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Sandy Kemsley

Gartner Day 3: Yvonne Genovese keynote

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We started the last day at the Gartner summit with a keynote by Yvonne Genovese, Business Applications Through 2010: Major Changes Will Affect Your Process Environment. Early in her presentation, she made an important statement: "the technology keeps breaking our processes". Her focus is on business applications, not specifically BPM, but she's looking at trends of what's happening with enterprise applications like ERP and CRM systems. Her point is that these business applications have, in the past, forced businesses to use rigid business processes implemented within those systems.

However, the current trend is towards unbundling some of this functionality, exposing it through services, then consuming those services using a BPMS. This allows you to not only call specific functionality from your business applications at any point in a process that you now control, you can actually replace or augment the functionality of those applications by calling other services. This also provides an opportunity to more easily integrate between business applications if you have multiple ones in your environment. Although the business application vendors have been pushing suites for some time now, that packaging model will be less compelling to their customers as organizations start to slice and dice the atomic functionality of the business applications and compose their own processes using BPM rather than use the suite in its monolithic form.

Business applications aren't going away: there's still a huge amount of good functionality available in them, and as long as that commoditized functionality can be consumed as services, you're not going to be writing a replacement yourself. What I think will happen, however, is that the amount of the functionality used from any given business application platform will begin to erode as other internal or external services replace some of that functionality. This frees organizations from the vendor lock-in that they're subjected to now, and adds a new possibility for creating business applications: instead of just "buy" or "build", you can now also "compose". And if the megavendors in this field are going to stay competitive, they need to embrace and encourage an ecosystem that allows smaller vendors to provide services that can easily be integrated with their larger platform. This isn't going to be the old model of the vendor controlling the ecosystem by anointing their favourite technology partners, however: the customer organizations are going to build their own ecosystem from their preferred vendors in a truly best-of-breed fashion.

At the end of the day, BPM is an essential part of all this, since it will be used as a composition framework for combining functionality from business applications, along with internal and external services, into the processes that the business really needs.

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