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In the last column, I explored the basics of business process management (BPM)—what it is and why organizations have become so interested in it. In this column, I thought it would be helpful to extend the exploration of BPM with a little history lesson and a look into the future of BPM.

A few years ago, many organizations turned to BPM for straightforward improvements in their business processes through automation and integration. At the time, they were looking for the next step beyond traditional integration solutions or EAI products—something with more of a process-orientation.

But in most cases, organizations were considering BPM as an alternative to enterprise application integration solutions, which tended to be optimized for system-to-system problems and frequently did not provide business-oriented approaches for dealing with human input or exception handling. Thus, many of the early BPM implementations were companies looking for increased automation of the processes, but from a business perspective, not simply a systems-level orientation. As a result, the focus of the integration efforts shifted from pure system-to-system towards a business process level that frequently involved users, exception handling or human input.

Today, I’m still seeing many companies considering BPM and BPM solutions as an alternative or incremental approach to traditional system- or application-oriented integration solutions. But we have also seen the rise of companies that are looking to deploy BPM solutions for additional benefits beyond integration or automation goals, and the companies that have already deployed BPM solutions who are looking to gain incremental advantages from their initial deployments.

For example, many companies are looking to BPM to help them solve a range of problems that go beyond the original scope of integration or automation found in many first-generation BPM projects. Today’s companies are deploying BPM technologies to address issues such as regulatory compliance, process optimization and increased business agility. They’re also looking to leverage BPM and service orchestration to drive new SOA-based applications and services.

Using BPM in conjunction with SOA enables organizations to respond faster to changing business requirements. For example, an organization that is growing through acquisition and has the need to integrate diverse applications or process steps into an integrated process could potentially benefit from BPM running on top of an SOA. For many companies, SOA is becoming an important foundation for BPM, since it supports the rapid assembly and coordination of process components and services into larger components that address an entire business process.


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