Business Process Execution Language and MDM

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Most IT organizations have to support a wide variety of enterprise software.  The legacy applications have proven their reliability over time, in spite of some performance or support issues. The new breed of Java or .Net applications can be complex to code, mostly because their business rules are not well-documented.

The end result is that to support a single business process like “Order to Cash”, multiple applications spread across multiple operating systems and databases are a reality for most IT organizations.

These applications can talk to each other either through point-to-point (tightly coupled) integration or through an Application-to-Application (A2A) (loosely coupled) integration. The latter is emerging as a new trend and is gaining ground among many leading IT shops.

Business Process Engineering Language (BPEL) enables an IT organization to build a single business process, spanning multiple applications thru A2A integration and maintaining the state of each business process instance. This is accompanied by a tool called Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), where one can monitor each activity for a given business process.

To connect BPEL to multiple applications, several approaches can be used. One is to use web services, another is simple file transfer, and a third approach is to use message queues to exchange XML messages. For connectivity to popular CRM and ERP systems, the leading BPEL vendors have come out with “adapters” that can connect their BPEL server to some popular platforms (like SAP, Oracle E-Business Suite, Siebel CRM, JD Edwards, etc.).

In any case, these servers provide tools to convert a native message into an XML message as well as perform transformations on XML messages.

The logic related to the business process resides in the BPEL server. If the business requires frequent changes to the logic, some BPEL vendors provide integration to a separate rules engine. The idea is that the business user must be able to change these rules in the rules engine using a simple interface. The changes then take effect directly in the BPEL engine. For working with external organizations, BPEL vendors are continually providing support for EDI, HIPAA and other standard formats.

The availability of Business Process Execution Language technology and its aggressive pricing has a huge implication for MDM adoption. It dramatically reduces the cost to integrate a new MDM hub with existing source systems.

Complex logic based on the source systems can now reside in the BPEL server and an entire business process (such as creating a new customer across multiple applications) can now be visible to the Data Stewardship organization. This is an exciting event! Please comment here about what other implications BPEL might have on MDM and its adoption.

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