Companies with a complex infrastructure of enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) have to meet the challenge to implement flexible cross-system processes or workflows fast. This requires interoperability of different systems, flexible and dynamic interfaces and efficient methods to transform business tasks over a process description to an executable workflow implemented in a Workflow Management System or in a Business Process Management System. In software engineering, model-driven architecture development (MDA) provides an established approach that seems to be adaptable for the agile development and implementation of business processes. Software companies as SAP and Oracle provide software development environments for the purpose of Business Process development and implementation. In his master thesis Stefan Breuer examines the maturity of the corresponding SAP technology based on products such as SAP CE, SAP BPM and SAP BRF. He outlines that process modeling should cover both business needs and technical aspects. Event-driven Process Chain Modeling (EPC) developed by Prof. Scheer and promoted by SAP are directly adressable to the business level of description. Its strength lies in the business organizational process design. In contrast to the EPC the international wide spread Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) tries to integrate the business and technical views.
The SAP provides two alternative ways for model driven process development. The first concept of integration combines the ARIS Business Architect and the SAP Solution Manager. It focuses the implementation of workflows which uses SAP ERP as back end. Both tools are well established in SAP-oriented IT-departments, but this concept is less intended for group-wide issues.
SAP provides with SAP CE and SAP NWDS tools which should enable a flexible integration of a service-oriented landscape. Considered from the perspective of the MDA some important aspects such as the ability to customize the generated source code are missing. In addition, the concept is restricted to the SAP runtime environment and has some weaknesses in the process strategy and documentation.
However, SAP promotes these products as a step to better performance monitoring and business process intelligence. A business rules component allows the parameterization of the process logic and enables process customizing by the process owner. That means that the IT developer is no longer needed to change process parameters. Therefore, the dependence on the IT department will increase as well as the flexibility and reusability of process components as architectural building blocks in terms of Enterprise Architecture management.
Although it is still a significant step from agile software development to the “agile business implementation”, the first step is already done by ERP vendors such as SAP and others.