Enterprises must rethink their IT infrastructure and begin to implement a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and businss process management (BPM), according to Gartner Inc. It said the combination of BPM and an SOA are crucial steps toward becoming a real-time enterprise, creating the foundation to respond faster to changing business requirements and to react to events in real-time. It highlighted advances in Web services technology and standards as the driving forces that will take SOA and BPM to mainstream adoption.

"Until now, service-oriented architectures have only been implemented by a few leading edge enterprises due to high costs and the level of technical skill required," said Massimo Pezzini, VP and analyst at Gartner. "However, Web services are now making it both affordable and possible from a skills point of view. In addition, consolidation of security technologies and maturing standards for web services mean security is no longer a stumbling block. This will accelerate the spread of SOA and make it mainstream in global 2000 companies by 2007."

BPM improves process design and integration, making application systems work more efficiently together. It delivers tactical cost/time benefits, while building a base for competitive growth. Regulatory compliance such as Sarbanes-Oxley or Basel 2 are additional drivers for BPM, as they require monitoring of critical business processes and the ability to report abnormal situations in the processes themselves. SOA allows companies to reuse existing applications and data to create new business processes. It makes the enterprise more agile and less locked in to certain ways of doing business as applications can be changed faster and more easily.

Gartner warned that impending risk of standard fragmentation will make it more complex for enterprises to reap the full benefits of SOA and BPM during the next three years. However, it advised enterprises to invest now to create the skills and governance processes necessary to leverage SOA and BPM for business advantage.

To effectively implement service oriented and events-driven architectures, and to maximise the benefits from technologies such as web services and BPM, Gartner advised enterprises to establish a permanent integration competence centre (ICC) within the company to act as a link between business units and application teams. The ICC should proactively promote best practices and benefits of advanced integration, provide technical skills, build strategy and deliver measurement models to get the maximum return on investment from adopting application integration technology. It said 30 percent of large enterprises have an ICC today and expects this figure to be 60 percent by 2006.

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