Today’s technology foundation must be built to support and benefit diverse operational efforts across many lines of business. Although organizations recognize the value of a flexible architecture, disconnected silos plague their efforts making it difficult to achieve the full value locked in disparate systems. However, many organizations are reporting compelling results when using a Service-Orientated Architecture (SOA) as a foundation for Business Process Management (BPM). Paolo Malinverno at analyst firm Gartner Inc recommends, ‘Combining SOA and BPM projects results in increased benefits which are achieved more quickly than when either is initiated alone, especially for larger initiatives.”
But it was the customers I’ve worked with over the past 15 years that gave me the Reality Check I needed to realize the full value of BPM and SOA together. Their use cases helped me understand the next evolutionary phase of business process was moving beyond automation to create flexible business processes. Companies that get the most out of their BPM efforts have identified the ‘Top 10 Reasons to Use SOA as a Foundation for BPM.’
- Automate processes across business functions: Processes that need to execute across functions are often hampered by a lack of interoperability of underlying systems. SOA services eliminate such issues by provisioning standard interfaces to automate processes.
- Automate new processes with greater speed: With a well-designed SOA that exposes business capabilities as services, new processes can be quickly implemented simply by wiring process steps to the correct services.
- Change processes quickly in response to business needs: With loosely coupled SOA services, re-wiring a process step from one service to another can be done with minimal impact to the rest of the process and can even help analyze the feasibility of proposed changes.
- Avoid costly business errors: Businesses can reduce risks by using proven SOA services to implement business processes that are robust and less prone to errors.
- Focus on improving business processes—not integrating systems: SOA services abstract out the complexity of underlying systems, enabling BPM to focus solely on improving processes.
- Align IT investments with business needs: With an SOA, it is straightforward to prioritize building services needed for key business processes and to establish service-level KPIs. That maximizes not only the alignment with business needs but also the return on IT investments.
- Adapt running business processes dynamically: With an SOA, it is possible to establish a layer of mediation to dynamically match the process step to the right service and enforce any SLA based on the context.
- Gain deeper visibility into your business: Implementing business processes on an SOA foundation means the business services are executed as business transactions flow through the process. By placing probes on these business services to collect service performance and other metrics, companies can gain real-time visibility into their business that otherwise would be hard to achieve.
- Adopt cloud-based services faster: Do you want to quickly innovate your processes by incorporating a Software as a Service (SaaS) application or a specialized Application Program Interface (API) from a cloud vendor? With the right SOA infrastructure in place, both internal and external services are used the same way at the process-step level.
- Deliver business processes via mobile devices: With an SOA, companies can expose needed capabilities through a mediation layer between mobile applications and internal systems. This method helps preserve the integrity of internal systems and provides a way to enforce other quality of service requirements.
By using SOA as a foundation for BPM, companies across the globe continue to achieve better customer service and become more competitive by breaking down organizational silos and automating systems and processes across lines of businesses. If you have a lesson learned by implementing SOA as the foundation to your BPM efforts, I’d like to learn from you and I’m sure others would as well. Please share your thoughts here.