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BPM and ERP: How to Integrate? An Analysis

Blog: BPM Leader

While discussing an engagement with a client project manager, there was a question about how the BPM approach would work with ERP. The client project manager went a step further. He asked if I have a guideline on when and how to integrate with ERP. As I explained examples of what has been done and where, thoughts started crystalizing around this article.

Context for integration

When we are in a transformation project, the objective is to implement the process for making some changes to the process object or a case. After the changes to the case are done during the process, the need is always to update the changed data to the LOB applications. These LOBs (line of business) applications could be custom-built, ERP or Domain Specific Applications (like PLM, Core Banking etc.).

enterprise-modeling-bpmleader-bpmQuestions to address

As a part of BPM life cycle, should the implementation of the process go for a direct update? And when should that be? As a first step, the advice would be to go for an inbound connection. Once business has confidence in the processes implemented, we should try for a direct update. Direct update builds lot of confidence … and it needs lot of confidence :-) It can shake up the entire BPM setup, if things go south, so extreme care is needed.

Once you have crossed the first stage and are now ready to update directly to ERP, the next question would be: how to go about it? There are 2 approaches that we follow. We can either use an integration layer or go for web services exposed (most of the applications have standard web services for key functionalities).

Going a step further, we would ponder when to use which of the approaches (Integration Layer or Web Services). Based on experience across multiple engagements and clients, we can fit the integration approach into three broad scenarios:

Common integration scenarios

To summarize, as we go along the maturity phases in a BPM life cycle, integration becomes more and more important. Many of the BPM stories falter at integration related situations. Some have very severe impact on credibility of the entire story. While the objective has been to address most common scenarios, there could be scenarios which don’t fit into any of the above three mentioned.

Feel free to add more and we can debate on how to go about them!!

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Some integration examples