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Introduction to Process Orchestration

If you analyse common business practices, you will find that they are  generally a series of relatively simple activities that interact with  each other to accomplish a larger, more complex result. While these  smaller processes are the core of day-to-day business activities, many  businesses only consider the large and complex aspects of their  operations to be “processes”. In truth, any chain of business activities  that are carried out in order to achieve a specific goal should be  considered a business process, regardless of how simple or small. Often  costs are reduced, quality is increased and efficiency improved by  simplifying and refining even the small processes. Keep in mind that a  business process is not restricted to human interaction – it often  includes interaction between various software applications as well.

Business Process Management

Business  Process Management (BPM) is the way in which you plan, implement, and  ultimately improve the processes that run your business. BPM tools such  as SAP NetWeaver BPM, help to model and enable the automation of  business processes – these tools  offer a clear view into processes  through graphical representations, in-depth analysis and testing,  process tracking, and continual process improvement. The beauty and  power behind BPM is the capability to deliver the right work to the  right people at the right time – everything can be automated and  monitored. Key Process Indicators (KPI’s) can be measured and Service  Level Agreements (SLA’s) can be enforced with automatic escalation rules  – all of this independent of the underlying applications. In other  words, a good BPM tool can work seamlessly across all other enterprise  applications – including on premise, web, cloud and mobile.

Process Integration

While  BPM focuses more on the human interaction of business processes, there  are application integration tools such as SAP Process Integration (PI)  that bring together various enterprise applications through a unified  integration approach. These tools focus specifically on the automated  communication between software applications. As an example, you could  use SAP PI to facilitate the integration between Oracle Business Suite  running Financials and SAP ERP running Human Resources. A well thought  out integration product should never be technology or application  dependent.

Business Rules Management

A huge problem with  most enterprise software is that very often the logical conditions for  business logic (business rules) are “hard-coded”. What this means is  that if the rules ever change, software developers are required to  update all of the effected software components. Often complex rules are  difficult to comprehend and implement – it can take days or even weeks  for the business and developers to finally understand and correctly code  the rules. Typically the developers understand the rules differently to  what the business has tried to communicate and the change process takes  a lot longer than it should. A risky but very common practice is that  many business rules are only mapped out in the minds of specific  business owners and very badly documented, if at all. If a key business  owner leaves the company for any reason, the understanding of those  rules go with him/her.

A solution to this is what we call Business  Rules Management (BRM). Essentially, all business rules are stored in  the business rules engine and enterprise software simply taps into these  rules when required. The rules are managed centrally so that when they  change, none of your software components need to be recoded. Once again  it is very important that a BRM tool (such as SAP BRM) is not  application dependent and that all of your software applications can tap  into the rules engine and leverage its power.

A good example of a  business rule is the calculation of a customer’s credit limit at banks.  It may sound like a simple rule, but there are many aspects taken into  consideration – credit ratings, transaction history, age, level of  education, current financial commitments, current income, assets and  more.

Process Orchestration

The orchestration of business  processes can be a complex task – one has to consider human interaction,  application integration, rules management, KPI measurement, SLA  monitoring, continuous improvement, user experience, business  involvement, exception handling, and much more.

The SAP Process  Orchestration bundle includes SAP BPM, SAP PI and SAP BRM. These are  enabling tools that pass process ownership on to the business and allow  IT to support the technology. All of these tools are completely  independent and work across any other applications – this bundle is  something that even non-SAP customers should be considering.

SAP  has built their BPM and BRM tools in a way that the business can design  the processes and rules with graphic modelling. Once a BPM model has  been designed, it is simply passed on to the developer who quickly ties  up application functionality to the process. The processes and rules  that the business designs are the processes and rules that are  ultimately executed. No more miscommunications or misunderstandings –  simple.

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  • Reporting is an another capability you can add, Visual Composer the modelling tool provides an tight integration with BPM Data sources, with which you can report on the process context attributes.

    Most people are curios to know if the BPM can provide the capability to use the approval work flow on the hand held devices. I haven't worked on it yet, but from the couple of use cases i see that it's pretty much possible.


  • Hi David,
         Great article. I think you clearly define the different components included in the bundle and more importantly what each is meant to do in the overall end to end context.
         There are a couple of comments I would like to add to complement your blog:
         - Process Orchestration is a set of model driven tools that really facilitates the implementation of process centric applications. Lot of code is generated underneath and this shortens development cycles. In addition, when changes are needed, there is less code to validate as many assets are automatically created for you by the different components in the bundle which facilitates continuous improvement.
         - If used appropriately (and as you describe it), we better enable the business community to participate in the creation of these projects as they should be able to create or at least understand the business process flows and structures (this generates alignment) as well as empowering them to modify the rules through a very thorough and governed process. If we consider other implementation approaches, there is clearly more room for disconnections.
         - Process Orchestration has been incepted from the very beginning to really address the space where there are business processes that touch on SAP and non-SAP backend applications. These processes are key to make organization's business run efficiently and create business differentiation in today's market conditions. It is about extending and bringing more value to your existing applications rather than a rip and replace.

        I really liked this article and would love to hear some first hand experiences as to how these are effectively used and bringing business differentiation.