During the last two decades, many enterprises have put business processes in the focus of their organizational strategies both for internal and collaborative business activities. Business process models provide the IT department with a semiformal, business-driven requirements basis for implementing business strategy into information systems (Scheer, 1999). However, despite notable progress in integration technologies such as workflow management systems (WMS) and enterprise application integration (EAI) systems, executing enterprise applications along a business process has remained the challenge of any universal business process management (BPM) approach. The most recent technology paradigm of service-oriented architecture (SOA) is expected to accomplish seamless and flexible business process automation (Krafzig, Banke, & Slama, 2005). The vision of loosely coupled services, that execute business activities across heterogeneous, distributed software systems via the Internet, captivates by the extent of flexibility and responsiveness given to business management. Thus, service-oriented computing represents more than a concept of software engineering. It is rather considered to be the ultimate driver for a complete business reformation, finally bridging the gap between business strategy and technological infrastructure. Beyond these visionary perspectives, the effects of service-orientation on BPM methods and techniques will be manifold and challenging both for research and practice.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Web Service: Defined by the W3C as a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over the Internet. Thus, a Web service is a self-contained, encapsulated software functionality provided to be used on-demand through standardized interfaces. Other systems interact with the Web service in a manner prescribed by its description using SOAP messages and WSDL-description, typically conveyed using HTTP with an XML serialization in conjunction with other Web-related standards. Due to the progress of standards like UDDI and BPEL, Web services can be flexibly discovered and combined to loosely coupled processes that again form a composite service.
Architecture of Integrated Information Systems (ARIS): A framework developed by Scheer providing enterprises with methods and techniques to accomplish coherent management of their business processes. The ARIS House organizes all information of an organization in five interrelated views: data, function, organization, output, and control. The control view takes business processes, which interrelate static components, for example, functions and data to a dynamic, coherent whole. The ARIS House of Business Engineering (HOBE) provides an overall BPM methodology structured into four levels: process design, process control, workflow control and integrated software applications. Feedback loops between these four levels complement the framework illustrating and advocating continuous process improvement (CPI) based on actual process performance.
Business Process: Subsumes a continuous series of business activities sharing the purpose of creating output that is of value for corporate or external customers. Business processes usually span across departments, systems, and functions, which gives them an integrative role within an enterprise architecture.
Enterprise Application Integration (EAI): Targets at connecting multiple, heterogeneous, distributed systems that are embedded in networks at multiple levels via an additional software layer. EAI subsumes middleware technologies such as message-oriented middleware (MOM), Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), and data representation technologies such as XML.
Business Process Management (BPM): Deals with an organization’s business processes that need to be designed based on business objectives, implemented into integrated enterprise software, and optimized based on their key performance data. Correspondingly, BPM commits itself to continuous process improvement (CPI) aligned with business strategy, whereas the related term of business process reengineering refers to a revolutionary, one-off revision of organizational processes.
Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA): A distributed computing environment that encapsulates software functionalities as self-contained services. They are provided as standardized interfaces by software applications (service provider), registered in a service registry and dynamically discovered and invoked by another software application (service consumer) through a standardized interface. With Web services standardization reaching a previously unknown climax increasing the expectations put into SOA as plug-and-play software architecture.
Business Process Reengineering (BPR): Revolutionary method of one-off analysis and revision of business processes within and between organizations. Popular in the 1990s, today it is considered to be too radical for most cases, missing a continuous approach to embed sustainable process orientation in an organization.