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In surveying the enterprise integration (EI) tools and platforms landscape, Forrester Research analyst Ken Vollmer spotted a fast-growing trend that's now crossing corporate planners' radar screens: a marked shift toward solutions that actively support BPM and similar initiatives.

What Vollmer and his colleagues call "comprehensive integration solutions" now offer a broad array of capabilities for solving complex integration challenges. At the core of those solutions' value proposition is more effective support for BPM, as documented in the analysts' most recent report on the subject, "Forrester Wave: Comprehensive Integration Solutions," from late 2010.


Chief among the advantages that EI tools and methodologies bring to BPM: greater support for process-improvement efforts. "The BPM features embedded in a comprehensive integration solution enable developers to incorporate model-driven process management directly into their application development efforts," observes Vollmer, who has been tracking the move toward BPM-supporting solutions.

Other benefits include easier integration with internal applications, including both commercial and homegrown applications, and better control over file transfers.


In addition, EI tools make it easier for external partners to link to enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. "Comprehensive integration solutions offer many features to support effective B2B exchanges, including support for both EDI and XML-based messages, extensive data transformation support, and built-in support for a wide range of communication protocols," Vollmer says.

In this Q & A, Vollmer offers additional insights about how the two disciplines are converging:

JM: Have BPM efforts to date been doing a good job of employing enterprise integration as part of their modeling and methodologies?

I would say it's a mixed bag at the moment, with some successes and some failures. We [at Forrester] do see attempts by some to make BPM a very "silted" solution when it should be approached from a broader perspective. We recommend a holistic approach that includes application, process and data integration in a single cohesive effort.

JM: Are too many initiatives still stymied or limited by silos or legacy systems?

Due to technology limitations, application, process and data integration efforts evolved over the years into separate silos. That makes it difficult to support effective end-to-end processes that encompass all three.

However, this situation is beginning to change with the arrival of more comprehensive integration tools that address the full range of integration needs. Now companies can consider all their integration requirements—application, business to business, process and data—to develop a holistic strategy that addresses them all with a minimum of technology overlap. We expect this trend to continue strongly over the next three years. In response, integration vendors are taking a more holistic approach as well.

JM: Are current BPM tools and platforms effectively addressing enterprise integration requirements? Or are other types of solutions required to complete the picture?

Forrester has taken the position that the current BPM space is complicated, with at least three types of tools providing varying degrees of support:


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