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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

Microsoft and BPM: A New Beginning? (Part the First)

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On February 26, Microsoft Corp. announced formation of a Business Process Alliance (BPA), and enhancements to workflow support elements of its .NET architecture.

Separately, Microsoft made some announcements about hosted services that have significant implications for Microsoft channel partners, and the companies that do business with them.

I'm going to spend several postings here musing over what all of this means. Comments and thoughts welcome, of course, here and/or via e-mail to bpminactionblog@ebizq.net.

What Microsoft Announced: The BPA

As ebizQ reported on the day of the announcement, Feb. 26, Microsoft announced formation of the BPA, as well as 10 initial members, listed below.
• AmberPoint ("run-time governance" of service-oriented architectures or SOAs)
• Ascentn (a BPM/SOA solution that integrates tightly with Microsoft technologies)
• Fair Isaac (products and services for business intelligence (BI) and performance management)
• Global 360 (BPM suite and related functionality)
• IDS Scheer (consulting, services, and software intended to enable "business process excellence)
• InRule (solutions for authoring, managing, and verification of rules and decision logic driving .NET environments)
• Metastorm (BPM software and best practices intended to foster life cycle BPM and "transformation")
• PNMsoft (Web-based workflow and BPM applications)
• RuleBurst (solutions for business rules, compliance, governance, and risk management)
• SourceCode Technology Holding Inc. (K2.net workflow solutions)

The BPA is intended to provide Microsoft customers a broad range of BPM choices, and the confidence that those choices will interoperate effectively with key Microsoft technologies (and, one assumes hopefully, with one another). The ultimate goal is to give enterprises small and large the tools and choices they need to create, deploy, and manage the processes best suited to their specific business needs and designated technologies.

But there are two other obvious goals of this particular enterprise. One is to broaden and deepen the penetration of Microsoft technologies in enterprises of all sizes seeking to succeed with BPM. Another is to position Microsoft technologies, such as BizTalk Server, the .NET Framework, and Windows Workflow Foundation, as enablers of comprehensive, integrated, multi-vendor BPM solutions. (You can see more about these technologies and how Microsoft sees them supporting BPM at www.microsoft.com/bpm.)

According to Microsoft, the BPA will initially focus four key areas, listed below.
• Business process modeling and analysis (as delivered by integration between IDS Scheer and BizTalk Server)
• Business rules management (via integration with Fair Isaac, RuleBurst, and InRule solutions)
• "Human-centric" workflow and process simulation/optimization (via integration with multiple BPM solutions)
• SOA life cycle management (via integration with AmberPoint)

So far, the announcement maps and tracks quite closely to many of the critical BPM challenges facing enterprises large and small. Microsoft said yet another goal of the BPA is to remove barriers to BPM facing smaller enterprises, notably cost and complexity. This can be nothing but good for business and technology decision-makers at enterprises reliant upon Microsoft technologies.

It may also provide a model for how Microsoft will work with partners in the future to tread the difficult-to-navigate line between promoting Microsoft-only and Microsoft-centric technologies and being a good corporate citizen and supplier. The BPA presents a strong opportunity for Microsoft to cash the check its mouth has been writing about its ability and willingness to support interoperability with other vendors' solutions to help customers succeed. Which leads naturally into discussion of Microsoft's announced plans for support of a key emerging BPM standard, the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL). More on that next time.

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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