How SOA is Driving a New Type of Enterprise Application
Business process applications ensure that enterprise applications match business needs.
As the IT industry undergoes a major shift towards use of service oriented architecture (SOA), traditional enterprise applications—which today are designed to support departmental functions such as accounting or sales—need to evolve to drive end-to-end business processes across silos. In virtually every industry today, a single order or transaction may go through several applications and systems, even third-party systems as it progresses from initial inquiry to delivery and payment.
Without the ability to integrate and coordinate all the systems involved in complex multi-step processes, businesses cannot meet customer expectations for selection, speed, and reliability. In other words, applications that do not take a process-based approach limit a company’s potential because they do not operate in the same manner as their business.
To address this challenge, a new breed of service oriented business applications (SOBA) is emerging to help businesses automate and simplify the management of critical, complex enterprise business processes. Business process applications (BPAs) combine business process integration infrastructure with specialized application frameworks, and industry-specific domain packs so customers can solve specific problems and improve business performance. Unlike traditional applications, business process applications are cross-functional and span multiple heterogeneous systems.
BPAs are pre-built to automate industry-specific, customizable processes based on industry standards and best practices. In manufacturing, it’s the quest for processing the “perfect order.” In health care it’s the vision of automated claims processing, and in telecommunications it’s the promise of end-to-end order management and provisioning.
BPAs that are designed to address the specific needs of each industry are compelling investments because they match enterprise applications with business functions. BPAs accelerate business because they offer pre-built templates and frameworks based on business needs. Because they are built on a service-oriented architecture, companies can more easily reuse, combine, maintain, and extend components that capture critical business logic and data.
Fulfilling the “Perfect Order” in Manufacturing
The manufacturing industry offers a great example of the need to manage business processes that cross application silos. Virtually every department in manufacturing organizations—ecommerce, sales operations, supply chain, process improvement, and logistics—strives to achieve the “perfect order,” an order that smoothly flows “straight through” each process step and department from order inception to fulfillment with no errors or delays.
Achieving the “perfect order” translates into increased efficiencies, improved customer service, and insight into real-time transactions that can significantly impact the bottom line. However, challenges to attaining the “perfect order” include the complexities inherent in enterprise applications, business changes driven by mergers and acquisitions, the rise of outsourcing, and a potent mix of technologic, regulatory, and business demands that further complicates operations, which, in turn, impacts the order process.
BPAs can overcome these obstacles and provide the granular visibility into the order lifecycle needed to achieve the perfect order. BPAs help manufacturing companies improve order processing efficiency with business process automation and cross-application, cross-enterprise communication. A BPA for manufacturing might be order management software that helps manage orders effectively to optimize customer satisfaction, inventory levels, sales, and other key areas of importance for the manufacturing industry.
A BPA tailored for manufacturing can manage the complete lifecycle of an order across distributed fulfillment centers. With visibility into the order at any point across the supply chain lifecycle, a user can aggregate and separate orders across multiple systems and divisions, and expedite the update and notification of back order information. IT can view trends and manage demand spikes and problems across the supply chain. Users can make real-time changes no matter where the order is in the chain.
Achieving "Intelligent Interoperability" in Health Care
In the health care industry there are numerous processes that create inefficiencies and expense, such as the handoff points between systems and/or people. At these points, automation stops and expensive, time-consuming manual processes take over. Often these inefficiencies are introduced when new market and regulatory changes outpace the ability to automate due to the inflexibility of existing legacy systems.
Health care is an increasingly electronic business. However, many inefficiencies start at the “front door” of the organization (or even earlier in the business process) due to interoperability issues across the industry. New market offerings such as consumer-directed health care (CDHC), ePrescribing, Medicare plans and Care Management introduce new trading partners and interoperability models putting more pressure on the front end of electronic processes.
A BPA for health care can automate and simplify the management of critical, complex health care transaction processes that span multiple systems, formats, and trading partners. The ultimate solution is a BPA that serves as a platform for health care information exchange—the IT service delivery infrastructure that provides accurate and timely information exchange between organizations across the health care value chain. This can help organizations to immediately solve high-priority health care transaction problems from enrollment to claims to billing while complying with (and laying the foundation for) ongoing industry regulations.
Leveraging a health care-specific BPA can assure intelligent interoperability with your trading partners whether they are providers, intermediaries, third-party administrators (TPAs), PBMs, financial services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), care management partners, purchasers, or members. With all transactions consolidated at the “front-door” for visibility and centralized security, you can transform your transaction-centric business processes, from front-to-back, for even greater efficiencies.
Delivering on "Service-Focused" Telecommunications
As the telecommunications industry faces the two-fold challenge of expanding its customer base and offering new services across multiple devices, integration across business processes is essential. There’s no other industry experiencing as much consolidation and innovation today than in telecommunications, where service providers are simultaneously launching new services to both new and existing customers while increasing efficiency and maximizing profit.
Companies in the fixed, wireless, cable and satellite segments can leverage BPAs tailored for telecommunications to automate and orchestrate selling, order entry, service activation, provisioning, and billing care processes across systems, people, and partners. These BPAs automate and simplify the management of complex telecommunications provisioning processes that span multiple systems.
BPAs for telecommunications should facilitate a “flow-through” end-to-end process for order fulfillment and reduce the impact of inevitable process exceptions. They should also make the product lifecycle process more flexible to accommodate new process instructions for new and changed service definitions. These solutions help service providers help maximize customer satisfaction, maintain profits, and reduce customer churn.
A Natural Fit for SOA
The Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) approach to application infrastructure is a significant enabler for BPAs. By structuring application functionality into sets of loosely-coupled componentized services with standards-based interfaces, BPAs are easier to integrate with the many heterogeneous applications and data sources that are typically involved in complex business processes.
These services can also be centrally registered to make it easier for development teams across a company to access, reuse, combine, maintain, and extend BPA components to meet their specific needs as their business requirements and technical considerations change.
Ultimately, BPAs ensure that enterprise applications are matched to the business needs. When leveraging industry-specific expertise in industries such as manufacturing, health care and telecommunications to automate core processes, companies can reach their business goals while lowering costs and maximizing customer satisfaction.