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Are we through the rapids yet?
Focusing on the second issue posed in Part I, we question the novelty of BPM/SOA combination especially in regard to addressing the business-IT alignment problem. Let’s start from taking a look at each part of it. (Click here for Part II).

Looking at an architectural model of SOA, one can not help getting an impression that what they are looking at is a rearranged structure of architectural artifacts and solutions that have been around for some time already. Indeed, experts’ comments on the subject confirm that impression, one of them simply saying: “There's nothing truly new or revolutionary about SOA; we've been there, done that before.” This impression is not helped even with a newly added flavour of Web-services which are expected to drive SOA implementation to the mainstream. In fact, the main problem SOA is designed to address is the other kind of ‘web’ on the opposite side of its architectural model – that of disparate legacy systems developed with a plethora of competing technologies accessing equal diversity of incompatible databases – all that often done with a strategy line no longer than the nearest due date. To encapsulate this unwieldy reality into something as elegant and usable as service, which hides all the gory implementation details and is available to its external clients, is the remedy promoted by SOA.

On the other side, BPM has evolved from Business Process Modelling techniques which were rapidly developed in the 1990s (also known as Business Process Re-engineering, Business Process Improvement, Work-flow Modelling and the like), as means of visualising, analysing and improving business processes at various levels (high level organisational flows down to workflow level).

The two main problems of the BPR revolution were lack of in-built execution mechanisms and a conceptual/methodological inability to bridge the gap between business and IT domains. Because of the former BPR tools were long considered to be merely some kind of drawing aids and even today the most popular Business Process Modelling tool is MS Visio. The latter problem is even more of an eyesore as BPR takes pride in addressing so-called ‘silo phenomenon’ and replacing the organisational silo structure with horizontal end-to-end process model. In spite of that goal, BPR has been a kind of silo itself when juxtaposed with its IT counterpart in an organisation.


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