Is BPM a Missing Link Between Data Management and Business?

Loraine Lawson

One of the challenges with data quality and governance is that it tends to be an "IT problem," when, really, it needs to involve the business. That's because, by and large, the business owns the data and the input of the data.


The question then becomes how do you make that shift? And more precisely, how do you get the business involved?


SAP has an interesting solution to this problem: It's Mergers and Acquisitions Business Process and Application Migration team is using SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management (BPM), coupled with SAP BusinessObjects Data Services, to move data quality and management up the line and back into the hands of business managers. In a July post, Greg Chase, SAP Mentor and Director of BPM Marketing, explains the impact of this clever approach:

In companies with a less mature approach to managing their information and data, data quality issues are considered an 'IT problem,' and IT is left to figure out how to mitigate these issues - usually with varying degrees of success. But when BPM is leveraged to orchestrate data quality and governance into a company's business processes, the whole process works much more seamlessly and efficiently.

... This had the effect of transforming an IT centric process into an evolving best practice that engages IT data analysts and LOB managers in accepting new customer data as they are migrated into SAP's systems.


The post includes a podcast of Chase interviewing Octavian Wagner, who works with SAP IT's Merger and Acquisition Business Process and Application Migration team, about the solution they've created internally. The 11-minute podcast provides a lot more detail.


It seems this isn't the only way BPM is being used in new ways, however. The SAP case study was one of several examples cited in a recent post by MWD Advisors Research Director Neil Ward-Dutton.


Ward-Dutton is intrigued by the idea of using BPM for data management, and he's been trying to hunt down use cases for some time now. Recently, he's noticed several incidences of using BPM for supporting data integration and master data management.


SAP seems to be leading the way on this. Ward-Dutton writes that he first noticed it earlier this summer, when he "learned that one of the big drivers for use of SAP's NetWeaver BPM technology in Europe is in support of MDM work within customers' organizations." He also found Chase's post, plus an guide that discusses managing MDM-related processes and includes a discussion of NetWeaver.


But SAP isn't the only one acting on this front. This week, he notes that BPM company Appian announced its new release features support for data integration and MDM. A TMCnet.com article quotes Appian officials as saying the new release "breaks new ground in the seamless integration of enterprise data into process applications." Specifically, the press release explains that it allows data administrators to create simple object-oriented views for users by registering data stores with the BPM tool. Then, users can query and update data without coding.


As for MDM, the press release explains that Appian now simplifies the process of merging and consolidating enterprise data sources. Ward-Dutton quotes his fellow MWD researcher, Helena Schwenk, as saying the use of BPM technology as a "wrapper" around MDM could help solve the problem of "how to engage with the business in terms of data ownership, data stewardship and data governance."


On a related note, Forrester VP and Research Director Connie Moore recently predicted that in the future, BPM may also be used as a process layer for legacy business applications, which could make it easier for business people to access that information.

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