Mar 4, 2009

BPM Encroachment

Jim Sinur at the Gartner Blog Network notes that Application Package Vendors and BPM Vendors are beginning to encroach on each other's territory. How so?

Package Vendors are beginning to incorporate some level of process control, and exposing the fact that they have tremendous vertical market expertise in the business processes incorporated into the application (exposing as SOA services and exposing as marketing). Who better than a vendor that's been creating CRM software for 20 years to understand the automation of CRM business processes?

BPM vendors are beginning to accumulate some significant libraries of business processes. As such, they're beginning to arrive with "industry kits" that contain common process sets for specific vertical markets - turning the BPM system into a partial package application for that industry. Further enhancing this is BPM's primary focus at allowing easy adjustments to the process - equivalent to complete customization of the 'virtual' application.

Of course, BPM can't operate in a vacum. By itself, it is NOT an application, rather its a manipulator of application processes with the ability to wrap in human processes. (Though BPM vendors are busy adding "model-driven" development capability into the BPM tools.)

The question I ask is will the traditional application vendors decompose their big box departmental and enterprise applications down to a sufficiently granular business-process service level so that BPM and/or application assembly tools can use them as transaction and process engines in the unique combinations of value to each business?

In other words, will we see SAP and other major vendors using SOA primarily as an API for inputs and outpost of their big-box functionality (which is what we see today), or will they offer us granular processes we can compose and orchestrate as needed? Even further, will they offer us a menu of business-processes we can buy as composable pieces?

So far, the big package applications have only been dipping their toes in the SOA waters - thereby limiting their use via services or BPM. Yet if IT is to provide value to a business other than strictly utilitarian - to provide a strategic corporate advantage - they must be able to quickly and easily customize.

To date, package application vendors are assuring this WILL NOT happen outside the bounds of their applications.