BPM Suites Increase Business Agility

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BPM Strategies

This article originally appeared in the members-only quarterly BPM Strategies Magazine.  Join today to receive your own copy.

The inability of earlier generations of application development software to support effective collaboration between business and IT is the source of a good deal of confusion, wasted efforts, and delayed ROI to the organizations that are implementing new application functionality. However, as the maturity of BPM tools has increased, they have become a viable alternative for delivering process improvement capabilities and new application functionality much faster than was possible in the past.

As a result, BPM suites will be the basis of a major paradigm shift in how process improvement efforts are supported. For example, the standard approach has been to have application systems implicitly embed the business process and its related artifacts directly into the application itself. This makes changing a process sometimes risky, but always labor-intensive. But when process models are captured inside the BPM suite, organizational agility is increased while obtaining direct alignment between business design, technology implementation and business measurement. Furthermore, processes can be easily changed by changing the graphical process model.

BPM suites provide several features designed to increase organizational agility including:

The ability to capture business process flows as digital metadata.

This enables process definitions to be shared and modified more easily and can even support the generation of executable code.

Enables process orchestration.

In addition to supporting model-driven development, BPM suites also provide the building blocks for orchestrating business processes.

Store service definitions.

Supporting the UDDI service repository standard is a key requirement for BPM suites and the market leaders are actually embedding UDDI-compliant registries inside their product suites to provide a convenient source of service definition information.

Provide a SOA infrastructure.

Many BPM suite providers have been proactively building out their SOA infrastructure, bringing support for core Web services standards such as SOAP, UDDI, WSDL, WS-Security, Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Basic Profile, Web Services Distributed Management (WSDM) and many other emerging standards as well.

It's obvious that a solid technological foundation is necessary to conduct business operations effectively. But how to achieve it is not so obvious. The comprehensive capabilities provided by BPM suites give IT staff and business users a strong alternative for a collaborative software environment for creating, supporting, and underpinning an agile approach to process improvement efforts.

For too long, BPM improvement efforts have been dealt with in isolation. One BPM product ran the call center while another ran internal processes like employee on-boarding and expense reporting. The document management system had its own workflow system. And none of these systems were using the integration suite, which routes transactions between enterprise applications. However, with the increasing realization that BPM suite capabilities are a core component of an effective IT architecture, organizations will be taking a more strategic view on how this technology is implemented within the enterprise.

Ken Vollmer is a principal analyst in Forrester’s Application Development & Infrastructure research group, covering trends, issues, and strategies related to all forms of integration, including business process management (BPM), enterprise application integration (EAI), B2B integration (B2Bi), and electronic data interchange (EDI). He has assisted hundreds of clients in North America and Europe with their integrating projects, drawing upon his knowledge of vendor offerings and emerging integration trends, including the latest developments related to Web services and SOA.

Colin Teubner is an analyst with Forrester Research, where he covers business process management suites, focusing on human-centric processes and tools. As part of this coverage, he also participates in research on business process modeling tools, business rules engines, and process management best practices.

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