A solution model for integrating BPM and package solutions

This article describes a solution model that integrates enterprise business process management solutions with existing package solutions and other non-package applications, focusing on enabling businesses to realize the business agility and flexibility. The proposed solution model comprises an externalized BPM layer that can be built using key IBM® technologies and tools, and that can be integrated with ERP package solutions, such as SAP® and Oracle®. This content is part of the IBM Business Process Management Journal.

Kishore Channabasavaiah (kishorec@us.ibm.com), Distinguished Engineer, IBM

Kishore Channabasavaiah photoKishore Channabasavaiah is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO of the Smarter Buildings Solutions team in IBM Global Services. He has been with IBM for more than 14 years and has been at the forefront in delivering leading edge technology solutions to address client business problems. In his role as the Chief Architect of the Business Performance and Service Optimization and SOA Center of Excellence, his focus includes developing thought leadership content in the areas of BPM and SOA, including reference architectures, solution delivery methods and estimation models in addition to working with a broad range of cross-industry clients.



Paul Tennyson (Paul.Tennyson@uk.ibm.com), Associate Partner, SAP Enterprise Architect and Project Manager, IBM

Paul Tennyson photoPaul Tennyson is an Associate Partner in IBM UK Global Business Services specializing in Enterprise Application solutions based on SAP. He is SAP CTO for the North-East Europe Region, acting as Lead Architect and with responsibilities to drive innovation in leveraging advanced technologies to exploit and enhance SAP-centric solutions. Paul has more than 25 years of IT experience, including 15 years working with SAP, during which he has designed and delivered technical solutions on large, complex, multinational SAP programs for a range of large clients.



14 December 2011

Also available in Chinese

Introduction

Enterprises of all sizes are facing an ever growing need to meet the challenge of the changing world, including globalization, shorter times to market, and competition from business of all sizes, in addition to requirements for cost reduction and responsiveness to change and flexibility. In recent years, executives in many of these organizations have started to strategize on overcoming these challenges by embracing various approaches, including business process management (BPM) as a key foundation for delivering the desired business agility. These approaches are being driven by the availability of a new generation of more mature standards, technologies and tooling that are now available to build a foundation for business agility and flexibility. Another key challenge facing executives is the availability of a well-defined and adaptable architectural model for use with application package solutions that is integral to the BPM model they have adapted or considering for their enterprise. Because these package solutions form the foundation for application processing in many organizations and have been implemented over many years with significant investments, they cannot be ignored or discarded when considering a BPM approach.

This article provides an overview of an architecture and solution delivery model that integrates enterprise BPM solutions with package solutions and other non-package applications, focusing on enabling businesses to realize the goals of business agility and flexibility. We will discuss the approach for delivering package solutions with an externalized BPM layer. The externalized layer should include the capabilities of business process execution, business rules management and execution, business event monitoring and analytics. The solution delivery approach we will discuss can also be applied to a variety of package solutions including enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise asset management (EAM), and Smarter Planet™ and Smarter Buildings solutions.

In the article, we will elaborate how using a solution delivery approach is key to ERP package solutions, including SAP and Oracle. Software products from these vendors underpin the core business processes in many organizations and an effective deployment of the solution model needs to take advantage the capabilities of ERP software. We will provide a high-level architectural view of the solution model, along with its building blocks and key characteristics, as well as the value proposition of the proposed approach. Finally, we will discuss the technologies, tooling and IBM software solutions you can use as the building blocks for the solution model, with references to other vendor products where relevant.


Executive overview

Package solutions are architected with a set of tightly coupled processes and applications, which are designed to address the requirements of the business domain that they target. These domains include ERP, CRM, EAM, and a series of other solution-specific packages from a broad range of vendors, including SAP, Oracle, and others. However, agile enterprises demand business processes that transcend the capabilities delivered by these package solutions.

