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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Agile and Integrated Solutions for the Digital Enterprise with Mighael Botha, Software AG

May 29, 2013 No Comments

In the below interview, Mighael Botha from Software AG outlines ways in which a single integration backbone to connect all Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and cloud-based applications can help organizations today increase overall business value.

  • Q. How have you seen Enterprise BPM and SOA grow and change over the last ten years with the evolution of mobility and cloud computing?

A. Mobile and Cloud Computing have really accelerated the need for enterprise-wide maturity in both BPM and SOA within the organizations we have been dealing with over the past 4-5 years. Enterprise BPM, which includes both Business Process Analytics (BPA) and Business Process Management (BPM), the execution platform of process instances, has really matured in the last 10 years. Before the rise of mobile, organizations embarking on a BPA initiative had to do so with tools that tethered them to their desktops or laptops. If the business analyst worked on documenting a manufacturing process on the factory floor they had to do so on paper and later capture the results in their BPA tool of choice. That prohibited the adoption of BPA across the enterprise – having to do work twice is not very productive. Today, the same Business Analyst can use his or her tablet or smartphone to document or make changes to those processes while on the factory floor enhancing productivity and allowing for real-time updates to important process models. BPA tools like ARIS 9 and Process Live, the cloud-based BPA platform from Software AG, have come a long way to deliver value right to the fingertips of management and the business community to gain real-time insight into their business processes.

After documenting their processes with BPM most organizations didn’t take the next step to implement the execution of the processes within a BPM platform, which would allow them to run and monitor instances of the documented process across the organization. In most cases the barrier was directly attributed to the complexity of implementing a BPM ‘runtime environment’. IT departments had to install, run and maintain a BPM environment they were not familiar with and they also had to connect that runtime with their underlying agility layer thru SOA to enable the BPM process to communicate with existing systems. Smaller departmental deployments of BPM were more common than Enterprise BPM implementations mostly because departmental leaders wanted to improve on specific Key Performance Indictors (KPIs) that they were measured against while controlling the scope of the process and minimizing the integration work needed.

The adoption of cloud technologies like AgileApps Live and Process Live has virtually eliminated the need for any on-premise BPM execution environment. Organizations can now developed their processes in ARIS 9 and Process Live, move those processes to AgileApps Live and have it executed there without installing any on-premise software. The design, deployment and interaction with the processes can be done from their mobile devices allowing them real-time access to critical information. Ensuring that the agility layer is developed using SOA best practices is critical for a successful BPM deployment, especially if you want to ensure a high degree of reuse among the developers and broader business community.

  • Q. How is Software AG currently working to accommodate this evolution?

A. Software AG recently launched Software AG Live, a unified cloud platform-as-a-service.  The Software AG Live suite enables our customers to experience an ease-of-use, speed of development and deployment that has not otherwise been available, with no extra infrastructure required. In addition, we now enable business subject matter experts to develop solutions by themselves. The suite encompasses:

Process Live, a fully mobile and cloud-enabled platform to build and maintain BPM processes in a social collaborative fashion. Process Live enables organizations to host discussions about processes, build and join groups and watch activity streams. The approach to use crowdsourcing will greatly increase the acceptance and improvements organizations seek thru standardized BPM processes.

AgileApps Live, an application and business process Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) built on technology from recently acquired LongJump, Inc. AgileApps Live helps organizations develop agile cloud-based BPM applications in days rather than weeks or months. Once deployed these applications are immediately available thru mobile devices, lowering the barrier to the adoption of the new BPM based application. AgileApps Live is an end user Subject Matter Expert (SME) development platform. SMEs can use the platform to compose BPM processes, generate GUI front-ends and build dashboards and KPIs for measurements and identifying improvement areas. With build-in social collaboration capabilities, the platform truly bridges the gap between business and IT users.

Integration Live, a cloud-based service which will focus on cloud-to-cloud integration with the added ability to work with on-premise webMethods Integration Server, for ultimate flexibility to integrate on-premise systems with cloud based applications. Organizations adopting SOA or who have developed SOA services thru their agility layers will now be able to expose those services to the outside world in a secure manner to enable seamless integration and sharing of services. Integration Live will also be provide integration capabilities to AgileApps Live, enabling organizations to exchange information in real-time between the new cloud-based BPM applications and their on-premise applications, databases or other BPM systems.

  • Q. In your opinion, why is it so important for process improvement to move beyond departmental silos and combine people, process, and IT in an all-encompassing end-to-end BPM program?

A. Organizations won’t be able to realize the full potential and benefits of an Enterprise BPM without the wider adoption of BPM across the entire organizational landscape. To truly gain the benefit of enterprise wide visibility, real-time monitoring and identifying areas of improvement organizations need to take the next evolutionary step to move beyond the departmental silo implementations.

For example, we are all familiar with ordering goods online from major retailers. If a retailer get an online order for 2000 LED TVs on Black Friday the order department/system might pass this directly to the shipping department for delivery. When the shipping department ships the TVs, there’s an accident and 10 of them are damaged and can now only be shipped 2 weeks later after the manufacturer replaces them. So the shipping department now needs to contact the purchasing department to buy replacement TVs to full-fill already placed orders, they also need to let the customers know the orders will be late and potentially give the CRM department a heads-up that they might get customer complaints. A further complication could enter the supply-chain if the manufacturer can’t deliver the TVs on time. If you have human-only processes, then the information and process flow could get stymied between the different departmental silos, plus there’s no ability to track KPIs, SLAs and other relevant information in real-time. If you have an enterprise-wide end-to-end BPM process instead – spanning departments with KPIs and monitoring – you can automate many of the process steps and get real-time alerts if something goes wrong. For organizations to evolve, they need to bring together the people to interact with the process flow, the process needs to span across the enterprise to enable true visibility, and they need IT to connect the process with backend systems to enable true automation and information exchange.

