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Global competition forces process changes

Some companies are wrapping business process management plans with service-oriented architecture projects to boost competitiveness on a global stage.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The lines between vertical industries are blurring as more companies compete on the global stage, according to an analyst addressing the issue of business processes at a conference here.

We're still in the very first stages of identifying and modeling business processes and IT will then map those processes to the appropriate data sources.
Robert Black
IT DirectorNAL Worldwide

That shift to a more cohesive global network of partners is forcing the most forward-thinking firms to couple service-oriented architecture projects with a hard look at business processes, said Simon Hayward, vice president of research at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research.

Hayward, whose current work examines the relationship of business processes, software applications, and software infrastructure, told attendees at Gartner's Business Process Management Summit that the idea of process modeling, process defining, and business activity monitoring will result in new positions in the workplace.

While the skills needed to monitor and map business processes will largely be absorbed into existing roles, companies may begin experimenting with the role of chief process officer and other specialists who will balance IT resources with business process changes.

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"Most people are still working in a fragmented way," Hayward said. "But even if you're not a leader in your industry or a newcomer, it is still advantageous to look at your business processes and understand why you do them and how you can do them better."

New roles could also include specialists who address process re-engineering, process modeling, and service-oriented development of applications, according to Hayward. Firms will need to conduct process impact analysis, and the need for enterprise information management will also grow.

The goal of process changes is to have more agility, Hayward said. Real-time decision support will be even more necessary as companies compete on a global stage.

Meanwhile, firms that are experimenting with business process management projects are reporting a process upheaval of sorts, Hayward said. IT processes are becoming a subset of business processes, and software is beginning to support the processes rather than processes being changed to support the software.

"While there is an emphasis on process, we shouldn't forget that data is still important," Hayward said.

Data is still recognized as a priority at New Addison, Ill.-based distributor NAL Worldwide, which is examining its business processes while migrating off the mainframe and service-enabling the company's home grown applications. The project finds both business and IT working together to improve efficiencies, said Robert Black, IT director at NAC Worldwide.

"We're still in the very first stages of identifying and modeling business processes and IT will then map those processes to the appropriate data sources," Black said.

Processes and analytics are still very much on opposite sides of the same coin, according to Hayward. Although there is no guarantee of success, companies must realize that process management is still gaining a level of maturity.

The foundation of Gartner's view of a business process platform includes services, rules, components and content. Packaged business applications, custom applications, and external services are brought together as a view for business managers who can easily create business process changes according to the infrastructure available.

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