55% of enterprises will update their business processes in the next 18 months. Are your information systems ready to adapt? After years invested in their development, your existing applications are a valuable asset. Do you really have to waste precious time and invest huge amounts in rewriting them?
Take the plunge and move into the age of services-oriented information systems, by deploying a new generation exchange platform. The benefit: being able to reconfigure and orchestrate easily your business processes to boost your business momentum, your effectiveness and your service quality.
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MAKING INFORMATION SYSTEMS AS AGILE AS BUSINESS ENVIRONMENTS
Interview with Hervé Le Burel, ESB/BPM Service Offerings Manager at Bull
Why are exchange platforms a strategic issue?
These days, the business environment is increasingly changeable. So in order to be successful, organizations need information systems that are agile too. But legacy applications are often locked into their own silos within the company: ERP in one corner, CRM on another, business applications in yet another…The result – as recent research by Forbes shows – is that if you ask CEOs about what holds their businesses back the most, they will typically say it’s information systems themselves. That’s ironic when you know that systems are meant precisely to be boosting innovation and productivity. The solution? Agile developments, Services-Oriented Architectures (SOAs), but also the ability to get existing applications interoperating with each other so you can rapidly set up new services that cross the boundaries between them. That’s exactly what exchange platforms are all about. Establishing a foundation or ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) that enables existing digital services (internal or external) to easily interoperate, with new ones being added quickly and simply. And, of course, to build process orchestration and Business Process Management (BPM) functions on top of it. That’s what it’s all about: boosting the speed of business development, efficiency and service quality.
So what are the keys to success?
Exchange platforms are a central component that shapes everything. If they are going to be both solid and capable of evolving, they have to be well thought out from the very start. To do this, you need a very good understanding of the existing systems, to see what is going to happen and analyze the mapping of information flows, their scale and how critical they are to the business, the relative priorities… This advanced analysis phase is essential for choosing the most appropriate ESB/BPM engine, as well as for scoping the solution to achieve the performance you want. In general, it’s useful to follow this with a ‘proof of concept’ phase, to definitively validate the proposed solution. Finally, in the design phase, you need to plan the migration stages very carefully. Effectively, ad hoc exchange solutions have often been created over time between certain applications. These information flows need to be migrated to the new exchange platform. And naturally you need to pay close attention to supervision and security. The more carefully you design the ESB project, the more time you save later on because you have a platform that makes the information system much more agile.
What trends do you foresee for the future in this area?
People have been talking about ESBs for a long time now (before, we used to call it ‘Enterprise Application Integration’), but now it is reaching maturity. Technologies from ISVs like Oracle, TIBCO and IBM, most notably – as well as Open Source solutions – are now robust and feature all the necessary components: ESB, supervision, BPM… All of a sudden there are projects happening in lots of organizations, internally or between different companies. When it comes to ESBs, most of our customers ask us to start with internal exchanges, then to capitalize on this platform as a driver for the introduction of new Web services/SOAs. Finally, we’re seeing exchanges with external partners and BPM functions starting to grow: and although it’s still an emerging area, it seems to be very promising. The challenge is to easily orchestrate these processes, design them and manage them in a completely graphical way… Technologies are starting to emerge that will enable this to happen, and it’s an area where we are one of the pioneers.