What is Business Process Integration (BPI)?
Business Process Integration (BPI) is the synchronization of a company’s internal operations with those of its other divisions and its trading partners by connecting disparate systems in real-time. There are many solutions that provide some kind of software ‘glue’ that helps to communicate between incompatible systems, such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Message-oriented Middleware (MoM), Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) and Enterprise Service Bus solutions. Business Process Integration is genuinely distinct from these in several important ways.
Not all BPI tools are the same
The most important distinction is that proper BPI tools are graphical and code-free in nature such that business analysts, process owners or even power users can grasp how to use the software. In the past only professional developers could use a Software Development Kit (SDK) and then understand the complexity of juggling multiple protocols and converting between different document and file formats. With BPI, mere mortals are now able to customize business processes through the expression of business rules in a natural language-like syntax. They can also map between data formats using visual drag-and-drop techniques.
Another distinction, which is not surprising given the name, is that BPI tools take a top-down, process-centric approach rather than a bottom-up, code-centric approach. The steps in any given process are made from reusable parts such that new processes can be designed using the building blocks from past creations. When the business rules governing a particular process are changed - or if the processing sequence needs to be re-orchestrated or expanded upon - the impact is easy to identify and the modifications are affected quickly and without disruption.
A difference that is sometimes less apparent to the naked eye is that modern BPI tools make greater use of open standards and lower cost connections rather than the proprietary networks and adaptors of the past. For instance, a good BPI tool will support legacy EDI interfaces - like X.12 and EDIFACT documents delivered by a private VAN – why not also save yourself some money by also switching to EDI-type documents delivered over the Internet in XML format via a secure AS2 connection? Likewise, rather than spending $25,000 on an application adapter for SAP or Oracle you can now use free and open Web Services interfaces, like SOAP, instead. So hopefully you can see that a BPI solution will not only automate manual processes and streamline the communication between different systems and databases, but it will also lower your operational costs and reduce your dependence on proprietary interfaces.
Code-free Business Process Integration
In 2007 LANSA delivered BPI technology to 'the rest of us' by announcing the first Business Process Integration solution designed specifically for the heartland of the IBM i community – the small and medium business. Previously, the use of such advanced technology had been the preserve of large and well-resourced organizations that could afford the cost and complexity involved. But today every business – large or small – is under pressure to automate their manual processes, better integrate their internal systems and securely share data with external parties. LANSA Composer is the first native IBM i solution to address all of these requirements and be packaged and priced for the mass market.