Looking Ahead at Business Process Management, 2009

Untitled Document In a December 23, 2008 article for ebizQ, I looked back at 2008 trends and troubles for the approximately 100 software products and more than 50 suppliers that support the business process management (BPM) value proposition. In 2008 and during the entire decade now in its final year BPM-related products evolved to cross firewalls, to handle both event- and data-driven state changes, and to incorporate state-of-the-art rules engines and modeling techniques.

In 2009, the adoption of BPM should continue to accelerate. Whether that happens because of or despite of the current worldwide economic crisis remains to be seen. It appears that BPM can contribute strongly to turning around the worldwide economy. That’s not a certainty because there is a question about the extent to which—if at all—BPM players, your BPM supplier in particular, suffers because of the current crisis. But the outlook longer term is that BPM should become as defining for the 2010-2019 decade as ERP was for the 1990-1999 decade and Internet-anything was for the 2000-2009 decade. (Please address all emails about whether decades, centuries and millennia begin with the zero year or the year that ends in one to the Y2K committee in your IT department.)

There are three key improvements to BPM-enabling technology that seem to top your wish lists based on IT Investment Research analysis and it looks like leading BPM software suppliers will begin to deliver them in product versions scheduled for 2009. The improvements are based on more use of complex event processing (CEP) technology, various types of integration especially in support of supply chain automation, and a stronger tie to business intelligence (BI) software.

There is an overriding historical fact you should consider as you adopt or increase your use of BPM software in 2009. It is important to realize that the BPM decisions you make now are decisions your enterprise will likely live with long after you’ve left or retired. For proof, look at the number of IT departments that are still using 1980s and early 1990s technology and products in transaction processing (TP), ERP, customer relationship management (CRM), and similar solution areas.

What Software Suppliers Are Doing Next

Almost all BPM suppliers announced new functionality in 2008 for general availability in 2009. These BPM-related announcements and likely 2009 announcements by suppliers from A to Z (e.g., Axway, Adobe, Cordys, Intalio, Oracle, Red Hat/JBoss, Savvion, Sterling Commerce, Vitria) lay the groundwork for the next wave of BPM acceptance just as the wave of business-rules-engine-related and business process modeling announcement activity in 2007 set up the multi-billion-dollar-BPM-revenue year that 2008 became.

In terms of functional enhancement trends, the similarities in the majority of the leading players' product announcements illustrate what is coming. Sterling Commerce, an AT&T company, has been detailing how it will combine the benefits of process integration, secure file transmissions and supply chain optimization. Its message is that in today’s global commerce environment, no company is successful alone. All businesses must effectively integrate with their trading community of suppliers and customers to be successful. In order to achieve success and remain competitive in today’s global and hurting economy, businesses are increasingly dependent on mission-critical information from both inside and outside the enterprise. Similarly, Axway is partnering with WebConcepts, a provider of supply chain planning and replenishment solutions, to integrate WebConcepts' demand management functionality into Axway's BPM solutions. The result will let trading partners share business-critical information in a safe and reliable way. Announced on January 9, 2008, the solution is theoretically available immediately as a service.

Oracle is adding advanced CEP to its BPM offerings. Called Oracle Complex Event Processing 10g Release 3, this functionality was formerly BEA WebLogic Event Server. This announcement, made in October 2008, illustrates an issue in understanding the BPM value proposition. Oracle calls this functionality part of its event-driven architecture, rather than its BPM architecture, but events and documents can both drive business process flow. Users do not make the same distinction as Oracle marketing. For example, the Oracle EDA suite includes Oracle Business Rules. Amlan Debnath, Oracle senior vice president, Server Technologies, has been quoted as saying: "The automation of business processes has caused many organizations to undergo an unprecedented transformation during the past few years. As a result of this transformation, our customers needed to respond in real-time to bottlenecks and opportunities within and across these automated processes” (see this recent ebizQ guest editorial by Amlan)

Also in October 2008 Red-Hat/JBoss announced the expansion of its enterprise offerings for service oriented architecture (SOA) deployment with the release of JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform 4.3. As explained in this recent ebizQ article, although SOA is an architecture and BPM a value proposition, the two work very well together. New features in JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform include: new enterprise service bus (ESB) features such as a declarative security model, and new Rules features including stateful rules services, decision tables and rule-agent support to enable business event processing. Naturally this software is available open source through the JBoss community along with the JBoss jBPM software.

