BPM, SOA and steps toward better application building

Jack Vaughan

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SOA for us is a business thing. It is a way of modeling the business, thinking about the business and understanding the business.

Steve Jones
What is a ''service? '' What is a ''process? '' What are ''steps'' in a process? Increasingly software services architects are asking questions of just such a semantic tone before tackling the job of creating Business Process Management applications. They want to get the project off on the right foot.

Where you start from is important, says Steve Jones, a CTO at consultancy CapGemini in the U.K. Out-of-the-gate understanding of the roles of services and process steps is part of that. Jones suggests starting with a SOA-oriented approach. But the tenor of that approach is key. If it is utterly technology-centric, the BPM-SOA project is likely to stumble. Jones encourages a SOA approach that is grounded in business understanding.

''SOA for us is a business thing,'' said Jones. ''It is a way of modeling the business, thinking about the business and understanding the business.''

On one level, there are similarities to BPM and SOA approaches.

''If you think about an organization at its highest level, whether you are looking at high-level BPM models or at a services methodology, you actually end up with the same bundles.''

A business-oriented approach to SOA can help BPM, suggested Jones.

''Using SOA as we do—as an architecture and business modeling approach—helps bridge the gap between traditional business process modeling and technology delivery,'' he said.

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Where it becomes most interesting is where there are 'steps.' This is where BPM that has little SOA underpinning can go astray. When a process is seen as something contained in a service, better outcomes ensue.

Said Jones, ''Where SOA becomes really required is where BPM has a number of steps. We would say that it is the service that is always the 'grown' in the relationship. It contains the processes - the capabilities that need to be delivered.''

It is BPM's job to build process steps; it is the service model's job to access them, he indicated.

In short, in Jones' view: ''SOA makes really, really good BPM. But BPM bakes really bad SOA.''

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