Archive for the ‘IT Architecture’ Category

Business process centric architecture

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

I am feeling quite pleased with myself for managing to get the word thrice into my last post.  Such a fine word don’t you think?

This post comes to you with the word analyst.  A dirty word in some parts of the blogosphere.

I have never paid an industry analyst but I am thinking of doing so.  Not to write some white paper promoting my company’s solutions and position us positively against our competitors.  I can write that free of charge and just as many potential customers will ignore it as if an analyst had written it.

What I actually want to achieve is to look at a wider industry trend.  I want to test whether today’s view of IT architecture is really becoming business process focussed.

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BPM and SOA at a local level?

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

More interesting coverage on alignment of BPM and SOA from Jean-Jacques Dubray got me thinking about what a large undertaking it would be to make such an implementation enterprise wide.

I am not trying to open up the bottom up versus top down argument here, already eloquently covered by Todd Biske.  Rather, I am trying to think of things as central or local.

I like the idea of tools that can implement local solutions to local problems.  Clearly central control is required or the IT infrastructure will run out of control.

However, IT departments are struggling to meet the ever growing number of change requests and have only blunt tools and scarce resources to address them.  So the business users get “wait for the strategic solution” (read between the lines “some months/years away if successful at all”).

Is it possible to provide solutions that are powerful but temporary?  Should these solutions be capable of fitting into a future architecture based around BPM and SOA?  Should business users have the privilege of not having to wait years for strategic solutions but be able to capture key process benefits right now?

Thrice yes in my view.

Rogue IT and hardware

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

The Blue Prism Rogue IT survey has generated quite a lot of coverage, but I was particularly interested to read Rogue IT and magic wands by Patrick Ancipink.

I am one of the people that falls into the trap of forgetting about the harder parts of the infrastructure, in particular, networks.  Not only do they “just work” but everything is plug and play these days isn’t it?

In the hype surrounding software architecture and particularly SOA, it’s easy to forget that hordes of IT people dedicate their time to making sure that the software has a hardware infrastructure to feed it.  Furthermore that this community has the same concerns about alignment of business and IT objectives.

BPM is a workaround then, or is it SOA?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

This press release landed in my in-tray this morning.  The basic premise is that enterprises are turning to BPM because the major systems (ERP, CRM etc) have not delivered the required flexibility in business processes.

There is a long held belief in the Build vs Buy debate that you either build and have a system that perfectly (or nearly) matches your business processes, or you buy a packaged application and change your business processes to what should be best practice.

But best practice (at least as determined by the software vendors) has some conceptual problems.  Firstly it assumes that all businesses are the same (they are not!).  Secondly it assumes that business users will accept the new processes (and so will their customers).  Thirdly it broadly ignores the existing IT infrastructure which varies enormously company by company.  Finally, it doesn’t acknowledge the massive amount of necessary change in business processes on an ongoing basis.

I think what we are seeing here is a user rebellion against large “benchmark” systems and the users are trying to address this with their own workarounds, or with BPM or similar.

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Should tactical solutions have an expiry date?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Todd Biske raises an interesting point about tactical solutions.

Tactical solutions often become permanent because once a problem is off the radar, the importance of allocating budget and resource to the longer term strategic solution drops right down the priority list.

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Is SOA success down to the business/IT relationship?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Clive Longbottom writing at The Register asks is SOA dead or alive?

Clive contrasts successes in Scandinavia against failures and lack of adoption in the UK and puts this down to the difference in the IT/Business relationship.  In Scandinavia the relationship is more aligned and this has resulted in an incremental approach to SOA based on solving one business problem at a time within the context of an overall long term aim.  In the UK, the IT function has seen SOA as a massive corporate wide infrastructure upgrade which leaves the first local project with disproportionate upfront costs to swallow into its business case.  This often results in the business choosing to go for cheaper packaged solutions or worse still, the oxymoronic (and plain moronic) “tightly coupled” SOA implementation.

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What is Rogue IT?

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

In another sneak preview from the Blue Prism Rogue IT survey, respondents working in enterprise IT were asked what they considered to be “Rogue IT”.

I thought it would be fun to put it into a league table.  Again there were some results that I found surprising, for example the relatively high number who thought complex Excel spreadsheets were Rogue.  I would have expected more people to consider locally written VB scripts as rogue.  I also might have expected more IT people to put SaaS in the Rogue category but I guess that probably boils down to whether the SaaS is being used with the knowledge and consent of IT.

So here is the Rogue’s Gallery League Table with the percentage of “votes” for each one.

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More on enterprise mashups

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Following my last post on enterprise mash-ups where I looked at some of the companies integrating enterprise apps to automate business processes, I was thinking a bit more and doing a bit of Googling and came across a few more companies of interest.

You may recall I highlighted Blue Prism, Openspan, Seagull and Jacada as using mashup type integration to automate business processes.

But my traditional view of composite apps was that they were more about data aggregation, a sort of Google Mashup Editor creating a Google Home Page for enterprise data, allowing users (or user roles) to access and manipulate a personalised set of data sources relevant to the needs of their job.

Weaving in my last post on IBM’s view of the links between SOA and BPM where the business side of the enterprise is seen as people, processes and information, perhaps the different types of mashup tools are defined by how they link those three elements.  So if Blue Prism et al primarily extract data and turn this into information to execute business processes without human intervention, here are a few companies that seem to be good at turning data into information for human beings via the UI.

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Jeux Sans Frontières from IBM

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

According to Wikipedia, Jeux Sans Frontières was a game devised by Général Charles de Gaulle to encourage better relations between French and German youths.  In the 1960s there was still presumably a slight legacy of post-war frostiness between the occupier and the occupied country but at the same time a renewed optimism about European Union having signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957,

Following the Enterprise Software wars of the 1990’s and 2000’s a frostiness and lack of understanding developed between the Business and IT.  So in the post war optimism of the Software Optimised for Agreement (SOA) era, can IBM help repair the damage with their new Innov8 game?

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Enterprise Mashups – Composite 5.0???

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

I always thought of mashups as being internet based, for example using Google Maps to link to Salesforce.com and locate your customers on a map, much like Google Analytics shows me an overlay of where my website visits come from.

This is all great stuff but not very enterprise.  So when I heard the term “Enterprise Mashup” coined recently, I listened carefully.  Then I read this post by Jeff Nolan, a top notch blogger who I have been following for ages.  Jeff contends that “mashup” is the new “composite” and that mashups can apply equally to the enterprise world as the private individual and SME sectors.  As Jeff says:

“The fact of the matter is that it’s just a word, whether you call them composite applications, web services orchestration, SOA, next generation EAI, or  mashups, it just shouldn’t matter”

I can be a bit slow sometimes but when I read this I suddenly realised that this is the space that my company, Blue Prism plays in.  I hadn’t considered Blue Prism to be about mashups, or even a composite app really.  It’s a robotic back office that can non-invasively integrate corporate systems and turn them into automated business processes.

There are a number of vendors taking this more front ended view of integration so I thought it might be of interest to highlight a few.  The common theme here is that integration is “code-free” and further up the software stack than traditional EAI techniques. 

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