Composable Business Processes: The Journey to a Composable Enterprise

Anyone who wanted to change the world as a child could start right away – using plastic building blocks. We created fire stations or spaceships from colorful building blocks that could be easily put together. I found it fascinating to build new things from scratch, adapt them or start all over again. Why not apply this approach to business processes as well?

Technologies are changing daily and markets are changing extremely rapidly. To stay competitive, businesses must be nimble, flexible and able to adapt in an instant to changing market dynamics. But how do companies become resilient to constant changes in the market, workforce and environment? How can we rearrange the often very rigid and inflexible structures of today’s business processes to allow for maximum flexibility?

One of the concepts discussed in the effort to find an answer to these questions is composability. Applied to companies, it describes the processes of an organization made up of interchangeable building blocks and corresponding computer systems. A modular setup allows a business to dynamically reassemble processes and rearrange and reorient them as needed based on external or internal factors.

To cite two very recent examples, consider adding a carbon tracker to your supply chain processes or incorporating a new infection protection law in response to a pandemic. Today, this would require a long-term integration project, whereas a modular setup could allow a process expert to adapt and change processes easily and quickly, ideally without implementing a single line of code.


From building blocks to processes

By further modularizing enterprise software, we can dynamically adapt processes in the cloud to meet changing and individual market needs. A modular setup can enable businesses to effectively utilize a highly scalable and flexible data and integration platform, reducing effort for process changes and thus enabling adaptability and agility to respond quickly to organizational changes. or economic.

As simple as it sounds, in practice, building a composable business is an extremely sophisticated undertaking, both technically and organizationally. Today, we can see that with end-to-end business processes, integrations always require change efforts when processes are adapted in any way.

However, business processes are constantly changing and, after years of adaptation and fine-tuning, they are incredibly difficult to grasp. This makes it very difficult to modularize and make the components usable at the business process task level. Additionally, modifying these ever-changing processes in an enterprise system almost certainly involves code that needs to be written or modified, thus requiring the involvement of one or more developers. Therefore, we are not just talking about composable technologies, but about building a modular enterprise architecture that allows companies to combine and adapt various business processes in a rapidly changing way.


How to shape transformation into a composable business

The journey to a composable business is still a long one, with most businesses experimenting with different approaches at the concept stage. Composability of business processes is a very relevant topic for SAP customers. As they use a variety of new technologies and applications, at SAP we want to ensure that we keep up with the frequency of customization and offer our customers best-in-class process orchestration.

Our vision for SAP is clear: to create a platform for modular processes that allows customers and partners not only to model or document their processes, but also to create end-to-end processes from building blocks and to execute them directly.

We are currently exploring different use cases for proof of concept implementations to bring this vision to life. In addition, we test customer requirements and feasibility to assess for which applications and product areas it makes sense to bring modeling, formalization and execution together.

Ultimately, we want to address end-to-end business process management throughout the design, execution, analysis, and optimization lifecycle. This will enable end-to-end process flow composition and, where possible, execution on autopilot, using technologies such as machine learning for example.


More consistent, flexible and scalable business processes

Since there is no single enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that meets all the industry-specific and functional requirements of every customer, the future is to configure and expand while maintaining the end-to-end consistency. What if we could provide customers with – sort of – the guidance and control center that helps them configure and/or extend their own processes? By populating the “construction kit” with a wide range of building blocks that allow them to act independently of IT, processes could be changed and adapted easily and quickly, without specialist knowledge or a developer at hand.

In the long run, companies can only build resilience by creating environments that enable companies to create and use business processes in a composable way and to orchestrate them across system boundaries.

We envision a process-driven platform that offers a diverse range of solutions under one roof that are developed by SAP, partners or customers. It must enable end-to-end process integration by being a reconfigurable system of interoperable business capabilities. It must make all processes within and between companies work seamlessly. The main benefits for customers would be new levels of efficiency, more time for value-creating work, compliance by default, and ultimately agility and resilience in a rapidly changing business world.

Ultimately, within a business process platform of the future, instantiating a business process model should be as easy as writing an email. Adapting a business process can be as quick as working on a presentation. And monitoring a rig with multiple process instances running should be as fun as playing Sim City.

As a child, playing with these colorful building blocks gave me the power to recreate my imagination of the world from scratch, all by myself. Today, the goal is to bring that power of creative composition back to the business world and empower customers to create their own processes and realize their business vision, without the need for an entire development team on hand. tomorrow.

Martin Heinig is responsible for new businesses and technologies at SAP.

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