The 2008 Business Process Management Software Landscape

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ebizQ watches close to 100 software products that support the business process management (BPM) value proposition. This software is provided by more than 50 suppliers. The use of the term “value proposition” is important conceptually because there is really no such thing as BPM software or BPM technology, but rather products and technologies that enable BPM.

The idea is not to confuse the value proposition with the enabling products or technology. They can range from products with the term BPM in their names such as Oracle’s BPM Suite to SAP’s NetWeaver-based Business Process Platform to collaborative software such as IBM Notes or Microsoft Outlook (both companies also offer products with BPM in their names) to workflow-based document-centric products such as Adobe LiveCycle and EMC’s Documentum-heritage products. Most companies, such as the six mentioned above, offer BPM-enabling software and a range of other types of software. Some offer only BPM-enabling software.

In ebizQ topic terms, the business process management value proposition encompasses BPM suites and platforms, enterprise content management (ECM), business activity monitoring, business performance and optimization, human-centric BPM, business process (e.g., CRM, ERP) integration, process monitoring, process modeling, and other such terms commonly used in the IT industry. For division of labor reasons, BPM in ebizQ’s view does not include IT Lifecycle Management (ITLM), which we admit could be considered BPM for the IT department, or Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM), which although it uses many of the same enabling technologies as BPM-related software, does not offer the enterprise the same value proposition.

The BPM value proposition is most akin to the ERP value proposition of the 1990s (easy integration, unified information about business activity and access to reports about that information by knowledge workers without IT intervention, and so forth). But BPM does not require IT users and line managers to select—and therefore depend on—only one vendor.

Which software product or products you use to solve your BPM challenges will depend on the extent it is, for example, workflow-centric or requires more straight-through processing (STP). Other characteristics include whether or not the products are better suited to internal workflows (Intranet) or business-to-business (B2B) or similar Extranet process flows that span legal entities. Whether the flow is more event- or data-driven is a third important characteristic. In an ideal world, one software suite would support all these functions but such software is not yet available.

What Software Suppliers Are Doing

As is so often the case whenever an analyst takes a year-end/new-year retrospective/look-ahead of any information-technology (IT) grouping, at the end of 2008 the list of BPM suppliers and products is not the same as it was at the end of the previous year. In 2008, BEA was folded into Oracle (but of course Fuego had been folded into BEA in 2006). Skywire was also folded into Oracle in 2008 (but Skywire had acquired Whitehill in 2007, which had acquired Metaserver in 2005). Axway, a part of the Sopra Group, acquired Tumbleweed. Seagull was acquired by Rocket in 2007 (but Seagull had acquired Oak Grove in 2005). Users need to be concerned about such consolidation in order to determine whether their favored products are going to survive a merge and continue to receive functional enhancement.

Consolidation such as outlined above is often a sign of a market’s maturity, meaning users will receive less choice, the pace of functional enhancement will slow, and/or the approach being offered by the supplier community—in this case, BPM as a value proposition—is not receiving market acceptance. Although few outright new "BPM companies" formed in 2008 to balance these consolidations, that is more because of the worldwide financial climate (that is, 2008 was not been a great year for raising financing) and not because of any slowing down of the BPM value proposition momentum. In fact, companies from outside the U.S. such as Axway, Cordys, Handysoft, Newgen, Procession and Singularity are making themselves heard more vocally on the world stage.

Other companies as diverse as Open Text and Lawson gave notice that their software can be applied to the BPM value proposition. And, despite the fact that they may eventually have to compete with Microsoft, Microsoft-centric suppliers such as Blue Prism, Flosuite, K2, Skelta and Ulitmus continued to increase their BPM development and marketing efforts. Of course the classic integration-engine suppliers such as Fujitsu, Software Ag (WebMethods), Sterling Commerce, Sun (SeeBeyond), TIBCO, and Vitria continued to enhance their products to apply to the BPM value proposition.

