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Mergers, acquisitions, company restructuring and new IT applications are among the many drivers that have meant that end-to-end process chains within organizations have become more complex. As they traverse multiple business and IT application silos, it is often unclear how the constituent processes, and the steps within each process, are linked together.

Business process management (BPM) and advanced application integration technologies mean that it is possible to automate the exchange of information between disparate systems. Process flows can be mapped with conditional dependencies embedded to ensure that multiple paths are supported and all eventualities can be catered for. External business events, such as daily sales information from retail stores being transmitted to head office, can automatically instigate internal IT processes.

In addition to status checking the outcome of individual steps within a process, information extracted from output report content checked against field values in database tables can help shape more intelligent decision making. Controllers need a clear view of how all their core business processes are performing while one application works much better when it has a clear understanding of what another is doing or has done. These may not be issues until something goes wrong.

A business-critical process, such as month-end close of accounts, taking an unduly long time to run, or failing to complete, can clearly place a company's operation at risk. Enterprises need to identify strategies that will enable them to realize the efficiencies of IT automation that will also provide agility and visibility to simply define and monitor their application landscape.

The risk management and compliance initiatives introduced with Basel2 and Sarbanes-Oxleyseemed like distant memories during the recent collapse of the global financial services industry. Any guarantees and assurances that had previously been established were clearly worth little more than the paper they were (not) written on. Greater transparency and more rigorous controls are going to be required to satisfy the diligence of external stakeholders, such as national governments.

Organizations are still learning that by taking people out of processes, they are still required to account for the actions that the systems they operate take on their behalf. Where software is used to control corresponding processes, enterprises need to be aware that auditing will be required for all IT activities and not just those performed inside individual stove-pipe applications, such as ERP or customer relationship management (CRM) systems.


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