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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Dennis Byron

Looking at Enterprise Software Architecture for BPM in the Cloud

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The push is on for me doing research that supports an upcoming Business Process Management (BPM) in Cloud feature article to appear here on ebizQ in mid May and the ebizQ Cloud QCamp that follows in early June. So the next few blog posts will work around the edges of what I am finding. Some of the stuff that intrigues me out of the box will probably end up on the cutting room floor. And some will be expanded upon in the article and the Cloud QCamp presentation.

(As always, send me emails and comments so I can concentrate on questions that interest you. You can also leave comments and questions on the Cloud QCamp registration page.)

From an analysis point of view, I am starting with a blank piece of paper despite my prejudice that the cloud is just subscription-based OnDemand, or application service provision, or service bureau computing, or time-sharing, depending on what decade you started looking at enterprise software. A blank piece of paper approach means I'm working up

  • from architecture

  • to technology

  • to have-to-have functionality

  • to features that make a difference

  • to how to buy and implement BPM in the Cloud.

One interesting thing about a BPM in the Cloud architecture analysis that intrigues me is that the basic design of the BPM-enabling software (or any type of software) could make a difference if it were designed to run in the cloud initially as opposed to being modified for or ported to the cloud. We saw this same phenomenon as different pieces of enterprise software were re-architected from totally monolithic to COBOL/RPG divisions to fat-client client/server (C/S) to thin-client/no-client client/server to a services oriented architecture (SOA). By the way, I am using these terms the way they are commonly used in commentary although I would argue that fat-client C/S and thin/no-client C/S are also SOA and current SOA is really service-level-agreement (SLA)-driven SOA.

Most of the early enterprise-application software leaders such as Systems Software Associates (SSA) and Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) could not make the transition from the monolithic era. SAP was the exception. Many of the fat-client designs failed to mature into more distributed C/S. PeopleSoft was the exception. Oracle's applications division skipped the fat-client stage and went direct to no client C/S. SAP is trying to skip the no-client C/S stage and go direct to SLA-based SOA.

Clearly an SLA-based SOA is best suited to the principles of cloud computing.

  • Think about how the BPM-enabling software you are looking at provides such an architecture or to what extent its developer is planning to port to that architecture.

  • Or perhaps your favorite BPM provider is planning to skip an architectural stage the way Oracle and SAP did in ERP. What's that mean for your BPM in the Cloud plans?

-- Dennis Byron

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While I agree with many of your points, I don't believe one can start with a blank piece of paper. In today's world, there are few, if any organizations around the world today that don't have some level of existing IT infrastructure. In many cases, BPM is intended to replace an existing manual process to reduce cost or improve productivity. It is almost certain that using one or more IT systems will be part of any business process so the BPM solution must integrate with these existing systems for a number of reasons:

1. The existing and new business processes are going to have to work in parrallel for some time until people are retrained.

2. It would be at least desirable if not essentialy that a process started manually could be completed using the new system and vice versa. Otherwise, confusion could reign supreme.

3. The best way to ensure a process is working correctly is by comparing it with the original.

For these reasons it is my view that any look at an Enterprise Service Architecture and BPM must look at how the new BPM system and the existing systems will work together. In other words, there is still a need for pretty extensive integration as BPM will rarely be introduced in a green field site.

I'm very much looking forward to the Cloud Qcamp event and would be interested if these issues could be discussed. I have blogged about it here http://soagateway.blogspot.com/2009/04/bpm-and-existing-it-infrastructure.html . Hopefully this can be helpful to the discussion.

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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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