Composite Applications Provide a Platform for Sharing End-to-End Processes

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In an ideal world, companies would run their businesses as if their application portfolio were a single application. This application would take orders, generate shipping notices, and manage accounts receivable. It would also run manufacturing processes, automatically replenish materials as necessary, and exist as a Web-based front-end for customer interaction. Instead, the real world is populated with silos of data that don't interact, and gaggles of independent applications that defy efforts to unify processes across the enterprise. Composite Applications are new applications created by seamlessly connecting existing applications together without changing the existing applications, with the purpose of driving business process and connectivity. Examples of such applications include source-to-settle, order-to-cash, and request-to-resolve.

Composite applications are built using a Composite Application Framework (CAF). A CAF is a blend of infrastructure products and technology expertise, with a command of the customer relationship management, supply chain management, and enterprise resource planning domains, and includes the following elements: 1) a library of comprehensive, customer-driven business process templates that can be easily tailored, 2) common business objects for each vertical application, 3) standards-based data transformations, 4) an easy-to-use graphical modeling tool for rapid development of new composite applications, and 5) broad support for connectivity and integration with existing application environments. Providing a rapid change capability enables companies to react to new requirements and opportunities and lowers the total cost of maintenance over the life of the composite application. The consistent framework also enables each composite application to be extended to define more end-to-end processes, creating a more agile company.

Similar to a CAF, Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) provide the capability to design, deploy, execute, analyze, and optimize end-to-end business processes. They coordinate the flow of tasks, access to resources and the exchange of information among employees, customers, and partners while capturing information about the execution of the process to enable continuous process improvement. They too are comprised of business process templates, common business objects for each vertical application, standards-based data transformations, an easy-to-use graphical process modeling tool, and broad support for connectivity and integration with existing application environments. A BPMS also provides support for document-oriented, human workflow tasks thus integrating people into the process-centric business applications to provide end-to-end management of business processes.

The concept of composite applications also represents a significant step toward delivering "software as a service" in a service-oriented-architecture - where developers and business analysts can deliver applications from a service layer that maps to distinct business domains. Service-oriented architectures are well documented to reduce the cost, complexity, and time to deploy flexible business applications. Adding the "Web" to a service-oriented architecture results in the powerful concept of a Web service. Composite applications are an important innovation that will help deliver on the original promise of Web services and BPM. By developing the proper building blocks based on customer requirements and field-driven best practices, the business process library can become a rich repository of long-lasting IT that will outlive any particular composite application of which it becomes a part.

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