Oracle BPM improving

I sat in on the latest Oracle webinar yesterday to hear about its latest developments with its Oracle BPM offering. have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I have been a little harsh in the past about Oracle BPM, but it seems Oracle is finally getting its BPM act together. Process Composer (the Oracle ‘business user’ environment) now offers Oracle BPM Web Forms, an intuitive and easy to use tool to allow user forms to quickly be assembled. The business analyst or architect can assemble whatever user form makes the most sense for each step of the workflow, using a palette of handy selections for such elements as phone numbers, addresses, text input boxes etc.. The mechanism for adding a rule into a process flow is also pretty simple, although of course it assumes a developer has already set up the relevant options for rule specification. Oracle has even started to add Process Accelerators to provide process templates for a small selection of business needs, for example employee onboarding.

I did get one surprise though – this may not be new, but it certainly was to me. Apparently, as well as offering the ability to run Oracle BPM on Oracle’s WebLogic Suite, Oracle also supports IBM WebSphere as the application server layer ūüėģ

webMethods gets MDM with Data Foundations acquisition

Software AG, the owner of the popular webMethods suite of SOA and BPM products, has acquired Data Foundations, the US-based Master Data Management (MDM) vendor. This is a great acquisition, because the single version of the truth provided by MDM technology is often an essential component of business process management applications.

The only issue is that there is an element of catch-up here, since major BPM/SOA vendors like IBM and Oracle have had MDM capabilities for some time. But putting that aside, the fit between Data Foundations, Inc. and Software AG looks very neat. There is no product overlap to worry about, and the Data Foundations solution excels in one of the key areas that is also a strength for Software AG – that of Governance. Software AG offers one of the best governance solutions in the industry, built around its CentraSite technology, and Data Foundations has also made governance a major focus, which should result in a strong and effective marriage between the two technology bases. From a user perspective, MDM brings major benefits to business process implementations controlled through BPM technology, because the data accuracy and uniqueness enables more efficient solutions, eliminating duplication of work and effort while avoiding the customer relations disaster of marketing to the same customer multiple times.

Good job Software AG.

2010 crystal ball gazing

crysalballLustratus has just published the 2010 edition of its popular infrastructure software market predictions. This year, highlighted areas include BPM, BRMS, Cloud Computing, SOA Appliances, Integration, Security and even software patent litigation.

Every year Lustratus goes through this exercise, trying to identify the key trends for the year. Perhaps the most traumatic part of the forecast is the scoring of the predictions from the previous year Рalways an opportunity for embarassment. Fortunately, Lustratus has had a pretty good record over the years.

This year Lustratus is highlighting trends such as the continuing success of business alignment software like BPM, the effects that Cloud Computing is likely to have on the market, the resurgence of interest in good old integration. The Lustratus predictions can be downloaded at no charge from the Lustratus web store.


Progress Software acquires Savvion

handshakeSo Progress Software has bought yet another software company; this time a BPM vendor, Savvion. But is this the right move for Progress?

Progress Software has spent most of its life growing through acquisition, making use of the piles of cash generated by its legacy mid-range database product to find new areas of growth. After all, the legacy business may be highly profitable, but its returms are dwindling by the year and Porgress desperately needs something else to shore up its balance sheet. Unfortunately its acquisitions have had a bit of a patchy record of success. Perhaps it will be different this time.

Savvion is a credible BPM (Business Process Management) software provider, and 2009 was a bumper year for BPM sales. Specialist companies like Pegasystems and Lombardi showed huge growth rates, bucking the downward trend triggered across many technology sectors by the economic upheaval. On top of this, Progress has been trying to establish itself as a viable SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) and business integration vendor ever since it launched the Sonic ESB in the early years of the last decade, and BPM was a glaring hole in its portfolio. For these reasons, it is easy to see why Savvion would seem a good fit.

There seem to be two problems for Progress, however.¬†Firstly, BPM is now rarely a solution bought in¬†its own right – hence¬†the rapid consolidation of the BPM market with Pegasystems more or less the only major¬†oure-play BPM left standing following IBM’s acquisition of Lombardi. Instead, BPM is deployed more and more as part of a business transformation strategy involving components such as SOA, application and data integration, business rules, business monitoring¬†and business¬†events management. ¬†Secondly, the¬†gorillas in the space are now IBM, Oracle and SAP. These companies all offer a full suite of products and more importantly services based around BPM and the rest of the modern infrastructure stack. Companies such as Software AG, TIBCO and Axway form a credible second tier, too.

In previous acquisitions, Progress has treated each acqusition as purely software products. This is not surprising, since selling databases is more about selling products than selling solutions. However, it is this factor that has been at the root of the patchy performance of Progress acquisitions. For instance, the Data Direct division of Progress, where it placed a number of acquisitions in the data space, has fared reasonably well. This is because it is more of a product business. However its attempts in areas such as ESBs and SOA governance have suffered due to a seeming reluctance to embrace a more industry-specific, services-based solution model.