The solution model discussed here includes an externalized BPM layer as a key component of the enterprise solution architecture that integrates the capabilities delivered by package solutions and is extensible to other non-package applications within the enterprise, the wider ecosystem of business partners, and cloud-hosted solutions. This externalized layer includes business process execution, business rules management and execution, event monitoring and analytics capabilities. Security, performance, user access and interaction management are all integral to this BPM solution layer, which can be delivered using state-of-art products, tools and technologies.

In today's dynamic business environment, enterprises require business agility. The BPM solution model described in this article enables enterprises to deliver sustained growth with a focus on improved customer satisfaction. Business agility, necessary for operational excellence and to meet the demands of the changing business climate, is enabled with the BPM + Package Solutions model we will present. The model enables businesses to realize increased profitability and shareholder value by providing a set of unified, flexible BPM capabilities to the entire ecosystem, including the extended enterprise. A unified analytics framework delivers real-time enterprise status extending beyond the package solution centric views.


Package solutions background

Package application software has held an important place, and a growing level of importance, in the IT portfolio of many organizations over the last 20 years. Application packages can now be found to cater for a vast range of both general and very specialized functionality in just about every industry and process area. Package applications remove the burden of developing and maintaining core software in-house.

The ultimate development of package application software came in the form of ERP systems, notably from the European software vendor SAP and from Oracle. ERP software emerged in the 1990s, and holds a prominent position in many large organizations today by enabling broad integration across the enterprise, including:

  • Process integration across multiple areas such as sales, procurement, accounting, supply chain management and manufacturing
  • Geographical integration through consolidation of multiple countries, multiple languages and multiple currencies into a single system

ERP systems remove the silos in which many early software packages operated, and have established a dominant position as the foundational application platform within many large and complex enterprises in a number of industry sectors.

ERP revolutionized the package application market by providing software capabilities with the following characteristics:

  • A wide scope of business functionality integrated at the transactional level; for example, fully integrated sales, inventory management, and financials.
  • Use of open systems based on the (then) leading-edge client-server technology
  • Multi-language, multi-currency capabilities

SAP is a world-leading ERP software provider. Oracle is the other major vendor with a well-established ERP suite based both on its original, in-house developed application software, as well as its acquired application portfolio.

ERP rode multiple waves of IT popularity very successfully to become pervasive as the transactional software backbone in many organizations. It has attained strategic significance in some industry sectors. Many large-scale, multinational organizations have used ERP software as the platform to:

  • Restructure business operations, including internal and external supply chains, trading models, shared services organizations, and so on.
  • Streamline processes, harmonize and standardize across the organization, and reduce cost.

Originally rooted in the core applications of finance and back-office processes, ERP vendors have extended their footprint to cover areas of process including customer and supplier relationship management, supply chain management, human capital management, product lifecycle management, and so on. They have also brought to market their own technical architectures, such as SAP NetWeaver and Oracle Fusion, as the underlying platforms for execution, access and integration of their respective package software.

ERP offers an extensive, rich, and evolving product set, with vendors maintaining their own proprietary architectures and working with an ecosystem of partners to provide extended solutions for customers. ERP application packages are capable of delivering substantial benefits to organizations, providing:

  • A modern, sophisticated software solution as the foundation for business processing
  • Standardized, harmonized processes implemented where required through the entire organization
  • A common business model with visibility of material and financial movements across the entire enterprise
  • Real-time integration of functional areas at the transactional level
  • A common data model with harmonized master data and data standards

Effective use of BPM in conjunction with ERP needs to recognize this, and mandates a solution model, value proposition and design framework that seek to work with, and extend the capabilities of the package and its associated technical architecture.


Solution model overview

The solution model for BPM and package solutions includes a set of key building blocks that are architected with an externalized BPM layer with interfaces to enterprise transaction systems. Although the focus here is on BPM with package solutions, the solution model is extensible to non-package, custom and hosted solutions.

The externalized BPM layer is designed to include a set of capabilities that collectively will deliver the required agile enterprise business processes and applications. These capabilities include process execution, business rules management and execution, business event monitoring and enterprise business analytics. In addition, the capabilities integral to this layer include security, access control, authorization and local data repository, which collectively deliver the agile capabilities desired by businesses of all sizes. These processes are delivered through the externalized BPM layer, while leveraging the capabilities of the package solutions and other applications. The capabilities of externally hosted applications, including private or public cloud solutions, and other vendor partner applications are also included in this layer.

