Monday, December 06, 2010

SOA and BPM

Yesterday, we were having a discussion with one of our customers on the hot topic of SOA and BPM strategy, i.e. can SOA/BPM initiatives be combined?, what are the challenges, pitfalls, best practices, etc. Jotting down some of the key points of the brainstorming session.

  • To start with, its important to realize that both BPM/SOA has a common goal - greater business agility and to align IT with business. SOA and BPM complement each other and the potential benefits are compounded when you have a unified enterprise wide strategy for them.
  • BPM drives a process-centric thought process - right from design, implementation, monitoring and continuous optimization. BPM forces a paradigm shift from an application centric view to a process centric view. SOA is an architectural style where as BPM is a management discipline.
  • A combined BPM/SOA initiative will do the delicate balancing act between incremental and transformational change. Also a combined initiative should enable stakeholders to decide what important processes need that extra agility and prioritize them to be re-engineered as services because funding is always limited.
  • Top-down BPM appraoch drives the discovery of services since they provide important insights into understanding what parts of the IT portfolio can be exposed as SOA services. Thus BMP can provide a structured approach for identifying reusable business services.
  • SOA services also enable faster integration in BPM as the need for custom integration touch points reduces and this in turn enables faster deployment of BPM. SOA also enables rapid change of business processes which is not possible if the business process in embedded in a lot of traditiona non-SOA applications. For e.g. when a process needs to change to comply with a new regulation or due to a change in business strategy, then a loosely coupled BPM process orchestrated using SOA services is easier to change. New services can be plugged-in or existing services can be rearranged. 
In today's fast changing business dynamics - "as is" and "to be" are simply temporal states of reality. The future state cannot be predicted, we can only stay prepared by keeping our business processes agile.