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It is a known fact that when the SOA hype ended, a kind of disillusion could be observed on the customer side. There were a couple of promises that came with this new topic that could not be fulfilled over the years.

One of the most important points from the beginning was the statement that an SOA can only be successfully implemented if business and IT are aligned and if the business processes play a key role. But unfortunately in real life the things look different.

One example: last month we had a meeting with a customer and talked about the business driven process implementation. It was a good sign that responsible persons from both business and IT side were present, but what they told us was not satisfying.

On the one hand the business department invested much effort into modeling based process analysis and the definition of their to-be business processes. On the other hand the IT department implemented the service landscape and the process execution layer independently and on a complete different granularity level. And now their question was: how can we bring the things together to really benefit from the SOA approach and to reach our business goals?

This example is not a special case but rather shows a basic problem of the relationship between BPM and SOA. Both topics are often driven by IT and reduced to the technical aspects. Mostly BPM is only considered as the execution of processes in IT systems. But of course it is not enough to service-enable the IT system landscape for the SOA implementation only and to earn benefits from it.

BPM is the discipline to manage business processes in a continuous lifecycle, beginning with strategy over design, implementation and execution to controlling. SOA is only an architectural approach to support the implementation and management of the BPM lifecycle.

There are some preconditions to gather the benefits combining BPM and SOA. First of all the SOA initiative has to be management driven. To introduce service orientation means to consolidate and optimize; this implies the danger for single persons to lose influence or responsibility. The goals of the SOA initiative have to be transparent for all possibly affected persons (and there are in most cases more than expected), potential fears have to be reduced and the advantages and chances for the enterprise (and therefore also for the employees) have to be put in the focus of communication.


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