BPM Evolves, Thanks to SOA

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No doubt, you've read how business process management - as a tool and as a discipline - can be used to guide an service-oriented architecture implementation.


You're probably also familiar with arguments against using BPM when implementing a SOA.


But what's starting to receive more attention from analysts and the trade press is how SOA can be used as a foundation for enterprise-wide BPM.


Here's how columnist and consultant Joe McKendrick explained the relationship in a recent Q&A with IT Business Edge:

BPM can be done without SOA, but having standards and integrated systems made possible through SOA will make BPM a whole lot easier. An analogy I've heard is that trying to do BPM without SOA is like juggling with one hand tied behind your back.

This marriage of SOA and BPM is leading to a new type of BPM tool - what Forrester calls the Integration-Centric Business Process Management Suites, or IC-BPMS for short. Last week, ebizQ published a Forrester research paper, "The IC-BPMS Reference Architecture Model," which you can download once you sign up for ebizQ's free gold membership.

After reading more about this new version of BPM, I'd characterized it as the next evolution in integration tools. It brings together other integration and SOA technology, such as the ESB, EAI, then adds functions such as monitoring, modeling and workflow management into one BPM suite.

Aberdeen is also offering a free research paper on this new type of BPM tool, though Aberdeen uses the term BPM Convergence and talks more about how the two types of BPM - integration-centric and workflow-centric - are being merged into one enterprise-wide BPM tool in best-of-class companies. But the technologies involved seem to largely overlap.

No matter how it's described, one thing's clear: SOA is the foundation for this next evolution of BPM.

What's the benefit of converged BPM? According to Aberdeen's white paper, the best-in-class companies using converged BPM tools reported a decrease in manual workflow integration points. They also reported lower operation costs related to business workflow and an increased return on investment for their BPM dollars.

The five-page Forrester document is an excellent read if you want to learn more about:

  • The technology commonalities between BPM and SOA.
  • IC-BPMS in general.

You should also download and read the more hefty - 21 pages in all - white paper from Aberdeen if you'd like to know more about:

  • The business case for BPM convergence.
  • How this affects enterprise integration.
  • What steps you should take to move toward enterprise-wide BPM. You'll find a list of very specific recommendations at the end of the report, including what first steps you should take to start on a BPM implementation.

Of course, we shouldn't be surprised. Blogger Steve Jones - head of SOA and SaaS for Capgemini's global outsourcing business, member of the OASIS SOA Reference Model group, and author of a number of technology books - tried to tell us that SOA was more useful for BPM than vice versa months ago, when he wrote


SOA makes great BPM, BPM makes crappy SOA.

Looks like he was right about the first part - but I'll leave it up to you to decide for yourself about the second part.