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*Editors Note: For the first part of this article, please click: here

We see the same principle at work with another hot topic in IT: Web services. Much is made of the way in which advanced process support systems can call (or preferably, “orchestrate”) Web services to create business processes. What is a Web service? It’s a piece of function, generally implemented in some low-level programming language, and made available via the Web. Here again, low-level programs are the building blocks of supposedly high-level business processes.

This has all sorts of implications, of which, two in particular jump out as having direct impact on the business. First, not many business analysts want to write computer programs, so the programmers are back in the picture. Second, once you have low-level programs as part of your process system, the sort of freewheeling on-the-fly responsiveness to business needs promised by process support vendors is just not going to happen—it’s back to the IT department with a change request if you want something to work differently, with the usual consequent haggling over the delivery schedule.

Hence, most of today’s process implementations are not, in fact, contained neatly in their own top tiers of the enterprise architecture, providing a simple translation from business needs to process implementations. Rather, the current Business Process Management stack is scattered across different levels of infrastructure as its designers require. Moreover, any serious process support implementation needs to make use of a range of other enterprise technologies—enterprise application integration, secure messaging, directory services, data management, and all the rest. It thus becomes part of a complex technology backbone, dependent on a range of other systems. Process support systems, as proffered by some IT vendors, are, in fact, new management techniques that help technicians handle the technology stack.

So, does this detract from the value of current process support systems? Not at all. Features such as process projection—linking individual functions in legacy systems together to create new processes—have enormous potential for cost-saving. Process projection provides the enterprise with the ability to migrate more easily to new versions of old systems, or to new systems entirely. Process projection also offers the chance to make the best possible use of existing applications by transitioning away from the processes that were originally hard-coded within them, toward a more adaptive framework that exposes processes and allows them to be changed as necessary.


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