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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

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

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As discussed here last time out, Microsoft Corp. made some interesting BPM-related announcements on Feb. 26, as covered by ebizQ. Aside from its Business Process Alliance (BPA), Microsoft also announced plans to support to the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) in the Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation (WF).

What Microsoft Announced: BPEL Support...Sort of...

Specifically, Microsoft plans to deliver "soon" a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of WF enhanced with support for BPEL version 1.1. "The final release of the next WF version, expected this calendar year, will include full support for both the BPEL 1.1 standard and the BPEL 2.0 specification. Support for the BPEL 2.0 standard will enable the import and export of BPEL directly into Windows Workflow Foundation," Microsoft said.

Microsoft also plans further integration between WF and the R2 release of its BizTalk Server 2006 software, which the company said will be generally available in the third quarter of this year. In addition, Microsoft said that "new platform capabilities in the 2007 Microsoft Office system" and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 will "enable customers to realize the People-Ready value from business processes."

Hmm.

BPEL support is important – but only if it delivers interoperability and integration benefits with a minimum of pain and suffering. So IT decision-makers have to start by figuring out if BPEL support is meaningful for their enterprises' specific business needs. (Yes, most likely, for easy interoperability with and migration from or to multiple vendors' platforms, if not for specific meaningful features or functions.) Those decision-makers must then figure out whether incumbent or leading candidate solutions even support BPEL, and if so, whether its version 1.1 or version 2.0, and whether or not that matters. (The earlier version's more mature, but the later version's more functional, at least potentially.) (By the way, you can find a lot of information and discussion of BPEL and its implications by typing "BPEL" into the "Search" box at ebizQ.)

Then, the core question – will Microsoft's support for BPEL be sufficient to deliver the business benefits enterprises need and expect? Microsoft Office, an important component of Microsoft's BPM strategy, offers some clues, but not much hope. What Microsoft has done regarding its Open XML Format for files created by Microsoft Office 2007 offers some interoperability, but not the kind of playing-field-leveling parity at least some supporters of truly open industry standards likely expect or desire. And Microsoft so far only talking about BPEL support as a mechanism for importing and exporting information into and out of Windows WF raises at least as many questions as it answers.

And what about those BPM and BPM-related solutions important to particular enterprises, but not offered by members of Microsoft's BPA? IT and business decision-makers may find themselves passionately interested in various vendors' plans to join or support the BPA, or even lobbying particular vendors to join. But what will that mean to those vendors and offerings looking beyond Microsoft and Windows? Will Microsoft try to persuade BPA members to focus on Windows technologies to the exclusions of others, such as open source environments?

We don't yet know enough to answer these questions definitively here. But decision-makers at enterprises large and small had better start asking these and related questions, and insisting on actionable, meaningful answers, from incumbent and candidate vendors, Microsoft, and relevant Microsoft channel partners. And speaking of Microsoft partners,…well, more on them next time out…

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I think the burden and pressures is on the larger enterprise (or should be) to be compatible with Microsoft offerrings. After researching and studying what is really "BPM," I came to a conclusion the BPM is connection to a database that can process information/data stored in my storage. Doesn't Microsoft Small Business Server premuim offer the package? If Microsoft redesigns and expands its Small Business Server consolidation model into an enterprise model? Is that the perfect BPM -- one platform compatible with all other via "SQL?" GAME OVER!

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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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