Infusing process intelligence by using BPM as middleware

Using BPM tools to bridge systems together provides business context by baking in process intelligence.

"Major technology users, and IT managers in particular, are voicing an increasingly urgent need to integrate business-critical systems."

-- Mapping the Market for Enterprise Interoperability

The above words were written 13 years ago as part of a study published on the then-emerging issue of enterprise interoperability. Today, this mission is often accomplished by programmatically tying systems together using middleware that sits between one system and another and essentially translates between them.

The notion of process intelligence is the foundation of tools like workflow and business process management (BPM). Creatively used, these tools can couple systems together in a way that can be simpler and more intuitive than coding hard linkages into existence.

Process, not programming

The "P" in BPM is the fulcrum on which the entire concept pivots. The idea is to design a given process so it basically copies necessary information from one place, runs it through the other products in the flow, and updates the original data according to the business rules in place.

This copying is often best accomplished using metadata-based search. While there's plenty of work to do to reconcile the vocabularies and security mechanisms in individual stacks, such a strategy tends to be less complicated than hard coding.

This works because the true business objective isn't systems integration; it's the appearanceof systems integration. BPM and middleware can help achieve integration. Choosing one route over the other is a matter of understanding the tradeoffs (time, money, flexibility) and even the raw ability to expose fields in one solution so they can be used by the others.

Getting stuff to work together

BPM and middleware can breakdown the barrier interoperability creates to getting components to work together. The difference is that using BPM as a connection tool provides business context by baking in process intelligence. The goal is a mechanism that leaves users unaware that multiple systems are supporting business processes, and IT and financial folk with a way to accomplish this more efficiently than traditional middleware techniques.

About the author:
Steve Weissman has a 20-year track record of innovation and success in helping organizations derive maximum total value from their information solutions. A seasoned consultant, analyst and professional trainer, he uses his keen strategy, business and technology skills to identify measure, and mesh his clients' needs and goals, and recommend effective best-practices and solutions for managing processes, content and data. He can be reached at sweissman@hollygroup.com or 617-383-4655.

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This was first published in July 2014

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