Business Process Management (BPM) been around for a couple of decades and IBM BPM – Smarter Process for almost a decade now. In these years BPM has grown into a very important tool that enables organizations to streamline, automate and optimize their business processes. So what has changed? Why talk about it now? In short, a lot!
Perhaps the more important question to be answered is – How are organizations coping with the ever-changing digital business landscape in which the Cloud paradigm is further redefining organizational processes. How do you simplify operations and optimize these complex processes? Lets face it, the complexity of our business world keeps growing at a pace that seems to be driven by Moore’s Law.
Take a traditional process like Order–to-cash that exists in some shape or form in every revenue generating company. Today the touch-points of such an app may span from a traditional desktop interface to a mobile device (self service enquiry and ordering). There may also be social media chatter related to this process; for example an Order management application may interact with an ERP or financial accounting system. The process application may also have links to other systems-of-record applications in the back end creating even more complexity with the number and types of interfaces the application should or could interact with.
Customers who have played around and tried to implement BPM 1.0 in their organizations are now coming back with a clearer head as important lessons have been learnt. Organizations now understand that end-to-end processes will continue to get more complex as their business evolves. As these complexities grow so do expectations from the BPM software. The need to address this inherent reality necessitates continuous improvement. The best way of continuous improvement is strict adherence to open standards so that innovation in the public domain can be included.
Lets take a TELCO example to understand what these realities and expectations are and just how some vertical industries are responding to these challenges.
‘Standards, Standards, Standards’ quipped my TELCO customer while discussing his SOA- Integration- BPM journey! ‘Strict adherence to BPM- Integration industry standards is the only way ”. “BPM standards are my insurance policy to ensure protection of my BPM investments whilst at the same time ensuring I am able to seamlessly implement end to end processes across multiple application systems and clouds.” he concluded.
TELCO’s have experienced years of high growth, mergers and acquisitions and often times a lack of integration thinking. This has left many of the service providers with a pretty inefficient service delivery approach. Add to it the complex value chain and the emerging cloud imperative and its no wonder that many players are having to evolve their operational approaches with the use of standardized frameworks.. The fact remains that in todays world the TELCO service provider ends up spending almost five times the cost of their licenses on integration and customization fees because of a lack of standardization says it all. Not to mention the cost of maintaining qualified resources go through the roof when they are required to learn proprietary technologies.
The Telco business greatly exemplifies the importance of standards. Take the creation of TMF Frameworx for instance! TMF Frameworx, a great Industry and technology initiative, provides a blue print for the entire back-office operations and is an enterprise architecture framework geared towards the telecommunications service providers. It emerged because of the need and realization that proprietary integration locks the service providers forever. A standards based approach allows the TELCO service provider to minimize their costs of delivering better integrated and automated processes and significantly lower the costs and risks of unstructured integration.
Having established the complexity of defining and managing processes and the need to integrate these processes through standardization, the TELCO industry responded to it by developing the TMF Frameworx.
Let us turn our attention to how this translates to BPM and integration platforms that address these standardisation needs today for other industries as well. Let us look at some key characteristic requirements and compare them with the BPM solution from Pega:
- Standard based integration and SOA need to be a part of the BPM solution. There are multiple essential components that need to work hand-in-glove. BPM solutions like Pega talk a lot about ‘Industry Kits’, known as Frameworks in the Pega world, which tend to be rigid and proprietary. The IBM Smarter Process BPM solution delivers a TMF Frameworkz aligned and certified BPM Solution. The fact is Pega does not. Refer to TMF Frameworx enabled BPM.
- SOA components enable the flexibility of loosely coupled architectures and hence provide significant agility and lower IT costs, an essential in today’s complex environment. Understanding how SOA and loosely coupled architectures get delivered in the Pega context is key to your longevity.
- Since Pega does not have its own integration components customers are left to figure out how end-to-end processes integrate using expensive non-standard customized options.
- Most organizations require all three types of business processes viz: Human Centric, Straight-through and Content Centric. Pega takes a different approach for straight-through processing. Pega does not do all three techniques. Only IBM Smarter Process does them all.
- A lot of processes require high transaction rates. Pega will be challenged to deliver the same levels of scalability and performance for the BPEL defined process
- Tightly coupling Rules with BPM has its shortcomings. A loosely coupled rule implementation externalizes the rules engine and provides for agility, scalability and performance.
- IBM uses BPEL within the Integration Manager to model the service orchestration. The result (implementation) is more light-weight compared to a Pega implementation. Within Pega developers use a set of forms to define integrations. Not all Pega architects are skilled in building these integrations, and they rely on the highest skilled architects to work on Pega at this level. Pega rule-forms carry overhead, and are much of the reason that it cannot scale to performance.
With the changing technology landscape standardization is a key requirement for applications that customers implement. Standard based applications clearly enable agility, reduced costs of implementation and deliver on the key need to enable multiple solution components like Business Process Management, Rules Management, Integration Bus and API Management to work in consonance and deliver key benefits. IBM Smarter Process and IBM Integration Bus deliver an industry open standard based solution that addresses all these challenges.
So the next time you check out a BPM or an Integration product always ask them if it is cloud ready and open standards based. In our next posting we will explore how cloud ready are the BPM Solutions in the market and what’s different regarding IBM BPM smarter process cloud rendition. The answer will save you a lot of agony because that’s what separates the boys from the men!