Not to be overwhelmed by the BPM marketing blitz, especially by the major suppliers, the companies most associated with offering only BPM-enabling software—for example, Appian, Global 360, Lombardi, Macronetics, Metastorm, Pegasystems, and Savvion—all rolled out new versions or new products during 2008. Active Endpoints, Collossa, Intalio, Red Hat (JBoss) and Sarasvati emerged more strongly as alternatives for those that prefer open source terms and conditions or simply the community aspects of open-source development. Industry-specific BPM gained ground especially in government and financial services, with suppliers such as ACI (Transaction Systems Architects), Clear Technology, DST, and Kaulkin.

What Users Think

But the dynamics of the marketplace—what you in IT and line management want from your suppliers—does not change with any flip of the calendar. One thing IT Investment Research analysis found in the list of suppliers on its horizon is that it is becoming more multinational and that it is including broader functionality. Although BPM-enabling software that handles all the characteristics you want is not yet available, progress was made

Research found, as documented here, you want:

  • More extranet than intranet support but that mergers and acquisitions were often driving you to use BPM software within a legal entity as if it were supporting multiple-enterprise relationships
  • More straight-through processing (STP) than workflow-centric but ideally it cannot be an either/or situation
  • More seamless connectivity between modeling and execution but for the foreseeable future, you will have to have both developers and line-department personnel work in tandem to get BPM project off the ground
  • SaaS-based BPM functionality, which you think will be a particularly fast way to move to extranet-oriented BPM
  • Fewer arguments over standards.
  • Better interconnection points with other software.

The good news is that during this decade BPM-related products have evolved to cross firewalls, handle both event- and data-driven state changes, and incorporate state of the art rules engines and modeling techniques. Your end-of-2008 wish list will hopefully follow shortly.

A subsequent article in this series will lookahead to BPM in 2009.

About the Author

Dennis Byron brings three decades of analyst experience to his role as ebizQ's Community Manager for Improving Business Processes. This community covers Business Process Management (BPM), Process Modeling, Process Analysis, and Business Alert Monitoring (BAM), among other topics.

As Community Manager, Byron will blog and podcast to keep the ebizQ community fully informed on the latest news and breakthroughs relevant to enterprise BPM. Byron will be responsible for bringing you breaking news on BPM daily, writing feature articles and sourcing content from other analysts, industry associations and vendors for publication on ebizQ. Finally, each week, Byron will compile the most important news and views in an e-mail newsletter for ebizQ's ever-growing BPM community.

Byron is ideally suited to the job, as he has researched and analyzed all areas of IT and information-systems use for the past 30 years. Byron looks at BPM market dynamics backed up by facts, while taking into account the perspective of the IT and business person. He is a frequent speaker and moderator on business processes, which will also be one of his roles as Community Manager.

Byron was the ERP and Middleware Analyst with the Datapro division of McGraw-Hill and IDC from 1991 to 2006. In these roles, he was the primary analyst for Business Process Management. He has conducted over 500 specific information-systems case studies. He has contributed to Application Development Trends, IT Business Edge, Research 2.0 and other publications.

Byron is also the principal of IT Investment Research, which is aimed at institutional and individual investors in IT, or anyone who enjoys peering under the covers of "the financials," where large companies and emerging IPOs like to bury their most interesting facts. His main area of interest is investment opportunities in enterprise software.

More by Dennis Byron

About ebizQ

ebizQ is the insiderís guide to next-generation business process management. We offer a growing collection of independent editorial articles on BPM trends, issues, challenges and solutions, all targeted to business and IT BPM professionals.

We cover BPM standards, governance, technology and continuous process improvement, as well as process discovery, modeling, simulation and optimization, among many other areas. We follow case management, decision management, business rules management, operational intelligence, complex event processing and other related topics. We closely track important trends such as the rise of social BPM, mobile BPM and BPM in the cloud. We also explore BPMís use in functional areas, such as supply chain and customer management, and in key verticals, such as financial services, health care, insurance and government.

ebizQ's other BPM-oriented content includes podcasts, webcasts, webinars, white papers, a variety of expert blogs, a lively online forum and much more.