W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-ws-chor@w3.org > June 2003

Re: [Fwd: Re: Co-ordination protocol and BPEL]

From: Carol McDonald <carol.mcdonald@sun.com>
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 09:31:00 -0400
Message-ID: <3EDCA314.9000209@sun.com>
To: wsbpel-participants@sun.com
CC: public-ws-chor@w3.org


BPM's Underpinning: The Pi Paradigm 
<http://eai.ebizq.net/bpm/smithfingar_3a.html%20>

BPM is rapidly proving popular, since it gives businesspeople control 
over the processes that make their companies tick. And it doesn't hurt a 
bit that BPM is a winner in the ROI arena, according to BPM experts and 
champions Howard Smith and Peter Fingar. At the very heart of BPM is "an 
obscure mathematical theory" called Pi Calculus, literally an 
award-winner. Here, Smith and Fingar explain what Pi Calculus is, and 
how it forms the foundation for the hot phenomenon known as BPM:


    http://eai.ebizq.net/shared/goldclub.jsp?smithfingar_3b.html


    BPM's Underpinning: The Pi Paradigm


        By Howard Smith and Peter Fingar

The recent wrangles over standards for forthcoming Business Process 
Management Systems (BPMS) [see "IBM and Microsoft Messing with Process 
Standards <http://eai.ebizq.net/bpm/smithfingar_3.html>"] give us reason 
to believe something important is at stake. While most businesspeople 
currently understand "BPM" as the evolution of workflow systems or 
application integration solutions, BPM is in fact a brand new technology.

All technologies have a conceptual center, a "first class citizen" from 
which all else is constructed. BPM is no different (See Table 1).

Perl String, Function
EDI Business element, document
XML Tag, Markup
Cobol Report
APL Equation
ASN.1 Field
C Function, Pointer
RDBMS Tuple
Java Object, Component
Workflow Task, Resource
EAI API, Message
BPM Process

Table 1 - First Class Citizens In Computing

The choice of a technology's first class citizen governs its suitability 
for solving problems. The conceptual center of BPM is the business 
process. Processes are not composed of other technologies' first class 
citizens; they are composed of elemental process patterns of communication.

Remember when you were first introduced to "objects" and wondered what 
they were? BPM requires a similar shift in thinking. Unlike objects, 
which are abstract and alien to most business people, processes are 
closely aligned with the way companies think, act, develop strategy and 
mobilize resources. That's why there has recently been an intense focus 
within the IT industry on process modeling languages, such as BPML, 
BPEL, XPDL and BPSS. It also accounts for the high ROI associated with 
workflow projects, the precursor to BPM, and the frequently low ROI (or 
complete failure) of application development projects.

The history of IT is dominated by experiments that have attempted to get 
closer to the way businesses really work. Although most products will 
use the same boxes and arrows to depict some form of process, procedure 
or protocol, the comparison stops there. BPM is not workflow, nor EAI. 
BPM is a new paradigm, calling for new standards, technologies and 
products, which altogether will deliver unprecedented return on 
investment to small and large organizations. It was for this reason that 
the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI.org) was formed.

Proof that a significant shift is happening in the enterprise software 
industry can usually be found when the largest and most established 
players start paying attention to it. This is precisely what happened 
when IBM and Microsoft merged two previous languages, XLANG and WSFL, 
and jointly released the Business Process Execution Language for Web 
services (BPEL4WS). Other than a desire to control and lead, why would 
they do this, since BPMI.org had previously published a similar 
language, Business Process Modelling Language (BPML) upon which its many 
members had already voted?

The answer lies in an obscure mathematical theory, Pi Calculus 
<http://www.bpm3.com/picalculus/index.html>. Invented by Robin Milner, 
professor of computer science at Cambridge University, and a winner of 
the ACM Turing Award -- the Nobel Prize of computer science -- Pi 
Calculus has been the focal point of a decade-long effort to unify what 
were previously thought to be two different entities: computation and 
communication. This insight lies at the heart of how to represent all 
processes so that they can be manipulated as easily as we do relational 
data today.

Pi Calculus gives BPM, and BPML, its conceptual center, an abstract data 
type able to represent business processes. Hence, vendors can develop 
BPMS so IT can provide "BPM as a service" to the business, just like 
e-mail or database management.

To business people, it seems that technology is always getting more 
complex. Technical people feel the same way. Over the last five years, 
delivering business applications has become much more complex, with 
layer upon layer of new infrastructure requirements and new features. 
While this has been good for incumbent IT industry players that sell new 
products for new layers, it is not necessarily so good for companies 
that use them as business tools.

When complexity mounts and eventually becomes unmanageable, it's time 
for action. As Walt Disney once said, objecting to a proposed sequel to 
his Three Little Pigs cartoon, "You can't top pigs with pigs." In the 
world of business, stacking a thousand doghouses one atop the other to 
build a skyscraper is a great proposition for doghouse vendors, but not 
for future occupants. Skyscrapers need an architecture of their 
own--their own paradigm, not a sequel to the doghouse paradigm. Business 
processes, too, need a paradigm of their own, not sequels to 
pre-existing technologies. What's needed is a radical simplification 
that will allow business people to cope with the dynamics and 
complexities of real-world business processes.

