Comparing BPM from IBM, Oracle and SAP
Business Process Management (BPM) has become a key focus for many companies over the last few years, and this high level of interest has withstood the recent economic upheavals pretty well. Indeed, as companies look for ways through the economic downturn, streamlining business processes is seen as a high priority by executives keen to reduce the company cost base while simultaneously delivering higher levels of customer service to a wider customer set with increased competitiveness. BPM solutions are increasingly viewed as the most effective way to achieve this process optimization, while at the same time contributing to a more agile and better managed business.
Software vendors and systems integrators have not been slow to react to this opportunity, and BPM solutions abound from what is still a wide spread of suppliers, even though market consolidation is gathering pace. In particular, three of the largest software vendors have a major stake in the BPM game – IBM, SAP and Oracle. SAP’s interest stems from the fact that its applications often form a major part of process execution, and it is keen to protect its revenues by being seen to be responsive to market needs while maintaining control in its accounts and fighting off growing competition. IBM sees BPM as a powerful driver of its market-leading middleware and project-related services sales, powered by widespread customer desire to achieve increased business agility and cost efficiency. Oracle falls somewhere between the two, with its own application portfolio like SAP that it is keen to protect but also with a major corporate focus on driving lucrative middleware sales, its fastest growing business segment.
The difficulty for many senior managers is that BPM can seem quite a complex area, with vendor presentations quickly dropping down into long and confusing lists of detailed technology arguments and functional checklists. What many managers are looking for is enough information on the different vendor approaches to be able to get a feel for at least a priority list of potential suppliers, in order to ensure that investigative work and purchasing recommendations are carried out as efficiently and productively as possible. This assessment tries to satisfy this need, taking a high level look at the BPM functionality offered by each of these players and drawing out some of the main differences.
In the final analysis, a key difference of philosophy and approach emerges throughout the assessment that is likely to strongly influence any BPM purchase decision. SAP, and to a lesser extent Oracle, have both guided their BPM functionality from a starting point of serving the immediate needs of those individual processes instantiated by their own applications and packages, and then building this functionality outward and upward to expand its applicability. In contrast, IBM has started from a focus on using BPM to deliver business benefits across the enterprise, such as being able to do more with less and having the flexibility and adaptability to respond with agility to changing market needs, and has then filled out the functional details to support this goal.