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The BPM and SOA marriage

What's the best entry point to launch a service-oriented architecture implementation? Is it through business process management, an enterprise service bus or SOA governance?

I spoke recently with Mel Greer, a senior research engineer for the Advanced Technologies Office of Lockheed Martin, about this subject. Lockheed Martin's government clients are interested in all three approaches, but the one Greer thinks gives the most value is BPM.

'There is a value proposition associated with the marriage of SOA and business processes,' he said. SOA can be a key enabler for lining up technology with an organization's mission function, but it is only when SOA is linked up with business processes that an agency can reap tangible benefits from a process and flexibility perspective, Greer said.

It is time to define some terms here. BPM, Greer said, is a discipline that provides the governance of a business process with the goal of improving the agility and operational performance of that process. The goal is not technical.

SOA, on the other hand, is an application architecture approach, which is comprised of reusable components and services.

In fact, enterprise architecture, BPM and SOA working in concert are the necessary ingredients required to ensure that there is a core alignment between an organization's business and IT strategies and more effective optimization of that IT environment, Greer said.

What's your take? Have any views on the marriage of BPM and SOA or, better yet, some lessons learned from trying to implement a SOA project that incorporated BPM? Drop me a line at ryasin@1105govinfo.com.

Posted by Rutrell Yasin on Jul 31, 2008 at 9:39 AM

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Reader Comments

Thu, Mar 26, 2009 Davis

The BPM and SOA marriage is the best entry point to launch a service-oriented architecture implementation.SOA succeeds when it is used to recognize, capture, precisely define, store, reuse & optimize business processes, so BPM is a natural fit. ------------------------ Davis http://w DOT ww.talkingdating.com

Thu, Aug 21, 2008 Greg Carter DC

I agree with Mel and wanted to add a few thoughts of my own. A typical process intersects with a number of people, new and existing applications/systems, and organizational units. When it comes to existing systems and applications, BPM ' the primary technology to implement automated, managed, and optimized processes ' will naturally need to interact to obtain business data and to execute functions and business transactions. It is increasingly common that SOA is a key component to exposing the available information and business transactions. So if BPM provides agility at the people and process layer then SOA is a natural design pattern to do the same at the information and function level. It is very symbiotic ' BPM helps provide clarity and business value to SOA while SOA enhances the innate business agility provided by BPM. I can't tell you how many times the growth of early BPM projects was slowed by having to re-wire direct integration or re-configuration of classic EAI connection paths.In our experience working with customers, the biggest challenge has been complex SOA infrastructure. There is much talk about reliability and security while only basic scrutiny is given to the design of messages passed between applications and services. It has almost come full circle where SOA complexity is on the edge of stifling the early gains in agility and speed. Much work needs to be done to simplify many existing or in progress SOA designs. (3..2..1..now please fire the 'what about governance, security, QoS? salvo!)

Fri, Aug 8, 2008 Ken Knueven VA

Absolutely agree with you Richard (and Mel) -- the challenge for applications today is crossing boundaries. Boundaries between technologies; boundaries between you, and other communities of interest; boundaries with hosted third-party services.While implementing a service-oriented architecture (SOA) will always be a multi-pronged approach ' the areas that Mel explains boil to the top immediately. First -- enterprises should continue to build on their SOA platform spanning client, server and cloud. And while a world-class SOA platform is necessary to build applications within and across organizations ' it is not sufficient by itself. Building applications can be made much simpler. The second, very important element is to make modeling a mainstream part of application development.But, having models live in isolation means that no one has a single view of the application end to end.As long as these silos exist, modeling will remain at the periphery of application development. When considering BPM, utilize a general-purpose modeling language; utilize tools and a repository to bridge all the models within an application, moving models to the center of application development. Models should no longer just describe the application, they should become integral with the application.More information may be found here: http://www.microsoft.com/soa/about/default.aspx and www.microsoft.com/federal/soa

Fri, Aug 1, 2008 Richard Soley MA

As usual Melvin is spot on. SOA succeeds when it is used to recognize, capture, precisely define, store, reuse & optimize business processes, so BPM is a natural fit. There's lots of relevant material on the SOA Consortium blog (http://blog.soa-consortium.org/) and research page (http://www.soa-consortium.org/info.htm).

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