The Tech Factor

SOA. ERP. EAI. ECM. BPM. BPM again. Yep. There are two BPMs – Business ProcessManagement, and Business Performance Management. C’mon already! Really, what is it we, all process professionals, are trying to accomplish?

There are still two “sides of the aisle” so to speak in the process improvement community. There’s the IT side, and then there’s the business side. The advent of object oriented technology and the development of modeling protocols like UML some 15 – 20 years ago by pioneers like Phillippe Kruchten and Grady Booch swung the door wide open for businesspeople with relatively light technical backgrounds (like myself) to develop application diagrams that were readily discernable by programmers. The current proliferation of Business Process Management Suites with their design environments, automated conversion to BPEL and instant enterprise deployment has all but obliterated the business – IT divide. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict with certainty where this is all going: the technical elite are being pushed way into the shadows as they create ever more simple means to develop in intuitive, graphical design environments. The need to understand the rigors of a procedural programming language is being relegated to the development of technologies that make that code all but invisible. Consequently, the IT function is becoming more macro-focused, and the bewildering array of acronyms is being adopted and interpreted by the business class.

It reminds me of 1995 or so when everyone wanted Java-based web applications. They didn’t know why, exactly, but they wanted them. I remember running a small web shop in New York at that time, and getting calls from people who asked, “Do you guys do Java?” No kidding. Five years ago it was ERP. Then EAI. These days it’s SOA and BPM. You wanna know something? It’s all the same thing: An attempt to standardize enterprise architecture by creating universal abstractions that can be extended for specific applications depending upon the enterprise. That’s right, certain basic, redundant elements of the enterprise system are encapsulated into archetypal forms so they can be utilized throughout the enterprise with minor modification (i.e., they’re polymorphic).

Hmmm. Abstraction? Extensibility? Encapsulation? Polymorphism? That sounds a whole lot like object oriented technology, no? And as we come full circle we genuinely believe we’re innovating, when really all we’re doing is evolving – a natural, logical progression using now ancient ideas but applied in a brilliant way.

So let’s stop with the acronyms. We all want the same thing.