The package solutions that are integral to the solution model include ERP solutions like SAP and Oracle, in addition to asset management and Smarter Planet solutions that are already in place or in the process of being considered or implemented at enterprises of all sizes across the globe. A number of key capabilities including process execution, rule processing, and application monitoring are integral to the package solutions and are designed to deliver package-specific application functionality. The solution model described here uses these capabilities as-is in relevant instances. In other instances, these capabilities are extended and integrated with other enterprise capabilities delivered by custom applications and externally hosted applications in the externalized BPM layer to deliver a rich set of agile business process functionality. In addition, the capabilities in the externalized BPM layer are able to enrich the package applications with enterprise analytics and visualization, which was limited to the package functionality.

The solution model is architected to use the standard set of services or application programming interfaces integral to the package solutions, including the ERP solutions, for integration with the externalized BPM layer. In addition, similar services and application programming interfaces are leveraged for integration of the custom and externally hosted applications.

Figure 1 shows the solution model of the externalized BPM layer and package solutions.

Figure 1. The solution model
The solution model

Characteristics of the externalized BPM layer

The externalized layer uses BPM software building blocks to enable agile applications and business processes. The building blocks included in this layer are modular and this layer would typically need to be architected from multiple separate components, each of which executes externally to the package application software, while interacting with it by leveraging the published interfaces.

In many instances, the package solutions, especially the ERP solutions like SAP and Oracle, are delivered with inherent functional capabilities that provide some level of process execution, rules management, event management and analytics. These capabilities are tightly integrated into the application logic of the package solutions and are designed to operate within the context of the package solutions only. The building blocks of the externalized BPM layer can co-exist with these package integral components and deliver functionality for the overall enterprise, thereby extending the package-specific services and also enabling the realization of the business's goal of business agility.

The key building blocks of the externalized BPM layer are:

  • Process execution engine
  • Business rules management and execution system
  • Business events monitoring system
  • Business analytics system

A set of additional building blocks are also part of this layer. This includes components for security, access control and authorization, a web-based and intuitive user interface, and a local data repository.

The process execution engine

The process execution engine is a key building block of the externalized BPM layer, which orchestrates the flow of processes, responds to event triggers, consumes services to deliver required functionality, enables access to application data, monitors state and guides the flow of processes based on human interactions and business rules. The engine provides visibility and insight to manage business processes in addition to supporting high volumes of automation and system integration. The engine can be used for enterprise-grade solutions that demand a high degree of workflow functionality and productivity, in addition to meeting the requirements for process enhancement.

The process execution engine component should provide the following features:

  • Managing the runtime execution of a process based on a series of defined process steps and decision points that make up the overall flow.
  • Ability to visualise the process through a process model defined in this layer or imported in a standard format from a modeling tool.
  • Ability to handle workflows with human interactions through forms and screens, as well as orchestrate processes across multiple applications.
  • Ability to support enterprise integration and transaction process management with a business user focus.
  • Ability to support business user driven run-time change management for process enhancements.
  • Ability to support collaboration for process lifecycle management.
  • Ability to visualize and track process performance.

Business rules management and execution system

The business rules component enables the definition, implementation and execution of business rules as a loosely coupled architectural building block of the externalized BPM layer. The business rules system integral to this layer is used as a common component across the enterprise and can interface with all other enterprise systems discussed here and with other systems that are part of the overall ecosystem. The rules system can also coexist with any similar component that is tightly coupled and bundled with the package solution.

The purpose of the business rules component is to enable decision management based on policies and rules. These values may directly form outputs used in a process, such as price calculations or discount values, or they may determine the flow of a process; for example, where the policies and rules determine authorization requirements, exceptions or alerts.

