The 'intelligent' BPM suite: Options for smarter process-management software

Today, companies of all types want faster and better insight into their operations. This growing demand for operational intelligence has given rise to a new, "smarter" variety of business process management suites (BPMSs).

These next-generation BPM technologies—dubbed "intelligent business process management suites," or iBPMSs, by Gartner Inc.—are designed to provide enhanced support for functions such as real-time analytics, complex event processing, business activity monitoring, and business rules management.

Gartner recently released a Magic Quadrant, or market analysis, for iBPMSs, closely examining 13 vendors in the space. Notably, the report cautions readers not to compare the latest findings with Gartner’s 2010 BPMS Magic Quadrant, citing a significant evolution in the BPMS market and a significant shift in BPM tool capabilities within the last two years.

"The reason we came out with iBPMS as a products category is to address a business-use case that we call 'intelligent business operations,'" says Janelle Hill, a Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst. "The idea is simply that every company wants to have more operational intelligence. It has picked up much faster than we anticipated."

Gartner researchers estimate that 60% of all BPM suites sold in 2012 were iBPMSs. The use of intelligent BPM capabilities is also picking up within existing process improvement efforts. "In terms of actual BPM projects, between a third and a half have some run-time analytics that qualify them to a degree of intelligent business analytics," says Roy Schulte, a Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst.

iBPMSs first gained traction in the manufacturing and utilities industries, but they have since spread to a broad range of companies, from financial services and banking to retail.

Gartner’s most recent Magic Quadrant divides the current iBPMS market into two vendor categories: "pure-play" and "stack." Pure-play vendors are characterized by their historical emphasis on BPM. Their iBPMSs tend to be "good at innovative and tightly scoped processes," and more oriented toward human-based activity, according to the report. Stack vendors, on the other hand, are primarily large providers of software infrastructure and middleware. BPM is just one of many areas of focus for these companies; their iBPMSs may offer more integration and complex system capabilities.

Gartner's pure-play vendors include:

--Appian: The Appian BPMS v.6.6.1 offers enhanced support for the combination of mobile, social and cloud. In particular, this suite focuses on intelligent collaboration and delivers native clients for all major mobile devices. It also provides an active analytics engine and in-memory data store.
--Bosche: inubit Suite v6.0 (including Visual Rules 5.3) has an enterprise service bus, adapters, and a plug-in SDK. Visual Rules offers a business rule processing capability that supports validation, testing and configuration of business rules.
--DST Systems: AWD10 provides an authoring environment based on configuration models. Features include parsing of Twitter feeds and prebuilt rules. This suite also offers a connectivity layer for system-to-system interactions, including RESTful APIs and Web services orchestration.
--OpenText: OpenText has a range of BPM offerings, lead by OpenText MBPM 9.1. Used together, these solutions take a lifecycle approach to process improvement. Features include architectural planning tools, process analysis models, visual scripting and a multi-language processing engine.
--Pegasystems: The PegaRULES Process Commander v.6.3 combines enterprise rules and a process engine with tools that help develop and deploy applications. It offers social networking, customer collaboration, and predictive analytics capabilities. Its design environment supports process discovery and case management efforts.
--PNMsoft: PNMsoft Sequence v.6 has a multi-tenant cloud architecture, a collaborative end-user interface and a social BPM capability. It also allows for audited changes to in-flight processes through a feature called HotChange Architecture.
--Vitria: Vitria Operational Intelligence v.3.2 has a model-driven design to enable development of applications. It also has an XML-centric architecture, and includes BAM and CEP functions. This suite supports MapReduce principles.
--Whitestein: Whitestein Living Systems Process Suite v.2.5 uses a modeling methodology to capture business and performance goals. Capabilities such as KPI creation and visualization also enable analysis of in-flight processes.

Gartner's stack vendors include:

--Cordys: Cordys Business Operations Platform 4.1 and Cordys Operations Intelligence 1.1 can be used as the foundation for third-party, cloud-based solutions. This combination includes a stateless enterprise service bus, and master data management capabilities to work with non-integrated data. It also includes an automatic business process discovery tool.
--IBM: IBM Business Process Manager 7.5.1 and WebSphere Operational Decision Management 7.5 include social and collaborative capabilities for composing process solutions and support for artifact lifecycle management. Multiple authors can simultaneously visualize and test the same process version.
--Oracle : Oracle Business Process Management Suite 11g includes a unified process foundation with a unified process engine and pre-integration of process subsystems. It provides packaged application adapters and support for complex events and business rules.
--SoftwareAG: webMethods BPMS v.9.2 offers a common message bus to connect runtime components. It also provides adapters for a range of packaged applications, and support for OSGi. Based on an event-driven architecture, this suite also includes a business activity monitoring (BAM) tool and a platform for complex event processing (CEP).
--Tibco: Tibco offers a variety of individual BPM components, including Tibco ActiveMatrix BPM 1.2. Built on an open architecture, ActiveMatrix combines service-oriented architecture with BPM capabilities and provides visualization of dashboards.

Even as demand for intelligent BPM capabilities expands, industry viewers caution against rushing an iBPMS purchase. Instead, they suggest taking a careful look at BPM maturity level, process improvement goals, and future business needs before investing in the technology.

"Not everyone is going to want all of these intelligent ingredients to the nth degree," says Teresa Jones, principal research analyst at Gartner. "People need different capabilities, and that's why we ended up with some quite different vendors in this evolution of the market."

For example, companies working on human activity-based processes might want an iBPMS with more social, collaborative and human interaction management capabilities. On the other hand, organizations working on programmatic business processes might look to an iBPMS with an enterprise service bus, tools for messaging, and application adapters.

Of course, not every company needs an iBPMS today. But, according to Jones, that could soon change.

"You may evolve to need these capabilities," she says. "Think about the sorts of processes you're doing, and try to figure out what your needs will be in the future. If you're a very early stage organization, maybe you just want one or two [intelligent] components right now, to try it out."

Hill adds that companies should think hard about whether an iBPMS scenario is in their future. That includes determining how important the integration of support for mobile and social data streams is for operations.

"If you think you'll need these capabilities in the next two to three years, you should be considering an iBPMS," she said.

READER FEEDBACK: Is your organization currently in the market for an iBPMS? If so, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at

About the Author

Stephanie Mann is the former assistant editor for ebizQ and its sister TechTarget site, SearchSOA. Before joining TechTarget, Stephanie was a contributing reporter and proofreader for a Boston-area weekly newspaper and an editorial intern at a Cambridge, Mass.-based publishing company. She has also worked for several nonprofits and as a freelance editor.

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