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Last night, I attended a panel organized by Softech and SD-Forum in San  Francisco which was  tasked to answer the question BPM: fact or fiction? The panel was moderated by  Paul Harmon, editor of BPTrends.com. Here  are some of the arguments I presented.

The market of  BPM is healthy but relatively small considering that BPM  is about helping companies better innovate, adapt or optimize. So we might  wonder why BPM efforts remain marginal in most companies instead of being the  focus of IT.

For quite some years, I have argued that the key to BPM was a  business-process centric application model. Let me explain why.

Most IT organizations look like the picture represented Figure 1. This picture  represents in X, the business objects of the company (orders, customers,  products…), in Y the systems in a given IT department, and in Z the number of  attributes of a given business object, in a given system. What this picture  shows is that the footprint of any given BO spans multiple systems, often dozens  of systems.

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Figure 1. A typical data model in a modern IT organization

The consequence of this picture is that it is difficult to extend and compose  existing functionality when you need to innovate, adapt or optimize something in  your organization. As a matter of fact, it is often more cost effective to build  entire new systems and integrating them with the existing ones, rather than  reusing functionality already present in your IT organization. The annoying  point is that the bigger this picture is, the bigger it will get.

ESA is about regaining control of this picture.

How? well, let’s first look at the state-of-the art application construction  (Figure 2.) as it is portrayed by so many leaders of the software community.  This figure shows a complete misalignment between the way we specify  requirements, the best practice architecture, the concepts and abstraction we  use to write code and the technologies we use to finally implement software that  matches these requirements.

 

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Figure 2. State of the art application construction

Considering figure 2, who would believe that 1) any code written has any  success of matching the requirements? 2) that any code produced can be reused an  composed when requirement changes or new systems need to be build? Yet, this is  the way some vendors recommend building your applications.

ESA is about providing a modern model-driven service oriented architecture  where all these aspects of software constructions are aligned. ESA integrates  the fact that Figure 1. is inevitable, ESA aims at making it manageable such  that you can innovate, adapt and optimize at a reasonable cost, with a  reasonable response time.

How does ESA achieve this? At the core is the concept of Enterprise Services. What  is an Enterprise Service? this is a service that represent a logically  normalized view of the data model AND the business logic (Figure 3). The Order Service  exposes enterprise level logic that can be reused to write new applications.  Because Enterprise Services provide a well defined and stable contract between  the model-oriented business logic and the process-oriented business logic,  enterprise services become highly reusable in new projects, or enable either the  optimization or adaptation of the process, or the service implementation itself.  Of course, a business process platform (EAS’s BPP) is best suited to take full  advantage of Enterprise Services, and ultimately regain control of your IT.

 

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Figure 3. Create_Order operation of the Order Enterprise Service

ESA’s Composite Application Model is inherently process-centric, but the BPM  vision would remain a fiction without Enterprise Services.

The conclusion of the panel was that whatever you do, don’t write your  business logic in code, but write code that can execute your business logic captured as metadata, such as business process or business object definitions.

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