The business rules management component should provide the following key features:

  • Capabilities to automate context-specific decisions based on process execution and other events.
  • Ability to support run-time change management of rules and policies.
  • Ability to support enterprise-grade decision management services that deliver high performance and scalability.

Business events monitoring

This component enables the monitoring of business processes to detect exception conditions, errors and delays, in turn triggering additional process steps to respond to these conditions. Critically, this component is able to detect and respond to events that are recorded outside the externalized BPM layer, for example in the package or other software applications. Business events may be triggered by a range of conditions. The common factor is that all such conditions require a response to the event that is handled within the externalized BPM layer. These include, for example, the completion of certain steps (for example, a goods receipt), reaching threshold values (for example, low stock situations), variations from forecast or plan, service level exceptions, and things failing to happen (for example, delivery expected but not arrived).

The business monitoring component should provide the following key features:

  • Ability to support the monitoring of business processes as an integrated comprehensive business activity monitoring building block.
  • Ability to seamlessly integrate and interface with the other components of the externalized BPM layer, including the process, rules and analytics engines.
  • Capabilities to enable business user customization for the required data filtering and dashboard controls and reports.
  • A customizable security environment to enable varying degrees of information access based on user roles.

Business analytics

The business analytics component potentially plays two distinct roles in the solution model:

  • It is a source of analytics data providing KPIs to enable the improvement and optimization of processes.
  • Business analytics can exploit new capabilities such as real-time or predictive analytics to enable the triggering of business events and the execution of new types of processes.

As a key building block of the externalized BPM layer, the analytics component empowers different users, including business and knowledge workers, with real-time and historical analytics information to optimize business processes.

The business analytics component should provide the following key features:

  • A comprehensive, integrated platform for delivering broad analytics capabilities including business intelligence needs, such as planning, analysis, reports, dashboards, and scorecards.
  • Ability to deliver consistent and timely information for all identified and authorized user communities.

In addition to these key building blocks, the externalized BPM layer also must have connectivity to the package solutions to enable the following:

  • Receipt of event triggers from the package to initiate processes.
  • Retrieval or entry of data to and from the application database.

When used in conjunction with an externalized BPM layer, therefore, the role of the package solutions and, even more so, the ERP remains important, but differs from scenarios in which the package is used standalone. The role of the package solutions in the combined solution model is as follows:

  • Generate business events (that is, triggering a process).
  • Provide enterprise services for consumption by the externalized BPM layer.
  • Execute subprocesses and business rules below the granularity of an enterprise service.
  • Maintain the transactional integrity of enterprise data.
  • Act as a repository and record of truth (for both transactional and master data).

Connectivity between the externalized BPM layer and package solutions, including ERP solutions, may be achieved through available package services and service interfaces, or through other package APIs. Alternatively, where standard package service interfaces or APIs are not available, or connectivity to multiple applications is required, an integration broker can be used to provide connectivity to applications for retrieval of data.


The value proposition

Traditionally, a package software implementation has sought to maximize the use of standard or "vanilla" functionality as far as possible, using standard configuration options and minimizing the amount of custom development work needed. Processes are bent to fit the capabilities of the package rather than the other way round. This is problematic because, in an agile enterprise, differentiation and unique market responsiveness is core to their value and business models, and this generally requires unique and differentiating processes.

The BPM + Package Solutions model extends the range of options to implement business processes. An ERP system is likely to provide broad functionality within the package, and the externalized BPM layer adds a level of cost and complexity to the environment. Hence, given the ever-present option of using the "vanilla" approach, any process design decision must address the question "What is the benefit of doing this outside basic package configuration?"

However, BPM with package solutions, especially ERP, has the potential to drive further value by extending the capabilities of the core package and addressing pain points experienced by many existing implementations. ERP packages are rarely implemented with business agility in mind--often qutie the opposite: they are used to harmonize, standardize, control, simplify, enforce conformance, and drive out cost.

