SOA and Business Processes: You are the Process! Part of the Industrial SOA article series

Business Process Management is a management discipline that thrives to improve process performance. If done right, BPM leads to appealing, user-friendly processes that provide information about productivity, that measure performance and that illustrate the potential for improvement while indicating the exact location in the overall process that potentially benefits from one of various process optimization strategies.

To deal with the complexity of modeling a company's business processes, business analysts proceed hierarchically and begin by describing a value chain (process level 0) through several levels of processes, until they reach a level on which they depict a detailed description of the activities of process participants. Figure 1 gives an overview of BPM with a figure for each modeling technology and the interaction with SOA services.

We see that Business Process Management and SOA go hand in hand: SOA enables BPM.

Figure 1: BPM and SOA: the bigger picture

At the highest level of the process hierarchy, the functional process blocks for end-to-end processes that potentially span departments in the overall organization are described in a high level, very abstract and coarse grained language, like IDS Scheer value chains. There is no branching, but they do include the most important business goals, ideally expressed as KPIs and other organizational aspects, such as assigning steps to departments.

At the next levels, the process steps are described hierarchically, with the level of detail increasing downward. This is done today in the lingua franca for business process models, Business Process Management and Notation (BPMN). Here the process participants or players in a process are represented as "swim lanes," which contain the process steps that are assigned to this participant.

At a middle hierarchical level (levels 1-3), the process participants are still included relatively roughly through the organizational units, such as the "Purchasing" department.

If you drill down deeper into the process details, you reach the fine-grained level (level 4), at which the activities of the process are represented through automatic system interactions via services and through human interactions These steps that are performed by individuals are called "human tasks." Tasks are specified through process participants in their task lists. The sequences within a task can be modeled and listed in detail in an enterprise portal as "page flows." Examples of human tasks are: Read the complete article here.

Share your comments and feedback on the Industrial SOA series by using the hashtag #industrialSOA. Read the full article at the Service Technology Magazine or Oracle Technology Network. Missed an article of the Industrial SOA series visit the overview at OTN.

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