Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Is BPM another form of business mashup?

I was going to write a review of QEDWiki today, but IBM’s recent announcement about their starter kit has made me decide to leave it until I can do some more investigation. Given the flood of articles and blog posts about IBM’s announcement, I’m sure nobody will miss that I’m going to post on something else.

Specifically, what does the BPM community think about mashups?

BPM and SOA have been joined at the hip for several years. With SOA, business processes could be deconstructed into participating services which could be re-assembled like LEGO® bricks and executed in a production environment. I believe, although many BPM advocates would disagree, that service orientation saved BPM as a discipline. Once an organization had SOA, BPM could be used to solve myriad business problems rather than just model them.

Given the BPM-SOA link, I was very interested to read this article published on BPM Institute’s site titled SOA And Mashups – What to use when by Dr. Raj Ramesh, a BPM and SOA implementation specialist. Interestingly and surprisingly, Ramesh believes that mashups and SOA are distinct techniques for solving business problems. He says, “The question then is whether IT should use SOA or should it use mashups?” Ramesh goes on to conclude that IT should use mashups if the application is a one-off, and SOA, with BPM as the consumer, if services have the potential for reuse.

Why was I surprised? SOA versus mashups is an apples-to-oranges comparison. He should have compared BPM and mashups instead. BPM, presentation mashups and data mashups are all SOA consumers. You might want to read Rich Seeley’s article on SOA consumption patterns for a quick overview of how mashups and BPM are related. Service orientation enables mashups, it doesn't compete with them.

In fact, I would argue that BPM based on SOA is itself a form of business mashup. BPM is process-centric, pulls together content from many sources and presents a unified view of the content to the process participants. Isn’t that a business mashup?

Earlier in the piece Ramesh said that, “SOA provides a methodical paradigm for a robust long-term architecture based implementation. Contrast these to mashups that are easier to develop but are a challenge to manage due to the immaturity of the tools.”

Clearly BPM practitioners don't yet see the relationship between BPM and business mashups. Too bad. With a little effort aimed at making their tools easier to deploy, BPM vendors could already be sitting on some pretty mature business mashup tools.


Sandy Kemsley said...

BPM definitely gives us mashup capabilities, although many are not using it in this way. I wrote about this almost two years ago and have been focussed on it ever since.

Shaw said...

Thanks, Sandy. I read your previous article with a lot of interest. Where is the rest of the BPM community talking about mashups? I would be very interested to read about it since the latest article from BPM Institute didn't seem to indicate BPM practitioners have made the BPM/mashup connection.

sandy said...

Unfortunately, much of the BPM community -- or at least the analysts/consultants who write about it -- are a bit...um...old-fashioned. When I mention mashups, they raise their collective eyebrows, pause, then resume their conversation. :)