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The inability of earlier generations of application development software to support effective collaboration between business and IT is the source of a good deal of confusion, wasted efforts, and delayed ROI to the organizations that are implementing new application functionality. However, as the maturity of BPM tools has increased, they have become a viable alternative for delivering process improvement capabilities and new application functionality much faster than was possible in the past.
As a result, BPM suites will be the basis of a major paradigm shift in how process improvement efforts are supported. For example, the standard approach has been to have application systems implicitly embed the business process and its related artifacts directly into the application itself. This makes changing a process sometimes risky, but always labor-intensive. But when process models are captured inside the BPM suite, organizational agility is increased while obtaining direct alignment between business design, technology implementation and business measurement. Furthermore, changing the graphical process model can easily change processes.
BPM suites provide several features designed to increase organizational agility including:
1. The ability to capture business process flows as digital metadata. This enables process definitions to be shared and modified more easily and can even support the generation of executable code.
2. Enables process orchestration. In addition to supporting model-driven development, BPM suites also provide the building blocks for orchestrating business processes.
3. Store service definitions. Supporting the UDDI service repository standard is a key requirement for BPM suites and the market leaders are actually embedding UDDI-compliant registries inside their product suites to provide a convenient source of service definition information.
4. Provide a SOA infrastructure. Many BPM suite providers have been proactively building out their SOA infrastructure, bringing support for core Web services standards such as SOAP, UDDI, WSDL, WS-Security, Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Basic Profile, Web Services Distributed Management (WSDM) and many other emerging standards as well.
It's obvious that a solid technological foundation is necessary to conduct business operations effectively. But how to achieve it is not so obvious. The comprehensive capabilities provided by BPM suites give IT staff and business users a strong alternative for a collaborative software environment for creating, supporting, and underpinning an agile approach to process improvement efforts.
For too long, BPM improvement efforts have been dealt with in isolation. One BPM product ran the call center while another ran internal processes like employee on-boarding and expense reporting. The document management system had its own workflow system. And none of these systems were using the integration suite, which routes transactions between enterprise applications. However, with the increasing realization that BPM suite capabilities are a core component of an effective IT architecture, organizations will be taking a more strategic view on how this technology is implemented within the enterprise.
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