Designing high level BPEL processes

The main reason for implementing a Service Oriented Architecture and BPEL is to enable organizations to adapt to their changing environment. Today more and more organizations experience that their current monolithic architecture restricts them in developing new business opportunities. Therefore, the impact of IT on their business is big.

In a current SOA implementation project one of the objectives was to simplify and optimize processes. In the design phase we used different techniques to gather requirements. Our main focus was to get input for developing BPEL processes and identifying services.

During the project we found that the mindset of the stakeholders was case oriented instead of process oriented.  In case orientation, participants only think about the uniqueness of the case and all exceptions. In the process orientation the participants focus on the main process and try to map every case. Decisions have to be made for cases that not fit in the main process. Process orientation is needed to simplify and optimize processes.

In the next phase (new processes) of the project we organized 4 workshops and used brown paper technique to design the process.  In a brown paper session a big brown paper is stuck on the wall. Participants use a rectangle piece of paper to represent a process step and paper in the shape of diamond is used to represent a decision. Participants themselves actively create the process by discussing and change the order of symbols. Our role was to facilitate the process and check if all participants agree on the design.

During the workshops the case orientation surfaced and blocked the workshop process.  We decided to use intervention to get commitment to the process orientation. After this intervention the workshop accelerated. Nine proposals for simplifying process were produced. More and more participants adapted the process orientation.  In meetings we started to use metaphors tree (case orientation) and forest (process orientation), to show the participants mindset.

The use of interventions, metaphors, brown paper sessions are not in the standard repertoire of requirements engineering. You will find them in the repertoire of organization change management. This is why we are now training our consultants change management skills. With this business centric approach, instead of information centric or technology centric approach, our SOA implementation will add value to customers business.

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