Today’s IT executives want the best software available. With business process management that means finding solutions that provide key benefits. In addition to facilitating system integration, these solutions must minimize costs, protect software investments, and increase corporate flexibility—all while generating a quick return on investment (ROI).
Previously, IT executives had an option. They could either create their own processing solutions or buy them as packaged applications. Both approaches were costly. These solutions also had a major downside. Once encoded, they were difficult to change. This encoding prevented businesses from quickly meeting its customers’ needs. More importantly, it hindered adaptability to a dynamic increasingly demanding marketplace.
Combining BPM and Web services changes that. This union provides businesses with a powerful set of benefits. It increases efficiency and flexibility, reduces costs, and protects software investments by integrating and recombining with a company’s existing systems. In addition, the union provides real-time visibility into processing systems as well as a way to monitor and evaluate key performance indicators— the prerequisites needed to implement a continuous improvement program.
A Tactical Implementation of SOA
The foundation for BPM and Web services is a service-oriented architecture (SOA). Web services is a tactical implementation of SOA, which bridges the gap between businesses and IT through a set of business-aligned services using a unique set of design principles, patterns, and techniques.
SOA involves the dynamic discovery, organization, and description of services, which enables companies to select, bind, and invoke a service over the Internet. SOA differs from service-based architectures, like RosettaNet or OBI (Open Buying on the Internet), which focus on formats and protocols. A service-based architecture is part of an SOA.
Key SOA Components
The major components of an SOA are a service directory, a service provider, and a service requestor. The service directory contains information about all the available services. A service provider publishes a service by adding the appropriate entries to the directory, which a service requestor uses to find the appropriate service.
When a service requestor finds a match, it binds to the provider using information maintained by the directory. The binding information contains the protocol specifications that requestors must use as well as the structure of the request messages and the resulting responses. The two companies then form a “business partnership.”
When the service requestor no longer needs the provider’s services, it dissolves the partnership. It then forms new requirements and puts them into a query called a locator, which is run against the service directory. The locator returns a list of possible providers, from which the service requestor chooses a new business partner, and the whole process starts again.
When the business partners bind, they create a “virtual” application. The partners temporarily combine their services to meet an immediate need and capture a business process. Once captured, the business process is automated using workflow management technology. The applications are then integrated and work is routed to the appropriate departments.
Considerations in Deploying an SOA
Businesses who want to deploy an SOA face three considerations. First, current object-oriented analysis and design (OOAD) methods don’t address the primary elements of an SOA: services, flows, and components for realizing services. Companies must develop or acquire the techniques and processes required to identity, specify, and realize the individual services. The also need the enterprise-wide components to ensure the quality of services.
Second, a shift in corporate mindset must occur. Companies must shift their thinking from strictly a production-oriented goal to the key SOA objective: enhanced customer service. Whether its Web services or another implementation, SOA is designed to provide customers with services that meet their unique requirements. That’s a major leap for some companies but making the transition is a must obtain SOA’s benefits.
Third, applications created for one business or product line can now be used in a supply chain and be exposed to business partners who might compose, combine, and include them into new applications, creating what some analysts are calling the service ecosystem or a service value-net. Executive must accept this possibility.
Companies need to address these considerations before deploying an SOA. Unless they do, they won’t reap the benefits of an SOA. Nor will they have the adaptability need to compete successfully in the days ahead.
The Role of BPM Technology
BPM technology provides the tools and infrastructure to define, simulate, and analyze this business process model. It does so in such a way that the process is manageable from a business perspective using business solution management tools. A dashboard, for example, provides information about execution status and progress in various levels of detail.
Business analysts then compare readouts to key performance indicators to evaluate the processes performance. If a process is not meeting its objectives, executives change the process. It’s here where methodologies, like Six Sigma, are implemented as part of a continuous improvement program. The goal, of course, is to provide customers with the highest quality services.
Combining BPM technology and Web services represents more than just an advanced approach to automating business processes. It takes it to a whole new level. With support from SOA, the combination provides benefits cost-conscious enterprises want from their IT solutions—increased flexibility, ease of integration, protection of existing investments, and a quick ROI.