With its acqusition of Savvion, Progress once again has the chance to try to show the market that it has learnt from its mistakes. BPM is absolutely an area where companies need to be offered solutions Рproducts together with services and guidance to develop effective and affordable business solutions. It will be hard enough for Progress to cut a share of the BPM pie with all the big players involved, but it does have one outstanding advantage; it has a strong and accessible customer base in the mid-range market where the larger companies struggle. However, if it fails to take on board the need to hire industryvertical skills and solution-based field and service professionals then this acquisition could prove to be yet another lost opportunity.


IBM acquires Lombardi to reinforce its BPM solutions

contractIBM has agreed an acqusition of Lomardi, one of the few remaining pure-play BPM suppliers, with target of closing the deal in 2010.

IBM has reaffirmed its position of strength in the burgeoning Business Process Management (BPM) space with this acquisition. Lombardi has three assets that IBM is particularly interested in; its human-centric BPM capabilities, its extensive professional services resources and its reputation and success with BPM at the departmental level.

For the uninitiated, business processes tend to span some or all of three distinct areas of usage Рhuman-oriented processes, document-oriented processes and prorgram-oriented processes. Human processes involve such aspects as task lists that people use as they carry out their assigned tasks, document processes upgrade traditional paper-oriented models and program-based processes involve the dynamic interaction of applications. IBM has always been most experienced at dealing with program-to-program interaction, delivering its own WebSphere BPM offering. A few years ago it also acquired FileNet, a major player in document-based processing that had document-related BPM products. Now it is making the Lombardi acquisition to strengthen its human interaction BPM capabilities.

This is an exciting acquisition, closing out the weakest areas of IBM’s BPM¬†solutions. However, the challenge for IBM will be to properly integrate the new product set with its existing BPM offerings. Frankly, IBM has not done a good job to date on this with its previous BPM acquisition of FileNet – IBM marketing collateral exhibits¬†confusion over what are essentially two differnent product solutions that both claim to be BPM. Hopefully it will handle the Lombardi acquisition better.


Justify BPM with a free night in Vegas?

In today’s climate, investment for IT is extremely¬†hard to come buy.

BPM (Business Process Management) may promise a lot, but how can it be justified? With a free night or two in the Las Vegas MGM Grand Hotel perhaps?

The Integration Consortium, a not-for-profit consortium of users, suppliers, implementers and academia focused on all aspects of business integration, is hosting its annual Global Integration Summit this year in Las Vegas, 3rd-4th June, open to allcomers, and as a special incentive it is offering free rooms to the first 200 people to register for the event. So there’s the free night(s) in Las Vegas…but what about BPM? Well, for my sins I will be giving the ‘Featured Presentation’¬†at the event on how to justify BPM based on the idea of identifying the BPM Sweet Spots – that is,a range of¬†use cases for BPM that each respond to a¬†different investment policy. The idea is that depending on whether a company is focused¬†on restricting resource requirements, or¬†driving payback very quickly, or getting the biggest bang¬†for the buck in the short¬†term, or whatever, then there should be a BPM Sweet¬†Spot that fits the bill. Well, that’s the theory, anyway…..!

At least the free room (if you are lucky enough to get one)¬†is one bet you can’t lose on!


BPM’s time has come

Could 2009 finally be the year BPM comes into its own? My own opinion is – YES!

This may seem a bit odd – after all, in previous years I have been a bit hesitant about BPM adoption, finding instead that many users were working on lower level integration problems first and then ‘backing into’ BPM. On top of this, with all the trading uncertainty around surely no-one will be rushing to BPM?

In fact, Lustratus thinks that the current economic environment is EXACTLY the right time for BPM. My worries in the past have been to do with people trying to move completely over to a BPM model. This requires a heck of a lot of effort, thought, maturity in process engineering and resources, and can take some time to generate a payback although the eventual gains are admittedly great. However, the current economic situation is forcing people to be much more pragmatic, and it is here that BPM really starts to deliver.

Lustratus recently produced a paper discussing the Lustratus BPM Sweet Spots –¬†five potential targeted uses of BPM technology¬†sorted in terms of speed of return, ease of implementation and overall benefit. A number of these¬†sweet spots represent quick ways to improve a particular process, increasing automation and hence providing the opportunity to reduce people costs. It is this improved efficiency and productivity that attracts companies in the current economic downturn – anything that makes use of what is already there but cuts the staffing bill is¬†almost a no-brainer. In addition, the visibility BPM brings with it into process execution is of enormous use when trying to implement responsible risk and compliance management measures, something greatly desired in the current circumstances.

So, 2009 should be the year when companies turn to BPM – but note the distinction of pragmatic, targeted BPM as opposed to grand BPM strategies that will make everything better ‘sometime’.