Cordys re-emphasized the process factory concept during 2008 and SAP appears to be following suit. To Cordys, “the Process Factory” is BPM on demand, and part of a mash-up. Dale Skeen, founder and CTO of Vitria, told ebizQ during 2008 about his company’s Web 2.0 BPM suite, which he says represents the convergence of Web 2.0 and traditional BPM, by empowering business analysts with the ability to use 2.0 tools such as mashups, wikis and other collaboration platforms to integrate data and to give processes a higher level of context and meaning. Intalio's response to this trend is the acquisition of a PERL/JAVA-based BPM process-design product called "Process Square." Process Square will be incorporated with current Intalio "business process platform" products into a suite. The emergence of the BPM suite as the primary way that users acquire BPM functionality has important implications for users: your choices get more complicated because you need to compare the products with BPM in their name to the entire enterprise software offerings of the namebrand enterprise software suppliers (as described in the Oracle example above).

Although the adoption of CEP and various types of integration technology in support of supply chain automation can be easily demonstrated, the tie to BI software is still pretty much partnership-based. IT Investment Research is looking for full incorporation of metadata-based data-integration-and-analysis features during 2009 but cannot yet be specific. Users that have adopted BPM functionality as available through 2007 may just want to wait until BPM with real-time "on the fly" iteration arrives.

How BPM Helps in Worldwide Macroeconomic Terms

Another trend IT Investment Research analysis found in the list of suppliers on its survey list is that BPM is becoming more multinational with the worldwide programs of Cordys, NewGen, Singularity and others. These newcomers join the “other pure plays” such as Appian, Global 360, Lombardi, Macronetics, Metastorm, Pegasystems, Savvion and Ultimus as choices available.

Savvion in particular is the hallmark of interesting trend of industry-centric BPM. During 2008, the company announced its Communications Order Management and Banking Foundation for Business solutions. The industry-centric strategy is interesting in two respects.:

  • First, it aligns with the likelihood that as BPM becomes the new ERP, its functionality will have to be less cross-industry and more related to your needs as a manufacturer, retailer, professional services provider, and so forth. ERP has really always been industry-centric across the standard-industry-classification-code spectrum even though manufacturing ERP got all the press because the term was an outgrowth of the acronym for manufacturing requirements planning.
  • Second it acts as a Trojan horse marketing technique, in Savvion’s case, getting the Savvion middleware into an enterprise to meet a specific silo need but letting the Savvion user then grow its usage to other BPM needs within the company.

On other end of the time/functionality spectrum, Adobe—which comes to BPM via its document creation capabilities—has constantly added to the BPM features of Adobe LiveCycle ES. In 2008, Adobe announced that it had partnered with Alfresco’s content management technologies to let Adobe LiveCycle ES customers blend data capture, information assurance, document output, process management and content services. Classic Adobe content/document collaboration capabilities plus the LiveCycle "process functionality" built under Adobe’s foundation software make it a leading supporter of the BPM value proposition even though like BMC/Remedy, EMC/Documentum, Fujitsu, and Vignette it rarely uses the term in its marketing efforts. Long-time integration software providers such as IBM, Seeburger, Software Ag/WebMethods, Sun/Seebeyond, Sungard, and TIBCO on the other hand are very active in the BPM movement from both a development and marketing point of view.

In addition, Adobe, like Microsoft, was one of the last holdouts for a proprietary development model, so its association with Alfresco is important for another reason. Adobe appears to now be moving rapidly to embrace open source (not just in BPM). But note that under the open source software terms and conditions relevant to the Alfresco-Adobe arrangement, LiveCycle was not open sourced. The trend is that open source is rapidly becoming just the way all software is built.

In summary, checkmark by checkmark, BPM-based products are filling in the request-for-proposal feature boxes that make them an option to highly packaged application software alternatives. And because the leading packaged application suppliers—Microsoft, Oracle and SAP—offer may of the same features as the BPM products that have been in the market for years, there is very little “us vs. them” debate over BPM any longer. Naturally BPM software, now that the market is larger, is not immune to the effects of the 2008 (and likely 2009) economic downturn.

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.