals”.

All this shows that BPM is finally creeping out of departments and into the mainstream of the enterprise. I read a post about a CEO’s view of BPM as discussed at a recent CEO roundtable today on the Milestone Group’s Thoughts On The Tech Industry blog that really nailed it:

BPM, or Business Process Management is the fasting growing segment in the BI / Data Management market sector. Growing out of departmental process management initiatives, the key driver now is to integrate across the enterprise, and to provide scorecards, reports, and other “C Level” deliverables with more confidence, so that predictive modeling and optimization initiatives are really based on the most complete and highest quality set of data available in the enterprise.

The CEOs consider BPM as a feed for enterprise BI/performance management, which is completely accurate — after all, why else would you be doing BPM if not to improve performance, and why would you be doing anything to improve performance if you weren’t also including it in your enterprise performance measures?

A nod to BPM and EA

When I started this blog a couple of months ago, I didn’t give a lot of thought to naming it, and decided just to be descriptive: hence “Sandy’s Biz Blog”. Can you tell that I’m an engineer and not a marketer?

My inner marketing voice spoke up this week — part of the overactive synapse response to the stimulating conference environment — and I had an overwhelming urge to rebrand. Since I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how BPM intertwines with EA, I’m giving a nod to Zachman with the new name, Column 2. (For those of you who aren’t EA aficionados, column 2 in the Zachman framework is where the process models live; although BPM is bigger than just column 2, I thought that it was a cool name.)

If you subscribe to this site, you can change to the new FeedBurner feed location here, although I’ll keep the old one active too.

You want me to pay for what?!

I’ve been putting together some ideas for a presentation at FileNet‘s annual user conference, UserNet, on how to make the link between business process models (such as those that form part of an enterprise architecture set, modelled with a notation such as BPMN) and the implementation of those models in a specific product (in this case, FileNet BPM). I’m interested in exploring the BPMN/BPEL link between modelling and implementation using various products, since it represents the transformation from Zachman’s Row 2 to Row 3; however, for UserNet, where BPEL is not yet in play, I’d choose to focus on the conceptual (business) view of how this works specifically with FileNet BPM.

I’ve spoken at UserNet many times, first as the chief architect of a FileNet partner, then later as FileNet’s Director of eBusiness Evangelism, and I always enjoy it because of the focus on user/business issues instead of just technology, and the interaction with business users of BPM products. But today, as I was looking at the conference dates to make sure that my calendar is clear, I had a flashback to my earlier post on vendors charging exorbitant rates to their “partners” for training. Sure enough, according to the conference presentation guidelines:

One customer presenter per presentation will receive a free registration but they must be the primary speaker. Partner presenters will register for the regular conference fee.

Excuse me, I thought that I just read that FileNet wants me to spend my time creating an educational presentation that will be of benefit to their user community, but then wants me to pay to deliver it.

Just like with the training issue, this cuts out a lot of the highly-skilled smaller partners, because the conference fee on top of a week of lost revenue, travel expenses and the time invested in creating the presentation just isn’t worth it. Instead, count on seeing presentations submitted from partners based on their marketing budgets rather than their abilities.

The attendees should be hoping that the conference selection committee uses a more appropriate assessment tool than a partner’s amount of loose change.