***Editor's Note: Curious how insurers can increase agility while keeping costs down? Click here.



Let's face it; you really don't need business process management (BPM) middleware inside your own firewall. A lot of organizations (maybe even most) use BPM software in that way because a good sales guy cornered their CIO. Or because their company is the result of a merger or acquisition. Or because the IT staff always has to have the latest, greatest widgets. But you don't really need BPM to integrate your own internal information processing.

Don't worry. It won't hurt to use BPM middleware instead of enterprise application integration (EAI) and data integration (DI) inside the firewall, except maybe at budget time. If you use it inside the company now, you have a head start on a much better use of it next year or the year after (that is, enabling it to more easily manage business processes across legal entities).

The reason you don't need it inside is that BPM middleware is really all about tying together disparate applications… those with different brand names or custom developers, different integration schemes and metadata maps, different purposes (transactional or analytical), different standards, and so forth. Inside your own firewall, there is no logical reason for deploying software with so many different characteristics (except for the merger/acquisition example cited above) and therefore no need to tie it together. Outside your firewall, on the other hand, the range of software characteristics cannot be avoided.

Going outside the firewall is how you reach partners and suppliers, and even reach customers that don't know they are customers yet. Ten years ago this concept was called supply chain management (SCM) software. But the market for SCM never quite took off. Instead, part of SCM branched off, hooked up with a quirky little PC software program called ACT, and became the multi-billion-dollar market called customer relationship management (CRM). Another part split off in the opposite direction and became supplier relationship management. What was left got folded back into ERP (Red Pepper into PeopleSoft, Numetrix into J.D. Edwards, Manugistics into JDA, and so forth). The problem was that all the different types and brands of SCM software did not work well together outside the enterprises that deployed them (e.g., for ideal performance, every partner had to have the same brand SCM software).

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