...by Daniel Szego
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Leonardo da Vinci

Friday, May 27, 2016

Decentralized Business Process Management ?

Current boom of the Blockchain technology raises the interesting questions if certain IT technologies can be extended on a decentralized model. As an example the question raises right away if it makes sense to extend a BPM (Business Process Management) to run on the top of Blockchain. The two poin
ts that need to be analyised, if it possible from a technological point of view and if it makes sense from a business perspective. 

Technical point of view: from a technical point of view BPM can be regarded as an extended workflow, containing states of the workflow and transitions between the states that require more or less human interaction. States of the running workflow instances are usually serialized somewhere, for instance into a database. As decentralized ledger can actually be regarded as a database, decentralized BPM solution can be imagined as saving the workflow instances states into ledger and cryptographycaly validate both the states and the transactions between the states, implying a decentralized BPM system. The question is actually if the scenario is usable in real life scenarios: at least two points should be considered: 
a. the amount of data to be saved: well most decentralized ledgers are not really prepared to store a huge amount of data. Certainly a workflow state is usually far from Big Data, despite it is questionable if we face difficulties. 
b. reaction time: well most of the workflow system do not require real-time reaction time, despite waiting for a hundred percent verified answer, as an example at Bitcoin protocol, might be too slow.    
Business point of view: So, let we imagined if we have the technology, a ready to go decentralized BPM solution. The question is which situations can we use it? Well enterprise customers have probably got their` own business process technology, based on the good old client server model. Actually small companies can have cheap internal BPM solutions, typically hosted int the cloud. The situation gets interesting if we consider cooperation processes of more companies, perhaps together with end-customers or even with non-human elements as well, like IoT devices. In such situation several independent "agent" work together to reach a common consensus of a workflow state or workflow action that is implemented with a "shared" business process. For such a shared process decentralized trust is actually essential, and the best way is to achieve via the Blockchain technology.