Every Process is Only as Good as its Data
BPM, SOA & Co. have long been regarded as the solution to challenges facing companies.But things are evolving in this area as well. Appropriate, adjusted solutions need to be found to meet new requirements. Hence, BPM must also evolve giving rise to BPM+
In the early days of BPM, many projects focused strongly on process design, usually with the help of BPMN-based models. The further development of classic BPM has now led to BPM+ here processes and data are handled with comparable flexibility, transparency and efficiency.
Master Data vs. Transaction Data
Just as all processes are not equal (of the same type), there are different types of data. The most important rough categorization covers the distinction between master and transaction data. Master data is provided for all processes whereas transaction data is usually created in the process or is of significance in the context of a process instance. For example, in the aforementioned order-to-cash process, both the master data of the customer, such as the customer address and credit rating, and the transaction data, such as a customer invoice with order items and invoice amount, play a central role.
Master Data Management
The maintenance of master data, that is, the entry, editing, searching and retrieval of data is often supported using separate Master Data Management (MDM) solutions. An MDM system must manage and synchronize potentially redundantand inconsistent data across various applications while also ensuring the quality of the data. Of course, it is possible to use BPM-based processes for data maintenance here.
Master data management can be used to ensure the quality of this important data across several applications. However, the quality of the transaction data also plays an important role. For example, if too much data is requested from the person entering a purchase requisition, this causes too much work for the person placing the order. As a result, data is often entered incorrectly, which in turn causes additional work. If too little data is queried, a query might have to be sent to the process initiator at the end of the process, which is also inefficient. Hence, an efficient solution must guarantee a high level of data quality.
Technical Management of Complex Data
In addition to the data design, the technical management of data is also extremely important. In the development of user interfaces, more solutions are being created in which data objects are mapped to simple forms. Alternatively, completely external visualizations are implemented, which were created in classic programming environments such as .NET or JSF. These environments often also offer support for permanent data storage. However, they cannot make the most of the advantages offered by the BPM approach since the created applications are not process-oriented. In the BPM+ area, a new type of support for front-ends has thus been developed, which drastically simplifies the complex issue of data transformation for the visualization of business objects. Based on business models, pre-configured components for forms are combined. These components are based on known patterns, such as fact sheets for displaying simple values. By supporting inheritance in the business models not just at the data but also at the UI level, many templates can be provided. This way the creation of typical interfaces can be reduced to a few clicks for configuration. This applies to master as well as transaction data. Process cockpits, dashboards or task lists can be seamlessly integrated into business solutions as preconfigured UI components. Customer or project-specific adjustments remain possible at any time. Modern web technologies such as AJAX are available without incurring the typically very high costs of these programming technologies. This can be ensured using the described abstraction mechanisms of the platforms that support BPM+.