Few individuals are more closely associated with advanced middleware than Roy Schulte, vice president of Gartner. For a number of years, Schulte studied the role of software in fine-tuning the processes of modern corporations. Most recently, he has focused on the role executive dashboards can play in furthering the business aspect of Business Process Management. SearchSOA.com's Rich Seeley recently spoke with Schulte.
Is BPM driving SOA adoption and is this a new trend?
Roy Schulte: BPM is improving the value of SOA. Therefore it's facilitating the adoption of SOA. Those are true statements but I'm not sure either one is a new trend in the marketplace. It's more like an evolving understanding of the relationship between BPM and SOA.
Since the first word in BPM is business do you think business people relate to it better than to SOA, which is a more technical concept from their point of view?
Schulte: There are parts of BPM that make sense to business. When you're a business analyst designing an application at the conceptual level probably the best vehicle for that business analyst to use when talking to the end users, the business people, is the tools and techniques that are associated with business process management. That's always been the case, by the way. It's been true for decades. Sitting down and describing the business process and asking the business people about what the business process looks like today and what it ought to look like in the future. Today we call it business process management. It's seeing the business process as it exists and figuring out how it should exist in the future.
So is it similar to what has always been done in terms of business requirements for an application in terms of what the business wants?
Schulte: Business process management is based on the timeless insight that you shouldn't be building the business process you have, you should be figuring out how the business ought to work first. Then you decide: "Do I need some computers as part of that process? If so, where?" But the first thing should always be to figure out how this business process should be done. Then in most cases today there will be a computer involved someplace in most of the steps in that process. Again, that's axiomatic. It's not new.
Where does the concept of low latency enterprise and complex event processing (CEP) fit in here?
Schulte: That's a key point. If you sit down at a computer or are using a mobile device you can't tell if an application was designed using the techniques of business process management or not. You can't tell if it's using service-oriented architecture or not. What you can tell is if the system is smart enough to push information to you about things you consider to be important. You can tell if you've got a dashboard in front of you with dials and gauges and bar charts that are changing and you've told IT what key performance indicators you want to see and what things you don't want to see. You don't want to be buried in detail. So doing management by exception, only seeing critical data when it matters is all part of a good design. And that gets us to complex event processing.
So is it complex event processing that has the most meaning to the business user?
Schulte: Absolutely. Business people won't call it complex event processing. Most of them will call it a dashboard. Or they will call it "situational awareness." If you've got situational awareness through a dashboard that's what the business people can see. You and I may know that under the covers of a dashboard is an application that uses the principles of complex event processing. But the users won't call it that. The users will call it situational awareness or operational intelligence.
So do business people have any understanding of business process management?
Schulte: The business person may sit beside the business analyst while they are mapping out the business process but that's at development time. At runtime, the business user doesn't see SOA or BPM. What they do see is dashboards. They are seeing key performance indicators displayed.