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What role does BPM play in enterprise architecture?

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What role does BPM play in enterprise architecture?

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  • BPM leads to Business Architecture leads to Enterprise Architecture.
    If anything it should underpin any architectural strategy where process is involved without resorting to a BPMS to do it.

    I wrote an analogy about BPM and building a house once a couple of years back:

    http://bpmredux.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/is-a-good-bpm-strategy-like-building-a-house/

    If I build a house I need a foundation, bricks, cement, timber frames, steel rods yadda yadda. Everything pretty much plays its part in ensuring that the house is stable and robust, and so your enterprise is stable if we translate that into a real process strategy. If you build a house without cement then it’s not safe. If you create a process without controls or compliance it’s not safe. Similarly if you materially change the house, knock a wall in or extend it for example you’re going to need planning and understanding of how that change will affect every part of the house. And there’s the crux of the argument. With so many processes intertwined to create the fabric of a business entity if you change one without a proper management or planning strategy in place do you know the impact of that alteration across the organisation ?

  • We need to preface this discussion with the "kind" of BPM that you are speaking.

    If you mean "Process Driven Server Integration" then this goes hand in hand with enterprise architecture and quite literally is part of the architecture. You really can't talk about EA without thinking about how the servers will be integrated and the processes you want to support at that level.

    With Human Processes Management and Production Case Management, the relation is still there, but less part of each other, and more layered on top of the EA.

    Adaptive Case Management and Social Enterprise Software, are layered on top of the EA, and there is no strong tie. Clearly, a strong architecture will help support all kinds of work, whether case management or just winging it with Microsoft Office.

    See Seven Categories to Replace BPM.

  • I agree that we need to preface with the "kind" of BPM, but we also need to preface with the "kind" of Enterprise Architecture. It is a matter of Definition, as always.

    I believe one does not work without the other. http://www.chickenbrain.de

  • Few years back, I worked with couple of customers that were truly Large multi-billion Enterprises. Both had organized the Enterprise Architecture Teams across few sub-divisions (if I can call them that). Data Architecture, Process Architecture, Network Architecture, and Products Architecture, and they both had a huge focus on Governance. Any structure in a big organization can lead to slowness and inertia due to the very involved decision making and the governance guidelines. However, I felt that the IT platforms and business drivers worked more hand-in-hand there than the other bigger organizations that I have seen.

    The question sounds a little weird to me when we ask "if BPM has a role to play in Enterprise Architecture." I'd rather say that Process orientation has to drive a big part of Enterprise Architecture decisions. If you task the Enterprise Architecture to deliver the Business Value, then Processes do play a critical role out there. As Theo also mentioned, Business Architecture -> Enterprise Architecture. I wouldn't know where BPM would fit in - depending on the definition taken. Reason? Process Improvement and Process Management may also happen outside of Enterprise Architecture, and within the scope of Business Heads, P&L Heads and Operational Management. IT-driven platforms and architecture can only enable the business to function the way decided. But yes, critical not only operationally, but in the mindset and orientation.

  • To me, as a guy from the streets of BPM (Jennifer Lopez really scored with these kind of quotes;-), this questions comes down to; what do my processes need to perform?

    So process awareness first, rest later. Maybe that just comes from my more entrepreneurial than managerial view on MbP.

    BPM is just daily business and coaching and educating organizations and their employees on how they can benefit more from the ‘power of process’ sounds more sustainable to me than spending several projects on IT things and forget about the rest.

    And maybe that comes from the fact that I am not such a fan of the word ‘architecture’ when it comes to BPM because it has too much an IT-taste. And here in Holland some large organizations built their enterprise ‘under architecture’ and when I look at those companies now, they are bureaucratic, slow, rigid and full of political games. Their complaints processes are busier than their primary processes.

    To me they are a shame for BPM.

    I think when you really believe and have the guts to manage by process everything should start with....processes. Unfortunately many companies still have no clue what managing by process is about. ‘BPM, isn’t that a tool to automate our flowcharts?’
    It seems somewhere on the road the core ideas of ‘managing by process’ were lost. And maybe I missed the reason for that….


    A process is not cool. It is just the thing you want to get grip on because it creates useful result for your customers (and probably and unfortunately some other stakeholders); using the process to deliver what you promise.

    So the only start to me would be creating a process oriented view of an organization. You can call it a process landscape. This should make clear what the processes you really care about are and you need grip on (and ask yourself if they support your strategy, mission, vision are any other reason for existence of your company) O, yeah by the way; this is no rocket science, just common sense.

    Then you will see that a process is made up to deliver that one useful result, but in your process landscape there might be things flowing from process to process: information, goods, people etc.

    So the result of a (supporting) process might be an enabler for another process. If you want to deliver pizza’s, you have to have tomatoes, a maintained oven, good people. Looking at these enablers, then you will also see that the characteristics of processes might differ heavily (workflow acm).

    Then you will see that for some processes architectural thinking is a better match then for others.

    Having said that every process might be unique in its characteristics, placing them all under same ‘architectural law’ sounds suddenly very strange…

    So bad performance of a process might be caused by another process.

    So, why not first make clear what your real processes are? What are the primary processes you want grip on? What is the process result and what do you promise about it? What aspects does this process need to perform? Where do these aspects come from? Are they the cause of bad performance? Cool term? Primary process cascading

    And I know this will not compel to large ‘information factories’ who believe IT is their main driver for performance and kick out thousands of people, because architectural things will solve it.

    And then we are back at the main problem of BPM country; too many opinions and it all depends…..

    Happy processing!

  • @Keith, @Kai makes a very very important point. You appear to be assuming an interpretation of EA as "Enterprise wide IT architecture" or similar. If that's the case, bear in mind that there's a fast-growing and vocal group of practitioners who completely reject that view, and instead advocate EA as real "architecting the enterprise".
    With this view as the frame, there are some knotty dependencies (but also cool enablers) regardless of the style of implementation you choose for the 'systems of work coordination' you might advocate for different business capabilities or domains (structured process/procedure, operational case, adaptive case, project, etc etc).

    And lastly - kudos for Peter S for posing a killer question containing two industry terms that nobody can agree on - plenty of fuel for the usual fire starting here! :-)

  • Gartner recently tackled this question, concluding that most of process management (especially human-centric processes) should be managed within BPM, not ERP. Here's an article on that: http://www.pnmsoft.com/gartner-says-erp-only-20-of-the-process-bpm-to-the-rescue/

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