Development Tools are Reorienting

With standards maturing, proprietary dominance no longer serves as the goal of integrated development environment providers. Here's what process orientation will mean for users of the major products.

More Useful than Conspicuous

In the next year or two enterprise developers can look forward to application development environments that (more or less) use BPO as a kind of conceptual glue for the creation of reusable modules. The connections between IDEs and tools for BPI and BPM will become more explicit and the incorporation of modeling will put business process closer to the core of development design and planning.

Spotting trends in enterprise application development has something in common with forecasting the weather — accuracy and detail are difficult to achieve. However, we look for trends because application development is a crucial but problematic endeavor and we keep hoping that the next trend will provide better solutions.

Unfortunately, some trends such as Xtreme Programming are heavy on the hype and last only a few years or fall into niches, at best. Others, like Web services, are a mix of reality and hype with a somewhat obscured future. A few trends, such as object-oriented programming, have become more or less permanent. Whether BPO will come to the fore and endure is still an open question. It does have a good pedigree — the actual business of business. However, one thing seems certain: The incorporation of process orientation into commercial application development environments will probably be more useful than conspicuous.

Nelson King [[email protected]] is a 25-year veteran of the coding wars, their documentation (with nine books on application development), and published evaluation of the tools.

Do Your Tools Support Your Beliefs?

If you're a believer in BPO, here are some suggestions on how to look at today's IDEs from that perspective. BPO isn't a formulated methodology at the ground level of application development — not counting the vendors and products that are already fully committed to business process integration or business process management. Consequently, if you prefer that an IDE recognize business processes explicitly, you'll find that few do, although Sybase PowerBuilder with Sybase Business Process Integration and IBM WebSphere Studio with IBM Business Integration come close.

In any case, if an organization wants to put business processes somewhere near the center of IT application development, it will be a matter of the shop's (or organization's) emphasis. Of course, the more support for BPO within the IDE, especially among the key components (XML, MDA, SOA, and the application server), the easier it will be to emphasize. This is an approach reminiscent of "data-driven programming," which was never a true formal methodology, but was very useful in making programs more flexible (based on data changes rather than changes in code).

In the case of BPO, the key factor is probably the adoption of model driven architecture (MDA) for application development. MDA will naturally favor business processes, so an IDE that thoroughly integrates modeling can more easily be used for a BPO approach. This is an area where IBM (especially IBM Rational) has taken a lead but others, in particular Microsoft, Telelogic, and Fujitsu Software, are in hot pursuit. — Nelson King


Business Process Management Initiative:

Model-Driven Architecture:











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