Should BPM or SOA Come First? Maybe.

Loraine Lawson

There's a lot of discussion over which should come first, business process management or SOA. Certainly, the two are complementary. The question is, should you start with BPM or SOA?


It seems like a straightforward question with a straightforward answer: Either SOA or BPM, which is it? But without fail, the answer seems to be C: It doesn't matter, but here's how SOA and BPM work together.


This week, Michael Stamback of BEA asked the question again on his Dev2Dev blog. Stamback attended the Gartner Application Architecture, Development, and Integration show last week, where he heard Gartner analyst Paolo Malinverno give a presentation on BPM and SOA. Malinverno pointed out that the goal of BPM and SOA is to increase enterprise agility and, while you can achieve some success with either, the real results come from using them together.


Okay, point taken: SOA and BPM go great together. That still doesn't answer the question - if you have to start with one or the other, which should come first. And apparently, someone else noticed this, because Stamback reports that an attendee used the Q&A to ask Malinverno point-blank which should come first.


Daringly, Stamback's blog post steps out and tries to offer some guidelines. It's unclear whether he's relating what Malinverno said or his own thoughts, but who cares? The point is, someone's finally offering an opinion.


According to the post, the answer depends on - duh - the business goals. If your organization wants to deal with human-centric processes, start with BPM. But if you're looking to share business services for new business needs, consider starting with SOA.


I recommend you check out his full post, since he also goes into some detail about the consequences of using one without the other and the payoffs of deploying both.


Stamback's blog post was actually one of the few items I saw about last week's Gartner conference, which surprised me since SOA was a big focus of that event. Perhaps the attendees were too busy enjoying Nashville to post much during the conference.


Dave Linthicum, who writes the Real World SOA blog, did manage to write a few posts while at the conference. I particularly liked his discussion on SOA and ROI, in which he notes that reuse is a useless financial justification for SOA. He offers three alternative metrics for defining SOA's value.


He also put together a podcast titled, "Notes from the Gartner Show, and is reuse a key value for SOA?"

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 20, 2007 10:12 AM Scott Cleveland Scott Cleveland  says:
Business process management addresses efficiency. Much of the BPM Software offerings can help companies be more efficient today.Not all enterprise software has addressed SOA. Even if you thought you could integrated all of your enterprise software using SOA, you would have to make exceptions. Efficiency will give your company its biggest bang for the buck - SOA is a nice idea whose time is yet to come. Reply
Jun 21, 2007 3:33 AM Victor Brown Victor Brown  says:
Thanks Loraine, for pointing out that nothing in our complex industry is black and white! Every silver bullet should be aimed at the right target none of them solve every problem. While I dont disagree with any of the points made by the authors you reference as long as their points are applied to a specific set of circumstances on the whole I think they miss the point.SOA and BPM are distinct solutions, to different problems. BPM has, of course, been around for years (decades?) although we used to call it workflow and its features were much more limited. Service-based architecture has evolved to the point that it can be considered an implementable architectural pattern, complete with the requisite tools and technologies.As a practitioner who has been deeply involved in the design and deployment of SOAs, my view is that SOA is a current best practice for implementing enterprise IT ecosystems, with very few exceptions. BPM is a solution for improving business agility, adding rigor to business processes and decreasing cost. SOA facilitates BPM (an understatement) and combining both can result in an extremely powerful IT platform, closely aligned with the business and capable of evolving to accommodate changing business requirements.So. the question of which comes first seems totally off the mark, to me. It only matters in the context of the business needs, existing IT environments, ROI, and other classic decision criteria. Reply

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