The spreadsheet is a simple yet eloquent example of a useful paradigm 
shift. The convenience and low cost of the breakthrough was so striking 
that it led to the PC revolution in business. To the enterprise, the PC 
loaded with a spreadsheet meant a radical simplification of routine 
calculations, transferring to the everyday business person a function 
that had once required special programming skills.

A similar simplification and transfer of functions is needed by those 
pursuing business process development and optimization, for as the 
management prophets foretell, the next phase of corporate development 
will require systematic control of the value chain, rather than 
narrow-gauge process fixes. Reengineering prophet Michael Hammer has 
admitted that managing such wholesale change is mind-numbingly complex. 
In fact, it is no longer possible without computer assistance.

The spreadsheet could not have been successful had it not been for the 
fact thatpersonal computers--a standards-based commodity--were spreading 
like wildfire elsewhere in society. With the widespread adoption of 
application servers, component-based development and Web services, the 
field is ripe for the wildfire spread of process management.

Judging by the early success of BPM vendors, companies are already 
embracing process management in the way they adopted data management 
decades ago by separating out data for application-independent 
management, analysis and controlled sharing. At that time, companies 
knew they had a data problem, and they responded by recognizing the 
value of relational data management systems.

We believe that companies are now recognizing they have an analogous 
process problem. Companies are seeking both hyper-efficiency and 
competitive differentiation. Packaged software is no longer providing an 
answer. Companies are beginning to realize that what they need is not a 
suite of new applications, but the application of process management.

The balance of power in the business-IT relationship must therefore 
shift, away from the need to squeeze business processes into the 
pre-packaged fashions of the IT industry, and toward the ability to 
design, improve and transform the business processes that BPM enables. 
This must be achieved otherwise Nicholas Carr's recent pronouncement in 
Harvard Business Review that "IT Doesn't Matter" (May 2003 HBR) will 
come true! But BPM does much more than facilitate process design. It 
provides a direct path from vision to execution. It's not so much a 
matter of "rapid application development" as "remove application 
development" from the business cycle.

Show the BPM capability to any executive at any level and they will 
understand inside of five minutes how to break through the IT logjam. 
Some IT execs may still want to prevent business people from defining 
business processes themselves, saying it is too complex a job and should 
be left to specialists. That may be true right now, but it won't be by 
the week after next. Sometimes it's hard to see the obvious. Companies 
have no trouble understanding how IT can provide an e-mail service, yet 
display no need for IT to mediate the e-mail conversations themselves.

Initial ROI figures are impressive, and investment in BPM is justifying 
itself in the very first projects, and for the very first processes. 
Early results reveal one or two orders of magnitude of projected 
reductions in total cost of process ownership and process design to 
production time.

The significance of these results has been confirmed recently by 
aggressive moves by the 900-pound gorillas in the IT industry. These 
industry giants have taken unprecedented steps to create new BPM 
standards, and create their own standardization paths, presumably to 
exert control over the release of the BPM breakthrough into the 
corporate environment. OASIS is now the host for the standardization 
path of BPEL4WS.

However the cat, and the math, are truly out of the bag. You can't buck 
math when it comes to taming the business process, meaning all standards 
paths must ultimately lead to process calculus if they are to provide 
the solid foundation that's essential to BPM.

Yet it won't be standards that drive BPM adoption. The true drivers are 
economic. Businesses recognize that BPM is a powerful new capability to 
manage their business processes, needed to cope with uncertain and 
rapidly changing economic times. If IT companies are to thaw the current 
"IT Ice Age," they'd better meet their customers' pressing needs with 
BPM systems built on standards that embody a true business process 
foundation.

About the Author

Howard Smith is chief technology officer (Europe) of Computer Sciences 
Corporation and co-chair of the Business Process Management Initiative 
(BPMI.org). Peter Fingar is one of the industry's recognized experts on 
BPM and author of The Death of "e" and the Birth of the Real New Economy 
(www.mkpress.com <http://www.mkpress.com>).

This column is dedicated to those at work every day building the company 
of the future, the process-managed enterprise. We look forward to your 
feedback, questions, suggestions and comments that will shape this 
discussion of the Third Wave. Like the third wave of BPM itself, this 
column will be built not just to last, but also to adapt to your needs 
and interests. Write to us at authors@bpm3.com <mailto:authors@bpm3.com>.

Smith and Fingar are the co-authors of Business Process Management-The 
Third Wave <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0929652339/pfingarA/>

<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0929652339/pfingarA/>

Preview the book at www.bpm3.com <http://www.bpm3.com>
Received on Tuesday, 3 June 2003 09:28:31 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0+W3C-0.50 : Saturday, 18 December 2010 01:00:20 GMT