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In the past, we've looked at business process management (BPM) solutions that provide organizations with a way to integrate applications, data, and business processes within an organization at the process level. So far, much of the discussion has been about the "pure-play" BPM vendors who have designed a business process management system from the ground up, as well as integration platform and workflow vendors who have extended their solutions to include business process components.

But BPM is more than that. As we'll see over the next few years, BPM functionality will come not simply from pure-play BPM products, or integration products with business-oriented interfaces added. Instead, we'll see BPM functionality and approaches permeate a variety of different areas.

For example, as service oriented architectures and server architectures become the dominant way to develop traditional applications, the role of service orchestration and process management becomes more important. Already, a number of development tools vendors are providing or working on providing business process modeling capabilities.

That's not all -- the idea of enabling business users and business analysts to have more control over their IT applications and giving them the ability to alter, control, or monitor processes across or within those applications is also taking hold in the packaged software world. Enterprise software companies such as SAP have already started opening up their products to BPM standards and products.

Late last year, SAP announced a partnership with IDS Scheer to create a comprehensive solution for business process management. Underlying the agreement is the integration of IDS Scheer's ARIS Process Platform into SAP's NetWeaver (SAP's integration and application platform), enabling customers to model and optimize their business processes, as well as manage their configuration and physical execution. SAP's goal is to provide an integrated approach to BPM to create a closed loop from the business analysts and their process modeling through to the deployment, execution, and monitoring of those processes, enabling continuous process improvement.

Software vendors are pushing their products toward BPM for one simple reason: It enables them to demonstrate and deliver a higher level of value to their customers. The more "business-oriented" a product is -- be it a development tool, a pre-packaged "pure-play" BPM solution, or an enterprise application -- the higher the potential value to a business and the less IT management, handholding and customization that may be required. In the case of enterprise packaged application vendors, it makes perfect sense that they should be packaging their functionality up into more discrete tasks or functions and providing organizations with some (if not extensive) ways to extend or customize their process flows through BPM-type technologies. The more control over a business process (even in a packaged application) that business analysts and users have, the less they have to call on IT to customize a process flow or make minor changes.


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