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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

BI, BPM, SOA -- and USERS!

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I have just read the recent posting by my learned colleague and ebizQ blogmate Joe McKendrick, in which he summarizes some of the high points of the panel discussion that wrapped up the recent BI in Action Virtual Conference. I of course agree completely with what he and the other participants had to say about the links connecting BI, BPM, and service-oriented architectures (SOAs). I have in fact referred to what I and some others call "business knowledge management" (BKM) as the "missing link" connecting these three critically strategic areas. (You can read about BKM in more detail in some of the research located in the RFG section of the ebizQ Analyst Corner, as well as in previous postings of mine here, particularly this one, and at the "BI in Action" blog, where you will find a reprise of this very entry as well.)

However, I, perhaps as usual, have something to add.

It is equally critical, I believe, to remember that most useful BI, as well as most of the actual "heavy lifting" regarding BPM, resides in the hearts and minds of actual individual human users. Yes, of course, there's a lot of relevant "intelligence" resident in data and documents, and even within the IT systems and connections that support access to and manipulation of these. But all of that "stuff" is done by people who are trying to do jobs that drive the business. Those people are the ultimate consumers and beneficiaries of most if not all of the most significant services provided by SOAs as well.

I know that Joe and everyone else involved in the BI in Action Virtual Conference knew and knows this. However, it can be too easy to take away from discussions about BI, BPM, and/or SOAs that some mix or subset of these technologies can simply, "automagically" improve things for users and/or the business.

Would that it were that easy.

BI, BPM, and SOA efforts must include specific, concrete elements focused on incorporating user input and feedback, from the earliest stages of development and deployment. Of course, all such initiatives are perhaps cavalierly assumed to be "designed with users in mind." However, IT and business decision-makers must also make overt and explicit efforts to incorporate user input and feedback, and include in their project plans steps and metrics focused on user productivity and satisfaction.

BI, BPM, and SOAs are elements of larger business-technology ecosystems, within which things that affect some elements directly and/or indirectly affect all other elements. In such a context, users can represent the most maddeningly difficult elements of all to manage and integrate. (I have heard many engineers say without a trace of irony that a particular project or system would work just fine, if they could just keep users away from it. This may be true, but kind-of misses the point of the exercise in a business setting.) However, users and IT people in an enterprise are like cast and crew in a play. They may not understand or be able to stand one another, but without either constituency, you got no show. So make sure that everything you do (and most everything you say) regarding BI, BPM, and/or SOAs includes and addresses users adequately and directly. It may make things a bit more complicated, but it will help to ensure that they support rather than combat or ignore your efforts.

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I get the BPM link to BI and to BKM and of course users. BUT SOA? - SOA is not a "must have;" indeed, it is likely only the large organizations will be able to afford and use to sort out their legacy mess! BPM should not rely on SOA if it does it is the wrong tool!

As you rightly indicate people are the source of all information and historically they were the last to be considered in software applications. At least BPM reverses that but to deliver next-generation applications requires the gap between the business and IT to be closed. This requires a rethink just to recognise that in reality business fundamentals never change. They can be articulated and codified to enable the business to specify what they want. Rapid build, no compiling, the code never changes, and early involvement of users all led by business professionals who understand business processes helping to optimise how people work to achieve their individual or collective goals. IT handles the hugely complex delivery architectures, [in] which SOA may have a role to play.

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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