Posts Tagged ‘BPM’

Act Intelligently To Ensure E-Forms Are Applications

May 26, 2010

 This might be the information age but we are still obsessed with paper. As much as 62% of important documents are still archived as paper, according to content management association AIIM.

 Worse still, we often fail to use electronic forms of delivery when our fascination with the printed word is broken. Rather than simplifying business processes, electronic formatting too often adds a further layer of complication.

 Electronic forms – or e-forms – are a digital version of paper forms that should help eliminate the need to rely on paper. E-forms should also help firms encode data for multiple purposes, so that electronic data can be used in various ways to help improve information processing.

 But rather than implement a simple and disciplined approach to electronic form-filling, too many companies have multiple versions of ‘the truth’ stored in many different formats, from paper to spreadsheets and onto online forms of encoding.

 The simple message to technology leaders facing this morass of information is stop and think about the way your firm processes data. Analyst Gartner has produced a five-stage maturity model to help businesses bridge the paper-to-digital divide.

 The model provides a way for firms to deliver a return on investment as they move from paper-based data gathering to an optimised management process at the final level.

 However, there is some worrying news. Just 20% of large enterprises will have reached the fifth level of Gartner’s maturity model for e-forms by the end of 2010, according to the analyst.

 More attention, then, needs to be paid to e-forms. Even more critically, real concentration must be centred on how information is collected as part of the end-user experience.

 Gartner’s fifth stage of maturity suggests that the e-form should become the single graphical user interface. Such an approach optimises data gathering, database management and customer engagement. To quote Gartner: “It’s a form, but it’s also a rich application”.

 Using rich internet applications (RIAs) – fully-featured software that runs in a browser – should allow your business to gather relevant data and complete transactions quicker. The whole user experience will be centred in one place, without the need for individuals to complete extraneous e-forms.

 Such speed and convenience will mean your business can move towards an optimised management process. But becoming one of the firms that has a mature approach to e-forms will mean you need to act intelligently.


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The contradiction of BPM…

January 12, 2010

For IT professionals, it is an important question: does service-oriented architecture (SOA) include business process management (BPM), or is BPM an architectural approach in its own right?

Many BPM vendors talk about SOA, suggesting a clear link between both strategies. SOA is an approach for making best use of existing resources in new and loosely coupled arrangements.

BPM, on the other hand, aims for continual improvement through the integration of technology. Proponents of both approaches stress the use of terms such as flexibility, innovation and optimisation.

In fact, some experts – such as research group Forrester (see further reading, below) – believe a new and combined category of SOA and BPM software products is emerging, a category that creates business process capabilities using the service-oriented approach. In my opinion, such characterisations are false.

Vendors might be keen to talk about the integration of SOA and BPM; they might also be keen to highlight how their product suites provide the benefits of service orientation and process control.

But what many vendors do not talk about is how using a specific BPM supplier can create tie-in. And what is service-oriented about a strategy that means you can’t pick and choose resources?

Remember that BPM is a product, rather than an approach. Choosing BPM creates an attachment to a number of specialist tools, many of which overlap with an SOA approach.

For roles management in BPM, which defines specific positions for people involved in the process chain, think of identity management in SOA, where rights can be modified flexibly in-line with changing project demands.

Integration is another area of concern. A BPM suite will help provide a workflow link between people, applications and services. Sounds good, but an enterprise service bus (ESB) abstraction layer will allow you to integrate components in a service-oriented fashion – without the tie-in often required by BPM platforms.

In BPM analytics are provided by a Business Activity Monitoring and in SOA this is the role of Business Intelligence tools. Whilst some BPM tools allow you to use third party rules engines (Business Rules Management Systems – BRMS), generally they will have their own.

Finally, most BPM implementations include a form builder that captures business data in a viewable form. In the case of SOA, firms can make use of an open presentation platform – like edgeConnect – that allows firms to create all their user interface requirementrs (e.g. Rich Internet, Portal, Offline, Accessible, Pure HTML and Mobile) not just basic HTML workflow screens.

So your choice is simple: take all the elements from a BPM specialist that might require you to stay wedded to a specific platform. Or aim for a service-oriented approach that allows you to pick required layers from a real specialist.

If you’re really aiming for flexibility and optimisation, the choice shouldn’t be too difficult.

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Further reading

http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid26_gci1238154,00.html

The Front Tier Of SOA – building from the front to back

July 16, 2008

Building from the front to the back…Most discussions about service-oriented architecture (SOA) concentrate on back-end issues, such as middleware and integration. Such a healthy debate fails to recognise one key concern – your users will not make the most of SOA if they cannot access information.

Unfortunately, a failure to recognise the importance of the front-end is not confined to industry debate and many SOA implementations actually focus on the back-end, rather than the user interface.

The result? Initiatives are created with the technology in-mind, rather than concentrating on the demands of the user. And in such circumstances, your SOA system will not be flexible enough to meet future changes in demand.

Posthumous alterations can be complicated and have a serious impact on your business. So focus on a number of key issues as you develop your front-end: interaction, compliance and standards.

Have a strong awareness of how users interact because new forms of presentation are likely to be crucial to your SOA strategy. Mash-up applications, for example, can allow business users to create new and useful combinations of information and researcher Forrester estimates spending on mash-ups will reach $700m a year by 2013.

You will also need to prioritise governance. Analyst Butler Group recently suggested that failure to address business rules and security policies at the design stage can lead to complex change management at a later stage.

Finally, think about the types of formats and frameworks you will use to help guarantee a top-quality user interface. Make the wrong choices at an early stage and you could restrict further development opportunities at the front-end.

This three pronged approach shows that sometimes it makes sense to concentrate on the presentation details before you look at the foundations. Such a grounded approach to service-orientation can ensure the demands of users are met.

 


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