19 September, 2006

Modeling processes, how and when do I start?

More than 10 years ago, people started to consider BPR (Business Process re-engineering). Business Processes had to be more efficient and possibly automated. At that time, many companies were selling workflows solutions where very often integration with legacy applications were highly complex , using various communication mechanisms, from proprietary API’s to ODBC, or messaging types of connections. To model these processes, most of the time IT people were using workflow engines to model these processes. Business people were using other types of modeling tools , very often based on methodologies/notations such as IDEF0.

Among these tools, we could select solutions such as Holosofx (now IBM), Proforma and Aris from IDS Sheer. There was no links between these tools and the various workflow engines such as FileNet, IBM Flowmark, Staffware (now TIBCO) among others…

Interesting enough, some of these tools evolved towards Enterprise Architecture, considering Business Modeling as an activity in Business Architecture. The latest being a layer an Enterprise Architecture Framework. Other Enterprise Architecture modeling tools such as Popkin Software (now Telerate), Mega, Casewise and Proforma have also evolved towards Enterprise Architecture and provide Business modeling with various notations types such as BPMN, UML or proprietary ones.

For a couple of years now, everyone is overloaded with vendors’ information related to BPM (Business Process Management). Maybe BPM is only a re-branding of BPR., but then everyone claims (at least vendors and IT Analysis consulting companies) that BPM brings business agility and flexibility, minimize IT costs in terms of reuse, time to market, specifically when built on top of SOA (Service Oriented Architecture). BPMs (BPM Suites) are solutions which can include different layers such as modeling, simulation, orchestration, rules management, and integration.

Processes can generally be captures in the modeling layer from the BPMs and be improved in an iterative way, through simulation and real time monitoring.

The reality is that many companies’ ends up with two sets of modeling tools which does rarely connect one to the other. Business modeling on the business side realized with either BPR or Enterprise Architecture suites are not reusable by BPMs. Some standards are available to exchange models such as XMI, but not all vendors have applied yet these features.

The following questions remains:

- Should we use two set of tools?
- Should we use one as the master and export to the BPMs or the other way around?
- Should we find a single tool or solution which connects to the BPMs/orchestration suite (eg. Telerate and IDS Sheer have already announced integration between their modeling suite and Business automation/orchestration platforms such as the Oracle Fusion middleware. Other probably to come...)?

The conclusion is that the market is still immature and many companies jumping into BPM/SOA will have to consider with caution the way they will model their Business processes, in order to be able to measure business impacts and automate at the same time their Business Processes.

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