Business processes gained attention at an executive panel discussion here today as the driver capable of extracting real value and ROI from EAI (enterprise application integration) projects.
Executives from a venture capitalist, a financial services company, two consulting firms, and an integration vendor agreed that business processes are now becoming so important that CEOs should join CTOs and CIOs in determining if their company has the right business processes in place.
Speaking at a seminar held by EAI vendor SeeBeyond Technology Corp. here on Friday, the executives said business processes can be used to ease integration between partners and customers, communicate more effectively with customers, glean the most out of enterprise applications, and to reuse existing assets rather than perpetually start from scratch.
Because nearly every large company now has complicated systems in place, such as ERP and CRM, integration and business process management are more important than ever, said Ray Lane, general partner at venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers, in Menlo Park, Calif. Lane is also former president and COO of database giant Oracle.
Lane explained that through the establishment and management of business processes, companies can ensure that the right information gets to senior executives who are qualified to make decisions.
"It's all about access to data," Lane said. "Knowledge will be the key differentiator."
Lane added that companies that know what their customers want and know their own capacity to meet that demand will naturally be in a better position to serve customers.
Furthermore, business processes are more easily configurable and reconfigurable on the fly than are simple point-to-point application integration, Lane said.
"It all comes down to the business process," said Kevin Laudano, a partner at New York-based Accenture's global business solutions practice.
Laudano said that successful integration involves automating business process flow and manual processes while maintaining business process integrity.
He said that today, most of that flow is handled manually. XML can be used to automate some of it, but XML is not the ultimate integration solution.
"You've got to rethink business processes, because that's where you get the value," Laudano said. He continued that business process automation can help companies reuse the assets they already have.
Lending a bit of real-world credence to the discourse, Amal Chaudhuri, managing director of global systems and architecture at JPMorgan Chase in New York, said that integrating applications and automating business processes has helped JPMorgan Chase to become more agile.
"We can integrate with partners of any kind very quickly," Chaudhuri said. He added that JPMorgan integrates brokers, custodians, and other partners on an almost daily basis.
Robb Rassmussen, executive director of EDS Digital Value Chain, said that within his unit at EDS, integration has been the biggest growth area during the past 18 months. He added that business processes are a critical piece of e-business.
"In the EAI space, business process is the highest thing we focus on," said Jim Demetriades, CEO of SeeBeyond, in Monrovia, Calif.