Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts on Finding Value in BPM/Workflow Technology

I found an interesting entry on my colleague Todd Biske's blog Finding Value in BPM/Workflow Technology.

Here are some additional thoughts on how the value proposition for the BPM and Work Flow Management tools could be taken to the next level.
1) Ability to incorporate "Rules" or a "Rules Engine Component" into a business process step or a work flow task would be a great addition to these BPM/ Work Flow Engines. These rules can be encoded best practices or they can be regulatory in nature or business algorithms that may be volatile while the process flow or the work flow may not be so.

2) Ability to perform impact analysis for any process flow change prior to releasing the "new process".

3) Availability of analytical tools that could suggest optimization opportunities that could make process improvement suggestions such as the following
a) how switching the steps in the process may benefit the overall process flow
b) how metrics show that there is a ton of waiting in a step that could be made optional based on some criteria
c) how analytics could drive other optimizations such as making suggestions for automation of an information gathering step

4) Ability to subscribe to regulatory bodies that govern the outcome of a particular step of the process flow.

5) Ability to create a business process template for oft used processes within an industry vertical that allow standardization in the overall flow while catering for customizations and competitive advantage optimizations in particular steps of the flow.

Best Regards!!
- surekha,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Have you heard for Ahmedabad? If not - you should

Ahmedabad is the largest city in the state of Gujarat (India) and is a few hundred miles north of Mumbai. This is also the city where Gandhi had his ashram where he start the non-violent movement for freedom from the British rule.

It is very unlikely that you have heard about this city, other than maybe seen it in the Gandhi movie not knowing the name of the City. Based on my recent trip there earlier this year I believe that it has the potential of becoming one of the major International cities in India .

Following is my reasoning:
  • The state of Gujarat was hit by a major earthquake in 2001 which resulted in thousands of death and substantial damage to the infrastructure. From this tragedy rose an opportunity (and which I sincerely hope we repeat the feet to overcome the current financial crisis)

  • The state and the city rebuilt all the major roads include some highways that are mostly 6 lanes wide (OK the extreme two are now used for parking). Even though there is traffic - it keeps moving and one can go from one end of the city to the other without any major traffic blocks (unlike the other major cities)

  • In the late 80's early 90's the pollution was horrible, especially at the center of the city where they had the highest level of pollution of any of the cities in India. Today they have provided incentives where majority of the auto rickshaws have switched to CNG (see picture below).

  • The city is the banks of river Sabarmati and they have now embarked on ambitious multi year project (SRFDCL) to develop the riverfront on both the banks of the river from one end of the city to the other.

  • Even though the traffic is OK now, in order to cater to the growth the city has embarked on one more project of developing a Rapid Transport System (BRTS). Instead of developing a city metro/rail system, they took a faster an more practical approach. The city has built dedicated special center lanes for express bus. In addition, they have also built a number of flyovers to facilitate rapid transportation. Something to learn from, it may be cheaper and faster to develop rapid transportation system using buses than developing a city wide metro/railways.

  • The city boasts one of the best Management Institutions (Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad) in the country. Ofcourse there is also the Gujarat University (a large campus) with a lot of well reputed colleges and research centers around it.

  • Looks like Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is expanding into more cities, include Gandhinagar (IIT Gujarat) which could basically be considered as one of the suburbs of Ahmedabad

There are lot of other cool stuff about Ahmedabad and if it looks like I am biased - Yes! I am. In the spirit of full disclosure, I spent my first 19 years at Ahmedabad.
What does this have to do with SOA or Strategic IT? Very simple - the State and the City realized that the city was becoming unlivable because they were not providing adequate services to their citizens. In order to improve the quality of service - the combined their efforts to first plan and build out the infrastructure (still WIP) to try and provide one of the best living conditions in the Country. Something we can all learn from.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Key Learnings:Drawing parallels between Design Patterns and the principles of SOA - Part II

This blog entry attempts to expand on the concepts explored in a prior blog of mine Key Learnings: Drawing parallels between Design Patterns and the principles of SOA that deals the relevance of design patterns in the world of SOA and services. Patterns explored previously were the Facade, Abstract Factory, Builder, Factory and Bridge.

In this blog we look at how infrastructure components like the ESB that are part of the service mediation layer insulate the service consumer from the service provider by offering call-dispatch functions that map out the most efficient call execution path for honoring a consumer business request। Many of the constructs of the service mediation layer provide add-on capabilities which are in fact model driven implementations of common design patterns।

Adapter - modifies an incoming method call to fit the required method signature or definition of the provider without impacting the consumer

Transformer - adapts the parameter and return type or message format (which includes alteration or interpretation of the message content) and enables the insulation of the consumer information from that of the providers'

Decorator - augments the behavior or is a facility to add on to the behavior without altering the interface and breaking the service interface and service contract as new consumers need additions to the base business behavior

Interceptor - provides ancillary behavior, filters out information or calls to the provider, validates the message content for authN credentials, authZ/ entitlements and permissions etc। all of which provide important ancillary behavior to the provider without having the providers' service implementation layer having to be peppered with nonbusiness logic level code।

Finally, the point of this blog is to show that despite vast numbers of changes in technologies and technology based service offerings the basic design principles and design patterns of the object oriented design realm are still applicable। Knowing these and applying these carefully enables one to retain the durability of the service interface and protects the consumers from unexpected or non-deterministic results and exceptions.

Thank you for listening. Your input is invaluable!

- surekha

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Architetcure in 2009

This will be my first entry into the blog for 2009. It has been a while due to a lot of churn over last few months. I am happy to see 2008 go. The only fear I have is that at the end of 2009, I don’t want to be longing for 2008. What a brutal year. I am hoping that people have learnt some lessons that you can not always focus on short term results at the expense of doing the right thing that has long term value. Architecture falls in that long term value category, yet first thing organizations do when it comes to cutting costs - they sacrifice architecture. Why do we keep rewarding people that cause untold harm in the long run while seemingly achieving short term goals? Most IT organizations fall into the same category. Senior executives are rewarded based on short term gains or operational efficiencies at the expense of long term viability. Current environment will only exasperate the situation.

It seems to me that executives and boards have not met the responsibilities entrusted upon them. Most executives have only been interested in benefiting themselves. I believe that executive bonuses should be kept in escrow and only be handed out at least 3-5 years after they are eligible to receive it. The disbursement of bonuses should be contingent on meeting some tough criteria where it is clear that no long term harm was brought upon by actions of these executives that may have fattened the bottom line in one year but killed the company over long haul.

My apologies for ranting but it has been very frustrating last few months. Now we need to focus on future and adjust accordingly. One trend I am seeing is that without clear, measurable ROI, funding is going to be scarce. There are fewer (if any) opportunities to experiment. This also means that vendors will have to adjust their expectations and will have to prove beyond power point slides that their product is worth investing in.

Happy new year everyone.

Ashok Kumar

Key Learnings - Using EDA to implement the core SOA principle of "loose-coupling"!!!

A lot has been said about how SOA and EDA are unique "architecture styles". It seems like only one or the other architectural prin...