Reshaping Legacy Applications using a BPM Strategy

By CIOReview | Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The changing business needs propel constant innovations in application structures by means of refactoring, re purposing or consolidation of software programming. Business Process Management (BPM) is also becoming a way to application modernization. BPM follows a systematic approach to make an organization's workflow more effective, efficient and capable of adapting to an ever-changing environment.

Taking the BPM approach

BPM strategy begins with careful identification of business processes, considering application tools as interactive elements keeping the process and application dimensions of a strategy as parallel coequals even in implementation.  It is used to break out the specific activities that combine to serve the goals of business. In many cases, where a BPM strategy is implemented well, it becomes a crucial element in the enterprise architecture. From an application design and development standpoint, BPM is a source of requirements.

Driving Modernization Using BPM

A smart approach to BPM-driven application modernization fosters the fundamental interdependence of tools and processes allowing workers to perform their tasks with what they have. This way the availability of applications and data tend to frame the way employees work. The interdependence can, however, create a risk in the process of application modernization owing to the simplicity of carrying tool-based restrictions of the past into the applications of the past. This implies that the details of the current applications need to be erased to capture real business processes. In such a scenario, enterprise architecture can prove to be helpful if an "EA model" is available. In case enterprises seek to modernize legacy applications on a large scale, it should be first developing an EA model as per one of the established standards such as TOGAF.

It is easier to recover business process definitions from current applications when the possibility of application modernization projects is limited. Alternatively, organizations can take application workflows and group application features into the business processes they support.

Designing Work Models

Once a BPM framework is devised, the first step towards modernizing applications is to assess the workflow implications of that framework. This process is carried out to determine the applications of work model that should be optimally supported. To fulfill this, following steps can be considered:

Simple transactional flow: When a transaction process is initiated, it proceeds to completion in an orderly manner. This is how most of the applications work.

Stream computing model: Driven by activity streams, business processes may involve numerous events and a process requires interactive support through these streams.

Transaction-plus-analytics: big-data collection and analytics drive a parallel set of processes within business processes that are largely transactional.

Each model has a specific structure which determines the middleware tools and application program interfaces to be used. Usually, transactional applications can be easily linked with SOA application models, and SOA can also be used for primary transaction flows in the transaction-plus-analytics approach. On the other hand, stream computing models should be based on complex event processing and stream/flow APIs, particularly microservices.

The next step is to map both current and prospective application components into the model selected. If an application component fits in the defined flow, it is suitable for use providing that the interfaces can be accommodated. The API and information model needs should be noted; as their aggregation will form the requirements for middleware choices. This is the point where the interactivity of business processes and application tools has to be considered.

The final step is to plot the implementation. Once the applications and components are ready, users can incorporate their application modernization and implementation strategy. An important aspect to be noted here is to retain the separation of BPM and technology, so the new composite application map and workflows can be built over the BPM process created initially.