Increasingly, a set of pain points is being experienced with ERP package implementations, especially if they are long-established and suffering from legacy system problems:

  • High cost of ownership: ERP is perceived as requiring large support teams and being expensive to run. BPM offers a means of system simplification and easier change, which contributes to reduced total cost of ownership (TCO).
  • Inherent inflexibility in the system: The tightly coupled nature of the system locks organizations into periodic (3- or 6-month release cycles). BPM enables greater agility and flexibility in the system.
  • Usability: This is a common cause of dissatisfaction with ERP software, if rarely a major obstacle to its usage. Much, though not all, of the software still uses a client-server based GUI which, by today's standards, is complex and unintuitive. BPM offers the opportunity for more intuitive ways of using ERP and improved acceptance in the business community.
  • Limited scope: ERP software extends only to the boundaries to which the vendor has developed it. BPM offers a means of extending the scope of ERP, integrating across applications and across enterprises, further using the asset and building end-to-end processes.

The value provided by the externalized BPM layer is in enabling the following characteristics of process implementation with ERP:

  • Process enhancement: BPM provides an alternative to time-consuming custom development and the need for cumbersome manual workarounds, where there is a gap between business requirements and standard package functionality.
  • Process flexibility and agility: Processes and business rules are loosely coupled and not tightly bound up in application configuration settings and code. They can be changed more flexibly in response to business conditions, avoiding long change and test cycles.
  • Process visibility: Processes can be made more explicit and presented to users in a more intuitive way.
  • Process orchestration: End-to-end processes can execute across multiple applications.
  • Process monitoring and metrics: Processes can be monitored in real-time, allowing rapid and flexible response to exception conditions. KPIs can be defined and tracked relating to process performance.
  • Process improvement: More responsive and flexible feedback is possible to enable continuous improvement.

Key considerations

To guide you through these options, a set of design guidelines is needed to address the following questions:

  • When should you implement a process solely using the capabilities of the package, and when should you externalize?
  • How can a process be supported by the wider range of components (as in the extended architecture described above) and how are these brought into the process design?

We suggest a set of design criteria below, based on the process characteristics that should be analyzed to determine the most appropriate approach. Process models used in ERP implementations typically do not identify characteristics of a process that would help guide these design choices. Below are some suggested guidelines that can be developed into a design framework for using an externalized BPM layer with ERP packages.

Table 1 shows the characteristics of processes suitable for implementation within package solutions and, more specifically, within ERP packages

Table 1: Characteristics of processes suitable for implementation within the ERP package software

Characteristics indicating benefit of implementation within the ERP package

  • Process standardized across the organization
  • Process steps are executed transactionally by trained users
  • Requirement for high throughput / fast response times
  • Process internal to the organization
  • Process requires only transactional data held in ERP package
  • Process is governed by legal, statutory or accounting requirements
  • Transactional integrity / reconciliation is key

Table 2 shows the characteristics of processes suitable for implementation in an externalized BPM layer integral to the BPM + Package Solutions model.

Table 2: Characteristics of processes suitable for implementation in an externalized BPM layer

Process characteristics indicating benefits in implementation using an externalized BPM layer

  • Process not supported by "vanilla" package implementation; gap requires extensive custom development or manual workarounds
  • Process needs to change frequently in response to business conditions
  • Business rules need to change frequently in response to business conditions
  • Process is workflow-based, involving a significant amount of human interaction for reviews, approvals, and actions based on notifications governed by a set of rules
  • Process is based on case management, where a case has a lifecycle that follows a long-running and dynamic route through different parts of the organization
  • Process is executed infrequently by management users
  • Parts of the process are executed by customers, business partners or the general public
  • Process directly impacts customer experience (for example, returns or complaints)
  • Process is triggered by a business event
  • Process is executed partly by third party organizations on a collaborative basis
  • Process requires access to analytical processing for event processing or decision support
  • Process uses unstructured information from internal or external sources
  • Process KPIs need to be measured
  • Process is currently broken (long lead times, poor quality, many exceptions, errors not detected)

Usage scenarios

A range of different usage scenarios, or design patterns, can be envisioned when considering a package solution with an externalized BPM layer. A generic usage approach is not always applicable. Rather, you should select an appropriate design pattern for an individual process or subprocess, using the process characteristics and benefits outlined above as guidelines.

