Who Will Make BPM a Success?

Business process management, or the mixture of workflow, integration, and process modeling (and perhaps a few other technologies) holds good promise for helping organizations manage business processes adaptively and respond more quickly to changing marketing conditions. Business process management (BPM) vendors are working hard to shape their solutions as offerings that business users and managers can employ to easily create and manage automated business processes. So if BPM is all about business processes, is it the business people who will make BPM products and the BPM market succeed?

Some companies and BPM vendors think the answer is "yes"- that by enabling business people to dynamically define, monitor, and manage business processes, the value of BPM will be so clear that the BPM market will take off. In such a scenario, the business managers/users are the keys to the evolution of the BPM market.

And of course, they're right. In some respects, BPM without the "B" spells EAI (or perhaps workflow, depending on the product you're using). Ensuring that business users can (by themselves) define and modify business processes (or at least easily collaborate in an environment conducive to them) is no doubt an important BPM capability. Generating business-meaningful reports on process status and/or process instances is also critical. And being able to easily monitor and adjust key process decisions and criteria in real-time in response to business changes is core to the ongoing success of a good BPM product. All in all, focusing on the business user is clearly important.

And that's what the industry has done. For example, early integration vendors have been adding BPM capabilities to their integration tools over the past few years, hoping to extend their technically-oriented infrastructure solutions into products that appeal to the business manager. "Pure-play" BPM vendors have been adding more business activity monitoring and reporting capabilities.

But there's also another side of the story. Increasingly, organizations have moved from the old client/server applications to application server-based applications. In the meantime, application servers have continued to evolve to offer integration components and capabilities or closer ties to integration brokers. Portals have become an important method for enabling information dissemination and sharing of business-critical data. Most organizations have moved to standardize (when possible) their choice of application server, portal server, and integration broker. In many cases, this combination of technologies could become the unifying platform for future application development, business logic, and (perhaps?) business process logic.

At least that's what BEA thinks. Instead of trying to jump-start the BPM market from the integration side or the business side (although cognizant that both are critically important components of a successful BPM strategy), BEA believes the key to cracking open the BPM market starts with giving an organization's existing application and portal developers the capabilities to work with business process technologies. As such, BEA's Workshop 8.1 product is a development environment that enables visual development of business processes along with a control architecture that lets developers connect resources by setting properties and handling events. A run time framework (the WebLogic 8.1 Application Framework) interprets the Java-code output (which includes BEA-specific annotations) and creates 100% standard-based J2EE components. BEA's BPM capabilities can include workflow capabilities as well as process automation, enabling developers to separate the process logic from implementation logic, while managing the process logic via intuitive graphical models.

That's not to say BEA's approach discounts the importance of putting process design, monitoring, control, and modification in the hands of business users - they understand that as well, and Workshop 8.1 provides a good foundation for BEA-focused organizations to do just that. It's simply that BEA believes that the key to market success for tomorrow's BPM products starts with today's enterprise developers who are struggling to integrate and manage business logic and process flows across application servers, enterprise portals, and integration brokers. In fact, BEA's perspective is "Microsoftian" in this regard - give developers solid and productive tools and let the applications (and BPM) find their way to the enterprise.

And while I firmly believe that the success of BPM products and the BPM market will ultimately revolve around business users and managers, BEA's "bottoms-up" approach to BPM provides a solid way for BEA customers to start leveraging BPM technology to make their applications and business processes more adaptable and dynamic.

About the Author

David Kelly - With twenty years at the cutting edge of enterprise infrastructure, David A. Kelly is ebizQ's Community Manager for Optimizing Business/IT Management. This category includes IT governance, SOA governance,and compliance, risk management, ITIL, business service management,registries and more.

As Community Manager, David will blog and podcast to keep the ebizQ community fully informed on all the important news and breakthroughs relevant to enterprise governance. David will also be responsible for publishing press releases, taking briefings, and overseeing vendor submitted feature articles to run on ebizQ. In addition, each week, David will compile the week's most important news and views in a newsletter emailed out to ebizQ's ever-growing Governance community. David Kelly is ideally suited to be ebizQ's Governing the Infrastructure Community Manager as he has been involved with application development, project management, and product development for over twenty years. As a technology and business analyst, David has been researching, writing and speaking on governance-related topics for over a decade.

David is an expert in Web services, application development, and enterprise infrastructures. As the former Senior VP of Analyst Services at Hurwitz Group, he has extensive experience in translating the implications of new application development, deployment, and management technologies into practical recommendations for enterprise customers. He's written articles for Computerworld, Software Magazine, the New York Times, and other publications, and spoken at conferences such as Comdex, Software Development, and Internet World. With expertise ranging from application development to enterprise management to integration/B2B services to IP networking and VPNs, Kelly can help companies profit from the diversity of a changing technology landscape.

More by David A. Kelly

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.

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