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The ability of one BPM product to provide every feature an enterprise requires is not a trivial technical effort. Before an enterprise can begin to implement BPM, it needs to decide whether its business processes are primarily straight-through (STP) or require human interaction, conducted mostly over an Intranet or an extranet, are event- or data-driven, case-oriented or ad-hoc, and so forth. Yet most business processes are some combination of all of the above. Designing and developing software to handle all of the multiple permutations is a work in progress. In 2006 and 2007, BPM middleware market leaders—as well as over 50 other suppliers we follow at Research 2.0—addressed user desire for these multiple features via mergers and acquisitions as well as by enhancing functionality.

The standards issue is more contrived. De jure standards have never been an effective way to settle technical and market differences. Still, in response to and even driven by the suppliers, standards bodies have waded into the mix:

  • In February 2008, OASIS added a BPEL4People taskforce to its Web Services Business Process Execution Language (commonly called BPEL) taskforce, which had taken months longer than planned to finish the BPEL 2.0 standardization efforts.
  • The Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) said in mid 2007 that because enterprises will inevitably be using multiple tools for modeling, simulation, etc., there must a reliable exchange standard in place. Naturally, WfMC suggests its XML Process Definition Language (XPDL) standard fits the bill.

That does not mean the BPM standards issue is totally an “us vs. them” debate. Over 70 products have implemented XPDL and dozens are proceeding to adopt various versions of BPEL. The lists overlap. And there are other relevant standards organizations. But the suppliers' and standards bodies' message is still 'one-size cannot fit all.' That's not what enterprises want to hear. And ideally they would even like to see the information technology (IT) department removed from the BPM equation.

Filling Out the Feature List
Suppliers interviewed in a recent Research 2.0 survey offer some suggestions in the interim.


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