The Phony "War" Between BPM and SOA

Koch's ephiphany came at a recent BPM conference, where it dawned on him that "veterans of the [failed] business reengineering battle have... adopted BPM as their weapon of choice in gaining control of processes." In contrast, at IT conferences, "SOA is all people talk about. SOA is the way that IT will enable the business to change its processes. But of course, SOA almost completely focuses on IT and integration rather than process." He should add, but doesn't, that process is about more than business integration. It's also about improving human work, and as even the integration-centric BPM software vendors are now discovering, this is where the most energy is coming from in the BPM market today.

Yes it's true, BPM people and SOA people are concerned about mostly different things, but they are hardly opposing armies facing off with guns blazing. As a veteran of BPM conferences myself, I can vouch for the fact that the keynoting class there does tend to put forth a generally anti-technology message, but I think more directed against vendors of BPM software than at IT architects laying the groundwork for SOA.

The grain of truth buried in this pseudo-war is IT's discomfort with the BPM notion that implementation of business process solutions can and should be, at least in part, driven by models created by "the business," the so-called top-down approach. Some in IT would rather take a few years to roll out a complete SOA infrastructure before thinking about orchestrating a few services to solve business problems. For some reason, they don't understand BPM's top-down model-initiated approach can actually accelerate the SOA rollout by fostering business-IT alignment with concrete performance metrics, and encouraging an iterative approach to the production implementation.

Assuming Koch does speak for at least a segment of the IT community, my take-away from all this is that BPM software vendors need to address IT's concern that BPM is "unsafe" technology. So far their message has mainly addressed business values and concerns, and while they give frequent lip service to SOA, they haven't really addressed how BPM can help IT in its transition to SOA.

BPM and SOA are natural allies, not enemies. While outrageous headlines and trumped-up issues are the staple of the blogosphere, this is one we can do without.