11 Jun 2011

BPM and SOA Failsafes

For any business, a good employee is worth their weight in gold. This is especially true for any business that uses SOA or BPM. This is because very often, the entire technological infrastructure relies very heavily on a dedicated technical support staff, the loss of any one of whom could spell disaster for the efficient running of the business. Even more dangerous is the thought that any one of these individuals could leave the business high and dry, but also be taking intimate secrets of their programming or BPM processes that the business has implemented. To help prevent this, there are a few simple steps that every BPM or SOA business should follow both before and after they lose a valuable employee to prevent these information leaks.

Don’t Keep Information in House

The first step that any business should seriously consider before they implement their BPM or SOA business plan is to contract their system resources to a third party, rather than keeping the power inside their businesses, where leaks are far more likely. These third party contractors don’t use the same hierarchy of power, meaning that no single person, or even single department knows the entirety of a particular BPM process or SOA technical system. Information is more closely guarded and partitioned among various employees. Unlike most businesses that have a small, specialized IT team, independent businesses have a team, any of which can take on the roles of the others, disseminating information among a larger group.

Diversify Your Team

Information in the IT world is often greater than the sum of its parts. Any company that doesn’t use a third party to assist with their BPM system could be playing with fire, but if an in-house IT team is used, no single individual should have full access to all of the data. Sometimes this can lead to a slightly less effectual system, but in the long run it would be far worse to lose a linchpin person in that team, as well as their information to a competitor. Highly partitioned tasks that are run through a group of supervisors will ensure that no department, even the IT, has total access.

The other advantage to this is to force employees out of their comfort zone, which can help increase feelings of trust and loyalty, which will further gird the company against the leakage of information. Additional personnel is not required if a few additional tasks of specialty are added to every employee. Even if they do not have full comprehension of what their new areas of expertise mean to the comprehensive plan, they’ll feel integral to the practices of the business, which also not able to share the information if they leave the company, and their loss will be less of a blow to overall operation.

Communication is Key

It is too often a common practice for IT departments to avoid completing detailed work orders. Just as a business requires documentation of every other implementation, somehow IT falls below the radar, often due to the vast array of information they are forced to deal with and the difficulty in documentation. Even more problematic can be the communication breakdown between IT and business stakeholders when it comes to systems and processes, usually with business stakeholders failing to be properly on-boarded into business processes that are supposed to streamline and simplify poorly-optimized functions.

In both of these cases, communication is the key factor to the success of implementing new business integration efforts, particularly when dealing with large-sized companies and organizations.  Ensuring that all stakeholders both in the business side and in IT are aware of the new architecture and how the building blocks achieve the business objectives of new systems.

Clearly-composed documentation, of course, is one aspect of this communication effort, and often favours optimal short-term IT-to-IT communication as well as long-term IT-to-business communication in clarifying new systems’ objectives and operations. That being said, IT should indeed have extensive documentation that describes exact problems as well as steps taken to resolution. These should then be used by the CIO in training exercises that challenge other employees to expand their knowledge and be able to resolve problems in the long run.

The benefits here are twofold. First, this ultimately will give the IT department more time to streamline as other employees are given a greater degree of knowledge. While the short term might be difficult, after a period of time, basic repairs that would ordinarily chew up large portions of the IT departments time can now be handled by lower level employees.

Secondly, this knowledge adds in to the distribution of information of the whole structure, making the loss of a keystone figure less harmful. SOA and BPM are ultimately about the redistribution of the business’ entire infrastructure, so moving against the desire for specialization will ultimately make the process work more efficiently, once the initial difficulties are addressed.

Due to the relative novelty of SOA and BPM systems, often the adjustment to the new system creates typhoons of panic which end up being held at bay by the IT department, which later enable them disproportionately when it comes to the overall function of the business. An effective BPM or SOA business moves away from bureaucracy and uneven distributions of power. An outside specialist is the most preferable solution. For those business that fear the expenditure, creating checks and balances to avoid any single person or department from possessing too much power or information can create solidarity among workers, further their skills and value, and circulation of data so even a difficult loss is not fatal.

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