With the annual Sapphire event about to close in Berlin and my dear company being honoured with SAP’s Pinnacle Award, it seems nothing more than appropriate to highlight some key insights of SAP’s yearly business show case. And why not get it right from the experts? My colleague Mendel Koerts, who has been instrumental in the co-creating with SAP of the Enterprise Architecture Framework (EAF) wrote an excellent piece about one of the hottest subjects discussed on Sapphire: Business Process Management and its relationship to eSOA. Mendel, the floor is yours:
Ever been to a SAPPHIRE? This huge travelling SAP marketing circus pitched its tent in Orlando from May 4 to 7 and in Berlin from May 19 to 21. This major happening attracted ten thousands of visitors and, by tradition, it was the moment for SAP to make major announcements and to launch new products. One of this year’s spotlighted products is SAP NetWeaver BPM.
Somehow the ‘S’ of ‘Suite’ or ‘System’ fell off along the way, I suspect. In my book, Business Process Management (BPM) as such namely is a management discipline, a business thing. Quite an important one, however, since the eyes of many business types are focused on operational excellence. They’re continuously optimizing the way they manage their business processes. Naming a product ‘BPM’ will therefore undoubtedly attract attention of the business. A product that manages your business processes for you, who wouldn’t want that? And if you can have such a tool why bother about eSOA any longer? Didn’t sell to the business any way. So, the curtain falls for eSOA?

Well, not so hasty. Let’s go back to SAPPHIRE in Orlando for just a sec. During a panel discussion around BPM it was mentioned that ‘BPM is the killer app for eSOA’. This sounds odd to me, since BPM to me is a management discipline and SOA a set of design principles for IT architectures. How can a business thing be a crucial element in any IT architecture? Leaving the ‘S’ out obviously raises some confusion for me when reading such statements. I kind of feel this is not contributing to the better alignment of business and IT, which after all is one of the great promises of SOA.
Ok, let’s put the ‘S’ back in and talk BPMS – an IT toolset, or a Suite, for the automation of BPM. Fine, but you’d still need to not only manage processes but also to actually execute them. In an SOA-based IT architecture the IT functionality for business process execution is grouped into convenient building blocks (yes, aka services). To execute an order-to-cash process for example, an IT building block that supports dunning may be a very useful one. As is a rule in the BPMS that automatically triggers the dunning service after a certain period of not having received payment. And one that releases the dunning trigger on receipt of payment. Or even one that statistically determines how long the period should be before dunning is triggered, to ensure your customer returns again.
So, a BPMS just plays an eminent role in an IT architecture based on SOA principles. As do the ‘You Experience’ (edit Ron Tolido: a crucial part of Capgemini’s new TechnoVision, more about it soon on this blog), the functional IT building blocks and the underlying, hopefully invisible, ‘Infostructure’. All these together enable ‘Processes-on-the-fly’ which allow you to swiftly vivify new business when opportunity comes knocking; another SOA promise. And no, SAP NetWeaver BPM certainly does not mean the end of eSOA. It rather is a complementary component in a true SOA-based IT architecture.
Mendel Koerts, Capgemini Netherlands.