In todays highly competitive world, organizations want to save time and money, respond to rapidly changing market conditions and find ways to bring new products to market quickly. Intense competition and globalization is prompting companies to find better, more efficient ways of doing things. The most successful organizations implement technology solutions with a focus on business value and use tested, proven techniques. When combined with a service-oriented architecture (SOA) approach, business process management (BPM) embodies the best practices in business and technology from around the world, making implementation easier and yielding tangible business benefits earlier.
What is SOA?
SOA is a business-centric IT architectural approach that supports integrating a business as linked, repeatable business tasks or services. SOA is a solution that many successful, global companies are turning to at a rapidly increasing rate, as a preferred method of delivering sustainable agility. These growing organizations need this agility the ability to quickly and effectively respond to changes, opportunities and threats to compete effectively in a business world going global.
What is BPM?
BPM has evolved into a comprehensive solution that models, monitors, simulates and redesigns processes for competitive improvement. By examining tasks within an organization, BPM uses technology to automate or streamline those that are done manually or that involve lots of document processing. The first step is for an organization to identify routine recurring tasks that take a lot of time and find ways to simplify and streamline them.
BPM enables businesses to continuously optimize their business processes and adapt them to rapidly changing needs. Business leaders expect their organization's processes to keep up with their swiftly changing business conditions. In today's competitive marketplace, implementing changes must be done rapidly while demonstrating value at a lower cost. This allows organizations to harness the full potential of business processes and drive organizational commitment to process optimization goals and business objectives. BPM enables organizations to model, simulate, deploy, rapidly change and monitor business processes to:
- Continuously optimize operational capabilities,
- Provide a real-time operational view with the ability to intervene quickly,
- Enable business users to drive process change and innovation and
- Rapidly deliver new and differentiated products and services to customers.
So far, financial institutions have been at the forefront of implementing both BPM and SOA. Competitive demands on banking firms require that transactions be executed with reliability and speed. One example is automated loan processing. In the past, a customer would go to a bank to fill out a loan application; the application would be reviewed by a number of people in the bank, and the applicants credit history would be checked before the loan could be approved. Today, many financial services firms offer online loan applications and process them with an automated program that incorporates the banks business rules. Applicants with unacceptable credit ratings, for example, are automatically rejected. Loan applications are just one example of how BPM has enabled banks to automate tasks, reduce costs and respond quickly to client needs while redeploying resources to more pressing functions of the bank.
CIOs Make BPM a Priority
To thrive in todays marketplace, businesses of all sizes in all industries are looking for better ways to achieve operational excellence. This enables them to run their companies more efficiently and cost-effectively and drive innovation to recognize and respond to market needs quickly and decisively. As such, CIOs are increasingly using BPM to get their processes and people working together better. By virtue of streamlining processes, BPM can improve an organizations ability to respond to customers, increase the speed of new products to market and enhance customer service. BPM can also help meet compliance requirements by replacing multiple systems with a single, business-wide process specifically designed to incorporate the business rules required to meet compliance regulations.
Impact of SOA on BPM
BPM enabled by SOA provides greater business flexibility through accelerated and iterative process improvement. When business processes are built using a flexible SOA infrastructure, changes are easy to make. The entire application does not need to be rewritten. SOA enables business processes to be made into components so services can be used again instead of recreating everything from scratch.
Combined with a SOA approach, BPM can evolve into a comprehensive solution that models, monitors, simulates and redesigns processes for competitive improvement. A SOA approach involves breaking down business processes into their component parts, called services, because a service is the smallest level at which you can interrogate the system and get an answer.
For example, a firm may create a service that conducts a credit check. Each service is a piece of code that can be used and reused by any part of the organization using existing code. Software code is not constantly being rewritten, saving development time and costs. Process changes take place in an environment of managed flexibility. Such flexibility of SOA has changed the face of IT architecture and process management across all sectors, with early adopters making gains over their competition.
BPM Enabled by SOA Market Trends
In addition to financial services, BPM enabled insurance companies to develop systems that reduce the amount of paper processing. In the retail industry, BPM is critical in helping retailers manage supply chains and monitor inventory. The business benefits have been significant. However, it is no longer just a large industry phenomenon. BPM holds benefits for midmarket companies as well.
BPM empowered by SOA presents all of the following benefits, all of which are realized by large industry and midmarket companies:
- Empowers business users,
- Provides actionable insights,
- Improves business agility,
- Meets demanding compliance requirements,
- Reduces costs,
- Enhances collaboration,
- Achieves end-to-end process capability,
- Boosts employee productivity and
- Improves customer service.
- An SOA and BPM solution can provide tremendous benefits to your business, but it requires with a vision for your business process to unleash its potential. A successful implementation of an SOA and BPM solution is dependent on your ability to follow these three steps:
Choose the right business process - something that can be automated effectively.
- Encourage teamwork by getting representatives from different departments to form a BPM committee. Appoint a leader and coordinate ideas from across the organization. (In my experience, its critical to take time upfront to build consensus within an organization on what needs to be done and to set priorities.)
- Choose a good BPM modeling tool to help define tasks and build workflow systems, which will help to calculate the ROI by allowing participants to see how time and resources can be saved by automating tasks.
BPM projects do well when there is vested cross-company interest in their success. Organizations that have taken time up-front to formulate a comprehensive approach to streamlining routine tasks generally have the best results. Additionally, early tangible benefits serve as a demonstration for future BPM projects. In the end, everyone implementing BPM enabled by SOA learns valuable information from the lessons of others.
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