Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

What Enterprise Architects should be thinking about BPM...

Every major IT vendor now has some form of BPM offering which means that architects not worth their salt will be running around the halls of Fortune enterprises with the latest analyst report that will include cloud-like iteration with SOA. Of course, I believe that enterprises should be all over SOA but focusing on it is the wrong approach. SOA is wonderful for system-to-system iterations but doesn't really address what architects should be thinking about which I believe is the simple fact that the vast majority of true business processes occur between two individuals without a system in the middle...



It feels as if my peers in other enterprises are sleepwalking and dreaming of the day when they can put lipstick on a pig, oops I meant to say a new interface on top of existing legacy processes and claim cost savings in reuse. Should architects be focusing on automating individual process or become more focused on managing the thousands of processes that occur in daily life?

Maybe I have missed the boat and could have capitalized as an author on creating yet another trendy book filled with even more acronyms and proposed a "methodology" that makes the case to spend save the enterprise lots of money. I wonder if my book took the approach of telling the truth on certain aspects of BPM instead of promoting best-practices would it sell as many copies?

Today, BPM is an elephant and architects are blind. We have business process tools that cannot describe how business processes really work, we have workflow systems that ignore the real nature of work and we manage human beings with systems built on the mathematics of automata.



I really love the word "best practices" and how it is abused used in large enterprises. One best practice seems to be our desire to force humans to perform tasks in lockstep with computers and their impeccable timing. Of course, we should never ask ourselves what should happen if we decide to put a human in the middle of our process that doesn't use a computer? It would be heresy if we were to ask ourselves what should change if people really were the most valuable asset to the business.

I came across an interesting quote:
The realization of those sketchy flowcharts drawn by business analysts on whiteboards requires an architecture built on the best of BPM's many standards: BPEL, BPMN, and WS-CDL. Alas, no actual vendor implementation of this architecture exists today."
“What Is Business Process Modeling,”, July 20, 2005, Mike Havey (author of “Essential Business Process Modeling”, 2005, O’Reilly), http://www.onjava.com/pub/a/onjava/2005/07/20/businessprocessmodeling.html


Does anyone think that all the vendors in this space should work together and should create a reference architecture for BPM for us customers? The analysts aren't doing it, so who should? We have any number of process languages and standards bodies. But we do not have a universal set of principles on which all process systems can be based-a complete, consistent, and fully business-oriented methodology for the conceptualization and construction of process-based systems. What would happen if analysts keep ignoring the "hard" problems and us customers started to figure it out for ourselves and even decided to share it with our competitors? Could this in of itself become a best practice...




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