One or more design patterns can be selected for an individual process or subprocess. Therefore, it is possible, even likely, that different design patterns could coexist within the scope of usage of a single package system. Furthermore, different design patterns might be used in parallel for the same process, perhaps as appropriate for different channels or different user types (for example, one design pattern for an in-house sales order processing team, another for self-service order-entry by business partners).

The following sections outline some significant design patterns.

Externalized BPM layer not used (traditional ERP)

In this usage scenario, a business process is implemented within the ERP system, using the traditional ERP approach, making use of package application functionality, configuration, workflow, and custom development. Integration with other applications is through standard interfaces, but without process orchestration.

Figure 2. Traditional package solution
Traditional package solution

Externalized BPM layer with focus on monitoring

In this pattern, a business process is implemented within ERP system, again using the traditional approach. However, the externalized BPM layer "shadows" the process and provides a process-focused monitoring capability based on events triggered by the ERP package.

This pattern supports the value propositions of process visibility and process monitoring.

Figure 3. Externalized layer with no process execution capabilities
Externalized layer with no process execution capabilities

Externalized BPM layer with single package instance

In this pattern, a business process is implemented in the externalized BPM layer, but still supported by services and data contained within a single ERP. Knowledge and control of the business process are within the externalized BPM layer, not the package software.

This pattern supports the value propositions of process enhancement, process flexibility and agility, process visibility and process monitoring.

Figure 4. Externalized layer with single package solution instance
Externalized layer with single package solution instance

Externalized BPM layer used with multiple package instances and other applications

In this pattern, a business process is externalized, accessing services and data across multiple SAP and other application systems. The BPM layer also provides cross-application process orchestration, replacing traditional point-to-point or broker interface mechanisms for process orchestration.

This pattern supports multiple value propositions and offers the potential for the most transformational application of the BPM layer.

Figure 5. Externalized layer with multiple package solution instances
Externalized layer with multiple package solution instances

The solution delivery approach

This section describes a high-level solution delivery approach leveraging the BPM + Package Solutions model. The high-level overview is based on two key ERP solutions delivered by SAP and Oracle. The overview uses the SAP application suite along with the SAP NetWeaver™ stack, and the Oracle Fusion® application suite and Oracle Fusion middleware to discuss the adoption of the BPM + Package Solutions model for delivering ERP solutions with an externalized BPM layer.

Externalized BPM layer and SAP

Building its success on the groundbreaking SAP R/3 ERP package, SAP now provides a wide range of application components and industry solutions delivering functionality in a number of key business areas.

The SAP application suite includes:

  • Enterprise resource planning
  • Customer relationship management
  • Supplier relationship management
  • Supply chain management
  • Product lifecycle management

Furthermore, SAP provides a foundational multi-level technical architecture in which these application components operate, based on its NetWeaver product stack.

The SAP NetWeaver technical foundation stack includes:

  • SAP Web Application Server
  • Business Warehouse (BW) (Reporting and Analytics)
  • Process Integration (PI) (Integration)
  • Portal (User interaction)
  • Master Data Management (MDM)
  • Solution Manager (SolMan)
  • Business Process Management (BPM)
  • Business Rules Management (BRM)

Figure 6 shows the BPM + Package Solutions model with the externalized BPM layer and SAP application suite and SAP NetWeaver stack

Figure 6. Externalized BPM layer and SAP
Externalized BPM layer and SAP

SAP is enhancing and further continuing to extend its portfolio with newly acquired products, for example from Sybase and Business Objects, that provide capabilities in mobility and analytics.

While the core SAP application components listed above reside in the package solution layer of the solution model described in this document, some of the foundational NetWeaver components are capable of being positioned in the externalized BPM layer to deliver capabilities of process execution (NetWeaver BPM), business rules management (NetWeaver BRM), event monitoring (SolMan) and enterprise analytics (BW and Business Objects tools).

