DevOps adopts BPM best practices to build apps

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There has been a fundamental shift in the application of business process management systems over the last few years to where these platforms are now increasingly part of the toolkit that developers — and more often “citizen developers” — need to build modern applications as they apply BPM best practices.

Indeed, originally deployed to improve operational efficiency and lower costs, BPM systems are now more frequently viewed as application development platforms where users can build applications that automate business processes and decisions.

The intersection of BPM and DevOps

When viewed as application development platforms, requirements for BPM systems are tied to the use of development methodologies, particularly DevOps.

Modern BPM systems must be compatible with the DevOps approach, as much any other software development platform, said Phil Simpson, senior principal product marketing manager for JBoss Middleware at Red Hat.

There are natural affinities between DevOps and BPM, added Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT in Hayward, Calif. DevOps aims to better integrate the all-too-often separate efforts of developers and operations professionals, while BPM focuses on enhancing business processes and workflows to address specific customer requirements or deliver broader benefits.

“While DevOps efforts are often inward-focused and BPM is typically focused outward, both can deliver substantial value to customers,” King noted. “That’s mainly because many of the core goals of DevOps, including dynamic planning, Lean and Agile techniques, continuous integration and automated testing, can all impact the timing and quality of processes that impact customers. Strong business rules are the tracks that projects run on and are essential to reaching the desired destination.”

Business rules have always been an important part of BPM since they help support the automation of business processes.

Meanwhile, “Fast development by a combination team of business professionals and developers used in an iteration-based approach has proven to be very effective if team communication is high,” said Jim Sinur, vice president and research fellow at Aragon Research, noting the value of DevOps and Agile development for BPM environments.

“We have Agile development teams in our labs that help build segments of code in sprints and put them into actual use with customers to generate a real market feedback loop that validates our product-service-solution direction and delivers value to ourselves and customers during the innovation process,” said Ed Fox, vice president of network services at telecommunications provider MetTel in New York.

Fox said DevOps intersects with BPM at all points in his organization. “DevOps helps make the innovation process continuous, and BPM needs to be a living process that can dynamically evolve to support new and improved capabilities on-the-fly,” he said, “which is why BPM should be delivered in a SaaS model, as ours is.”

Norbert Siegers, head of IT channel solutions at Netherlands bank ABN AMRO, said his group has deployed BPM successfully as part of a multiyear digital transformation, moving from a monolithic system with waterfall-based development to a series of smaller services based on Agile and DevOps processes. “We are pursuing a more agile model and using the latest techniques for continuous integration and continuous delivery,” Siegers said.

Digital process automation

BPM is in the midst of a long shift toward a continuous delivery mindset, and players in the space have invested heavily toward that end since these vendors are particularly capable and experienced in managing tasks across systems, people and data sources, said Rob Koplowitz, an analyst with Forrester Research specializing in BPM. However, Forrester now uses the term “digital process automation” rather than BPM because the firm sees it as shifting to directly support digital transformation as organizations adopt new BPM best practices.

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