The organization specific process models for high impact business processes are generally implemented through people and highly flexible next generation process automation engines. Processes are “what we do” in the business and are executed, in part, by people. This required the right level of change management. In most cases, the implementation also requires the development of specific application software components. The process models, reflecting the optimized KPIs in support of the relevant value-drivers, are the starting point for the more detailed modeling of the underlying software. They enable a consistent, value-driven process implementation and automation. At this point the modeling method can change, for example to the Unified Modeling Language (UML), reflecting the desired software structure to support the high impact processes. The workflow engine, of next generation process automation, can also be configured based on those models. This, depending on the underlying modeling repository and execution technology, could even be done automatically or semi-automatically. The integration between process modeling and execution tools can be extremely beneficial in this situation, especially since it enables the flexible value-driven adjustment of processes.
The overall architecture of such next generation process automation environments is often referred to as Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). In such an architecture the “execution software” and the “process logic” (workflow) are separated (Kirchmer, 2011) (Slama, Nelius, 2011). Hence, the developed process models can, on one hand, be used to configure the workflow and, on the other hand, be used to develop the software services that are not available in existing libraries. Existing software services may include detailed process reference models that can be re-used in the process design. This architecture of next generation process automation environment is visualized in figure 7.
Figure 7: Next Generation Process Automation
One of the key advantages of this architecture is the high degree of flexibility in adjusting process flows and functionality. This can be crucial for a company looking for agility and adaptability. The main disadvantages are: the effort required in providing the appropriate governance for running such an environment; and the information modeling efforts required in the building phase.
The process models of the commodity processes are used to select or at least evaluate pre-selected “traditional” software packages like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, Supply Chain Management (SCM) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. These can become part of the overall next generation architecture, representing one software component. Then those models developed during the process design are used to drive a process-oriented implementation of the software packages across the various organizational units involved in the business processes in scope (Kirchmer, 1999). Ideally the industry specific software-reference models are already used as an input during the process design. This means, one procures the reference models to be used from the software vendor. If this is possible you benefit from the “business content” of the software and minimize design and modeling efforts. Using other industry reference models (different from the software based model) may lead to design adjustments and extensive re-work once the software is selected.
Figure 8 shows the architecture of a more traditional software environment. Here process definition and software functionality are linked in a static way. This means the software more or less dictates how a process has to be executed (allowing only pre-defined variants through the software configuration). This is fine for commodity processes but often causes issues in strategic high impact processes that need to be company specific. Consequently we have used another implementation approach for those strategic processes. However, in some cases it is also possible to develop add-on software to support high impact processes and integrate it into the larger software package, e.g. the ERP system.
Figure 8: Traditional Software Architecture
Advantages and disadvantages are the opposite of the earlier description for next generation process automation approaches. Hence, in practice, a combination of both implementation technologies and approaches is, in most cases, the solution that delivers best value.
The process-interfaces in the different process models guide the software integration. This can be supported from a technology point of view through appropriate enterprise application integration environments – in general included in SOA environments. Such software tools or middle-ware tools reduce the efforts for interface development to a necessary minimum. Their efficient use is again driven through the appropriate process models, specifically the integration of the various process components.
The implementation of processes includes as a main component the preparation of the involved people for the new work environment. They have to learn new manual processes and how to use the automation technologies in the specific process context. The necessary change management is carried out using the same process design as a basis that was used to drive the development and configuration of the IT components. Information, communication, and training are supported through the information models of the process design (Kirchmer, 2011) (Franz, Kirchmer, 2012). The integrated implementation of people and IT based processes leads to a “digital organization” that really delivers additional business value.
The implementation of the business processes can again be based on an agile approach, developing several “intermediate” prototypes or a top-down waterfall approach. In most cases a combination of both is best suited since this avoids a possibly “end-less” number of development cycles created by agile development or developments getting stuck on their way top-down of waterfall development models (Morris, 2014).
The result is end-to-end business processes based on a value-driven process design and an appropriate integrated automation. The approaches provide the necessary flexibility where it delivers real business value and the required efficiency where possible.
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