Friday, October 20, 2006

Integration alongside BPM - a comment

Colin who writes the great Bankwatch blog commented on my post yesterday about Integration alongside BPM:

RE: "Once processes or integration requirements become complex the initial integrations may become a larger effort"

Not being the technologist, but isn't that where web services, and middleware are supposed to layer the problem into manageable, similar processes.
Colin, I've read your stuff - you get technology better than most! Sorry for reusing your comment in a post, I just thought it was important to follow up for the masses (well I can dream!). Rereading my post I can see why Colin makes his comment. I seem to imply that there is no solution to the problem. So I'll try and clarify...

BPM, document management/archiving and collaboration are integral to most real-world business processes. Many BPM/ECM vendors provide each of these components standalone, and even for their own suites of software provide toolkit based approaches to integrating them. From my experience, the requirement for this routine, infrastructure based integration is what absorbs a lot of project time when it comes to implementation of business processes. That is why I would recommend using BPMS suites that seamlessly incorporate all parts. Full disclosure: I have worked for two vendors (including my current employer) that provide this and am still impressed by how fast real processes can be deployed when you don't have to do this basic integrations every time you deploy a system.

Colin is also right where he states middleware can help break the integration down and make it maintainable and more reliable. But to me, Web Services in my mind are an enabler of this. They don't simplify the application integration at a business level, just provide a standard mechanism for integration at each of the touchpoints. That is why I don't associate SOA directly with Web Services. SOA to me is what can really break down integration into manageable and maintainable chunks.

The best that most BPMS can do now is to talk to the SOA 'middleware', or 'enterprise service bus' (ESB), or maybe straight to the exposed Web Service endpoints provided by an SOA project. This final approach is fast, but feels again a little brittle when it comes to changes. But the middleware or ESB requires integration to the BPM process - another layer of integration is born.

I'd like to see this scenario improved, with BPMS and SOA working side by side without integration of yet more infrastructure pieces! Maybe its out there. I think that most of what is there is marketing fluff...

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1 comment:

Colin said...

I spent a bit of time reading about BPM tonight. I can see why there is excitement building around it. This is an interesting space. It will require many banks to rethink their architecture.