Gartner has advised in their report Gartner Predicts 2007: Align BPM and SOA Initiative Now to Increase Chances of Becoming a Leader in 2010 that BPM and SOA will converge and urged adopting “process architecture” now to take a leadership role in the future. In my work with SOA I have found that as SOA matures in an organization projects shift from integration style to business process automation and optimization using BPM and SOA. Also software products in the “SOA Suite” now include an ESB and BPM package from the major software vendors. This software is more integrated with each release – but as Gartner also points out in their report there is still a long way to go. SOA architects should consider BPM as an architectural layer that can be leveraged to deliver business solutions. These solutions follow a set of design patterns that Jim Sinur has outlined well in the following summarized article. Jim’s patterns also suggest maturation levels within BPM. The early work I did with BPM was mostly straight-through processing. An example of straight-through processing is integrating online stock trades with back-end clearing systems. What used to take days now takes seconds. Worker processes are typically short lived and transactional and the next logical step after straight-through processes such as exception handling within a straight-through process or a simple approval process. There are human tasks in an otherwise automated process. Knowledge worker automation is more collaborative and long lived with the potential to have the greatest impact on the most skilled workers. A good example of knowledge worker automation is collaborative product design using internal and external engineers.

Prevalent Process Patterns Enable BPM Benefits Differently Straight-Through Processes: (Program Controlled): This workflow pattern has been highly sought out and highly enabled by hand crafted and/or purchased applications. Through the linking of transactions, sub-applications, services, composite applications and application integrations via BPM technologies, significant economies can be gained by leveraging automation… Process Worker Processes: (Process Worker Enabled): This workflow pattern organizes human capital and flow of work that requires knowledge, cases, content and skills. While this pattern may leverage application transactions and composite applications, the work surrounding these kinds of processes... Knowledge Worker Processes: (Professional Knowledge Worker Guided) At the top of the process food chain are processes that require a high level of skill that might not be available in one person. Consequently, it may require the collaboration of multiple people that may or may not be employees of your organization. These kinds of processes are resolved in hours at best and sometimes can go unresolved for longer periods of time…

See also Dan Atwood’s BPM more detailed BPM Design Patterns (PDF).