  • Q. How can this help bridge the gap between Business and IT?

A. There always seems to be this ‘struggle’ for IT to interpret and relate to what the business really needs. It’s almost as if the business requirements and needs get lost in translation between business and IT. IT sometimes struggles to keep-up with the ever-changing business landscape and requirements to get information faster, enabling rapid responses to the competition or changing market conditions. By allowing SMEs to develop a BPM process – in a collaborative fashion with IT on one single platform – many of the ‘translation’ challenges will be eliminated. Business can do what they do best, like creating BPM processes, defining their own KPIs and assisting with dashboard and report creation. And, IT can do what they do best, focusing on process-to-system integration and implementing a solid agility layer with SOA to ensure a high degree of reuse across different process models. Using a unified platform that can span the enterprise is really a win-win for all involved. People can focus on their strengths and expertise to ensure they deliver the best ‘product’ they are responsible for.

  • Q. How can using a single integration backbone to connect all Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and cloud-based applications help organizations today increase overall business value?

A. Most organizations today struggle with the sheer number of data sources and applications they need to deal with. A decade or so ago, organizations might have had one CRM system, one ERP system, a few databases and some legacy apps they developed using Java, .Net, COBOL etc. Today, most organizations deal with multiple CRM systems (due to acquisitions), hundreds of databases of all kinds, COTS applications, SaaS applications, Twitter, Facebook etc.

Imagine what it would look like if you needed to integrate all these applications and data sources with each other to share information, and do so in a secure manner. Now imagine that once it’s all done, someone upgrades one COTS application and all the interfaces need to change. Where would you start? How would you identify the risks to business operations potentially going down? A single integration backbone or agility layer based on sound SOA, Event Driven Architecture (EDA) and API capabilities will not only greatly simplify the overall integration architecture but also mitigate your risk, if changes occur. Business will reap tremendous benefits due to the risk mitigation, standards-based integration capabilities between the systems and BPM, and higher degree of reuse when they want to build new applications or expose external APIs. With cloud-based applications becoming more prevalent and the need to expose information through external facing APIs, security is becoming a major business concern as well. The complexities around data encryption, data compression and low latency messaging can be greatly reduce when using an agility layer with these built-in capabilities.

  • Q. How does Software AG Live, a cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service suite, work to create an agile and integrated solution for the digital Enterprise?

A. Organizations today are really hard pressed to not only stay ahead of the competition but also to react in a timely manner to all the internal and external digital ‘bombardment’. For example, if people go online and tweet something negative about a product, brand or store, the organization impacted will want to become aware of that negative sentiment and respond to it immediately.

With Software AG Live, a SME/business user can – in a matter of hours – create an application that will:

Monitor for negative tweets and other social media commentary, and automatically respond to the person who commented

Start a BPM process and alert the appropriate people within the organization who can use the platform to collaborate and resolve the matter

Software AG Live also enables the SME to create dashboards and reports to measure and report on important KPIs allowing transparency for management and peer review. IT can use the same platform to securely integrate their existing cloud-based or on-premise CRM system with the new cloud-based application. With the built-in social and collaboration capabilities of the platform, organizations can use crowdsourcing to rapidly address issues on a broader scale without the need for email and phone calls.

  • Q. What benefits can customers expect from using Software AG Live?

A. By extending our business process and integration leadership to the cloud, Software AG is now offering a complete PaaS suite. This solution unifies process design, agile application development and integration, while enabling customers to utilize hybrid cloud deployments to support their business needs. Applications created on this platform are instantly available on mobile platforms and come with pre-build integration with social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

  • Q. Is there a roadmap for releasing Software AG Live? What does it involve?

A. The Software AG Live suite is available today, however there are additional capabilities which will be introduced over the next nine months. AgileApps Live is available immediately. Process Live is compatible with Software AG’s market-leading ARIS Business Process Analysis platform and will be available second half of 2013. Integration Live is scheduled for availability in Q1 of 2014.

  • Q. What other solutions will Software AG offer in 2013 to address the evolving needs of today’s digital organizations?

A. Software AG will offer Dynamic Cloud Scaling, a new capability of Software AG’s webMethods Integration Server that supports elastic scaling across hybrid deployments – public cloud, private cloud and on-premise – available in the second half of 2013. Customers will have the choice of managing deployments themselves or taking advantage of Software AG Managed Suite. This new offering includes components, such as the webMethods Integration Server, managed by Software AG as-a-service in customer’s data centers or on the public cloud. This offering will also be available later in 2013.

Mighael Botha, Chief Technology Officer of Software AG North America

Mighael Botha is a seasoned professional with more than 24 years of experience in Information Technology. In his current role as CTO for North America, he regularly meets and presents to C-Level Executives on topics like Cloud Computing, Big Data, Mobile development, SOA and Business Process Management.  Mr. Botha guides and directs technical resources throughout the Americas to deploy and implement complex business solutions using Software AG products.

Prior to joining Software AG in 2002, Mr. Botha worked at numerous Fortune 500 companies as a software developer and later as a Chief Architect focusing on Enterprise Application integration. He moved to the United States in early 1998 from South Africa where he worked for an IT consulting firm focusing on middleware and mainframe integration.

Mr. Botha holds a degree in Computer Science and is a passionate speaker on topics like Cloud Computing and Big Data.

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