Legacy Modernization and Transformation through BPM (Part 2 of 2)

This blog is also posted on the Infosys company blog here . Infosys is a Platinum Partner of Pegasystems. In the previous blog (Part 1), I discussed some of the main reasons why modernization and transformation efforts fail. The challenge in modernization and transformation is often a combination of the four reasons summarized in the blog. This post focuses on the BPM value proposition, and how BPM is essentially the main discipline and solution to achieve sustainable modernization.

Thus for the four reasons which we covered in Part 1, you have:

  1. Think Big … Start Small with BPMS:  It will be very difficult to find big-bang long duration and expensive IT modernization projects that have delivered on their promises. The bottom-up IT and technically focused re-architecting simply does not work. The BPMS approach is top-down and incremental: from business objectives to operationalized BPM solutions. The overall “big thinking” transformation and/modernization vision will drive the initiative. However, with BPM you can, and should, start small – with projects that could easily show business value, while minimizing risks. In any mid-sized or large enterprise, there will be many potential projects for modernization and transformations. Analyzing quantitatively the projects that will provide business value and reduce risk will help prioritize the transformation roadmap and quickly demonstrate value from “low hanging fruits.” This is essential. No one will argue with success. After the initial successes with BPM solutions modernizing legacy deployment, the roadmap and maturity towards complete modernization can proceed in incremental and iterative phases – always demonstrating value and concrete results in modernizing legacy. More importantly, as the requirements for modernization and solutions change, BPM can keep pace with the ever changing business mandates.
  2. Equate Modernization to BPM: A business is defined through its policies and procedures. In building BPM applications you are actually constructing an enterprise repository (assets) of your policies and procedures. These include business rules of different categories as well as your flows. It also includes your information models (data), the user interaction (UI), and integration (services). Modernization means to directly model and automate the business and procedures in BPM solutions. The business rules, as well as process flow, become explicit and visible for the business and IT to collaborate on changing and evolving them. Modernization should be viewed holistically. On the one end of the spectrum, legacy and ERP systems can be wrapped through BPM solutions. The “wrapping” means business solutions, as well as end-user operators and customers, interact through a BPM solution, which in turn accesses legacy services as needed. In some cases, the legacy solution is retired or replaced. I have covered this in a white paper on ERP modernization and transformation. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the constant need or requirement to improve and respond to change requests. Continuous improvement and change of enterprise processes is a high priority for most businesses. So is transformation and modernization. With BPM, the business and IT can speak the same language, communicated through modeled and automated policies and procedures. The transparency and visibility of the processes provides a unique opportunity to continuously change and enhance the business solutions. So BPM becomes the foundation for modernization.
  3. Automated Processes with Human Participants: Legacy systems often raise exceptions that need be handled by human experts. This creates silos between the solutions legacy solutions and manual exception case processing. BPM aggregates these through wrapping the legacies as noted above and at the same involving human participants who will be assigned tasks to handle exceptions with complete visibility. The automation of human activities, especially in the context of processes involving legacy systems, is in some sense the last frontier in information technologies.  The vast majority of process within organizations are either just documented, or ad-hoc. Modernization with BPMS automates, augments, assists and guides human operators. BPMS targets the modeling and execution of processes that can handle both the “happy path” as well as exception cases involving legacy systems. Invariably humans are involved. The human participants will be assigned tasks and controlled by the BPM solutions. Business users will have end-to-end visibility and service level governance. It is the governed, automated, guided, and collaborative execution of processes involving human roles or skills as well as back-end legacy systems that make BPM solutions extremely effective in modernizing and transforming businesses holistically.
  4. BPM Centers of Excellence and GovernanceAs we mentioned in the previous post no initiative can succeed without oversight and governance. Since BPM is the core of the modernization initiative, the COE and governance need to reflect BPM processes, people/roles, and projects. The COE governs the BPM modernization methodology. Ideally the BPM platform should provide tools and constructs to help you directly realize the objectives, guidelines, and governance practices of the BPM methodology. In each iteration and phase of the methodology, you would like to have the corresponding function in the platform that helps and guides you in realizing the objectives of the iteration or the phase. The iterative COE methodology identifies the participants, artifacts, and phases of BPM projects. The COE governance of BPM projects identifies the policies for roles, standards, decision making, and deliverables that target BPM modernization solutions. BPM is a paradigm shift in building and deploying applications. It is a new way of developing and managing enterprise solutions. The COE provides the promotion, training, and certification of BPM development talent within the enterprise. For modernization, the BPM COE governs the best architectural modernization design patterns.  Often, modernization is equated with SOA initiatives. Even here the best way to achieve SOA success is through BPM. The adoption of best practices, methodologies and guardrails to guide team constituents is also part of the BPM COE. For service interfaces to legacy system the BPM COE is also responsible for the creation and management of reusable legacy integration assets.   The value proposition of modernization and transformation is compelling. Legacy systems will become increasingly expensive to maintain as the knowledge to upkeep legacy solutions is also retired with the workforce. Furthermore, in an increasingly global and competitive climate, enterprises need to continuously improve and keep up the pace with change requests. Modernization and transformation is difficult. BPM is the best bet to incrementally modernize and transform iteratively, while responding to continuous change requests. But BPM is not a panacea. Even with a BPM approach, the governance and continuous monitoring of results is essential to guarantee success