Externalized BPM layer and Oracle

The Oracle Fusion application suite is the core package solutions offering from Oracle. This core is built on top of the Oracle Fusion middleware suite that forms the foundation for the package solutions suite that delivers the business transaction capabilities.

Oracle Fusion applications are business applications that address the requirements of sales performance management, financial productivity and information access with native, real-time intelligence, risk management and compliance, human capital management, supply chain management, portfolio management and supply chain management.

The Oracle Fusion middleware is the application infrastructure foundation for the business applications suite and includes a set of integrated feature-rich technology components. These include a foundation based on SOA and event-driven architecture (EDA) and are comprised of a portfolio of technologies and capabilities including run-time services foundation, BPM, business intelligence, transaction processing, data integration, identify management, master data management, and developer tools.

The Oracle Fusion application suite includes

  • Oracle Fusion Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Oracle Fusion Financials
  • Oracle Fusion Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC)
  • Oracle Fusion Human Capital Management (HCM)
  • Oracle Fusion Procurement
  • Oracle Fusion Project Portfolio Management (PPM)
  • Oracle Fusion Supply Chain Management

The Oracle Fusion middleware suite is comprised of a set of integral components, including:

  • Business Intelligence
  • Business Process Management
  • Data Integration
  • Developer Tools
  • Enterprise Data Quality
  • Identity Management
  • In-Memory Data Grid
  • Master Data Management
  • Oracle User Productivity Kit
  • SOA Governance
  • Transaction Processing
  • WebCenter
  • WebLogic Server

Figure 7 shows the BPM + Package Solutions model with the externalized BPM layer and the Oracle Fusion application suite and Oracle Fusion middleware.

Figure 7. Externalized BPM layer and Oracle
Externalized BPM layer and Oracle

The functionality of the Oracle Fusion application suite can be integrated with the externalized BPM layer, as shown in Figure 7, along with the other enterprise applications to deliver the desired flexibility to the business. In addition, a subset of the components of the Oracle Fusion middleware suite can be effectively used as the building blocks of the externalized BPM layer in the BPM + Package Solutions model.

Tools and technologies

The externalized BPM layer of the BPM + Package Solutions model can be architected, designed, implemented and deployed leveraging a portfolio of technologies and tools made available by the different vendors, including IBM, the package solution vendors like SAP and Oracle, and also by niche third party vendors. The implementation of this layer is not dependent on any specific technologies or tools and also is not tied to any specific vendor products. Products made available by different vendors, though, have differing maturity levels, feature sets and capabilities,and can be effectively used to deliver the functionality of the externalized BPM layer. In addition, a combination of best-of-breed tools and technologies from different vendors that have proven integration and interaction capabilities can be used to deliver the solution model described here. This may be useful in cases where certain tools are already available within the enterprise tools portfolio, and provides for better use of existing resources along with acquiring the right tooling set to address the gaps in the enterprise tooling portfolio.

As discussed earlier, tools and technologies for realizing the externalized BPM layer are made available from a number of vendors including IBM and package solutions providers. Some of the tools, technologies and products made available by IBM are included in this section. Similar tools may be available from the package solutions and niche third party vendors that fulfill the requirements of the building blocks of the externalized BPM layer of the BPM + Package Solutions model.

IBM product offerings for the externalized BPM layer

The following sections describe the IBM products you can use for the externalized BPM layer in the BPM + Package Solutions model.

Design and development tools

  • IBM Blueworks Live is a cloud-based BPM tool that enables the discovery, design, automation, and management of business processes for organizations of all sizes.
  • IBM WebSphere® ILOG® JRules Studio is a comprehensive development environment for rule-based applications that is built on the Eclipse IDE. This enables developers to easily build and deploy rule-based applications that automate fine-grained, variable decisions used by business systems, while reducing the time, effort and cost of application development and ongoing maintenance.
  • IBM Integration Designer is an Eclipse-based tool for implementing SOA-based BPM and integration solutions across IBM WebSphere Process Server, WebSphere ESB, and WebSphere Adapters. In addition, it integrates testing, debugging, and deployment for solution development and enables business-driven development, fully integrating with WebSphere Business Modeler to import models for rapid implementation.

