The fruit salad of convergence

by kirangarimella on January 25, 2007

Everyone is talking about convergence. Everyone, it seems, has always been talking about convergence.

Physicists do so; they call it the Unified Field Theory.

Even Chicago taxicab drivers do it. I lived in Chicago for a number of years, flying almost weekly on consulting engagements. Taking a cab between home and O’Hare was better for sanity than braving the Chicago road system (where, to add insult to injury, they make you pay tolls).

The weird thing is that just about every cab driver I met engaged me in conversation. Invariably, they were only in it as a hobby, or it was a temporary situation for them (reminding me of one episode of the sitcom ‘Taxi,’ where Judd Hirsch’s character, Alex Reiger, blows up sarcastically on the temporary nature of cab driving.)

One of cab drivers, astonishingly, treated me to a 30-minute scholarly lecture on the coming convergence of the telecom industry (this was back in 1999).

IT professionals, of course, aren’t immune. The particular strain of convergence virus floating about these days is the convergence of BPM and SOA.

The fond hope is that services will package whole business processes, somewhat like a benevolent form of ERP applications.

David Linthicum opines that BPM is the logical conclusion of EAI, and that the convergence of BPM and SOA is obvious.

In the sophisticated sense that BPM extends integration and gives it a wider, business-oriented context, I agree. But, I don’t think this is very obvious for most people.

One physicist who I met socially questioned this deep human need to come up with a unified theory. It is perfectly fine to have three or four theories that in totality explain all the phenomena, he maintained.

I’m not sure about that; I rather like the idea of a Grand Theory of Everything.

But in the BPM-SOA space, I draw the line at a naïve form of convergence, where the boundaries between BPM and SOA allegedly disappear and their concepts get mashed up into a smoothie.

I do think of the two as naturally complementary, but there is no logical necessity that makes one indispensable for the other.

A company can adopt process thinking without doing anything with the technology, but I doubt they’d get very far.

A company can build applications applying all the principles of SOA, but I think there will remain a nagging feeling of inadequacy, an incompleteness, that only BPM can fill.

BPM and SOA are distinct disciplines, each with their own concepts, vocabularies, areas of focus, and audiences. They are definitely made for each other.

However, they shouldn’t blend into an IT smoothie; they’ll taste better as an IT fruit salad.

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