Run-time tools

  • IBM Business Process Manager (Advanced, Standard, and Express) is a comprehensive BPM platform providing visibility and insight to manage business processes. The Advanced edition provides visibility and management of business processes with support for high-volume automation and extensive system integration; the Standard edition is ideal for multi-project improvement programs with high business involvement and a focus on workflow and productivity; and the Express edition is ideal for initial process improvement projects that require business involvement and a quick turnaround.
  • IBM WebSphere ILOG JRules provides functionality to build and deploy rule-based applications for Java™, mainframe, SOA, and BPM environments. JRules includes a complete set of execution capabilities, including a high-performance and scalable rule engine, providing either inference or sequential-based rule execution.
  • IBM WebSphere Decision Server is an integrated environment for business rules management and business event processing technologies. It enables the detection of event-based business situations occurring across applications and systems. In addition, it enables the automation of precise, context-specific decisions in response to detected event patterns. Decision Server is an integral component of IBM WebSphere Operational Decision Management along with WebSphere Decision Center.
  • IBM Business Monitor is a comprehensive, cross-process, cross-system, high-performance business activity monitoring (BAM) software offering that enables the monitoring of business activity across the enterprise ecosystem. It provides users visibility into real-time, end-to-end business operations, transactions, and processes to help optimize processes and increase efficiency. IBM Business Monitor includes fine-grained security to enable or prevent anyone the viewing of a wide range of information detail.
  • IBM Case Manager unites information, process, and people to provide a 360-degree view of case information and achieve optimized outcomes. It provides a foundation for capturing organizational best practices through templates and an extensible infrastructure for meeting specific vertical and horizontal needs, reducing the time-to-value. In addition, Case Manager enables sophisticated decision management capabilities through a simplified and integrated business rules management approach.
  • WebSphere Business Events is a comprehensive business events processing system that enables businesses to detect, evaluate, and respond to the impact of business events based on the discovery of actionable event patterns and line-of-business insight and awareness around event-driven business conditions. WebSphere Business Events increases business agility by enabling faster responsiveness to customers, suppliers, and changing market needs.
  • IBM Cognos® Business Intelligence is an open, enterprise-class platform that delivers complete, consistent and timely information for user communities on an easily scalable infrastructure. The platform delivers business intelligence needs, such as reports, dashboards, scorecards, analysis and planning with reduced complexity, increased return on investment and lower cost of ownership.
  • IBM SPSS Predictive Analytics encapsulates advanced mathematical and statistical expertise to extract predictive knowledge that, when deployed into existing processes, makes them adaptive to improve outcomes. The suite includes a comprehensive set of capabilities, including data collection, statistics, and data modeling, in addition to enabling the integration of the power of analytics into the DNA of businesses
  • IBM Business Process Manager Industry Packs are a set of pre-built assets to help accelerate delivery of standards-based BPM industry solutions for banking, healthcare, and telecommunications. Each industry-specific pack integrates seamlessly with BPM components and provides a variety of pre-built assets to help accelerate and enhance process optimization through BPM solution delivery.

Summary

In this article, we introduced a comprehensive solution model for BPM with package solutions and, more specifically, ERP package solutions. The solution model, with an externalized BPM layer along with package software, has the potential to extend and enhance the process capabilities of the package software itself. However, effective exploitation of the externalized BPM layer depends on an understanding of the value proposition for implementing processes in this layer, and the process characteristics that support an externalized, rather than a traditional, package-based approach to implementation. In this article, we outlined a set of usage scenarios or design patterns and introduced a framework for process characterization to help identify the appropriate implementation patterns.

The solution described in this article has the potential to be developed in more detail to form an extension to the methodologies for both BPM and package software implementation to form the basis of a combined approach.

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Zone=WebSphere, Business process management, DevOps
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ArticleTitle=A solution model for integrating BPM and package solutions
publish-date=12142011