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The Future of Business Process Management: Where is BPM heading?

Written By: Hans Mercx
Published On: May 29 2006

Introduction

Businesses are looking for a new way of using business process management (BPM) solutions. As they become more dynamic, businesses are demanding faster responses from their business templates. As a result, companies such as CommerceQuest, HandySoft, TIBCO, and Metastorm, are developing BPM suites that are compatible with application, integration, and content suites.

Understanding BPM

Approximately ten to fifteen years ago, organizations began assimilating their legacy systems in specific industries or divisions by integrating enterprise applications via data transformation and routing, event triggering, process automation, and adapters. Enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and supply chain management (SCM) vendors were flourishing at this time. They automated their transaction systems with ERP software while including information systems from CRM software. Five years later, business process integration (BPI) solutions, namely business process modeling, business-to-business (B2B) connectivity, and vertical industry process templates were built on top of these enterprise application integration (EAI) systems.

Today, the market offers BPM solutions that incorporate both the EAI and BPI functionality in addition to workflow, business activity monitoring, Web services, rule engines, and portal capability, etc.

What Is BPM?

BPM is a set of tools and services that support human and application interaction with business processes. BPM suites automate manual processes by routing tasks through departments and applications. These routings are rule- and action-based, and are defined in a set of formulas. Actions can be automatically triggered, without an underlying rule requiring additional information; therefore, the process can be continuous and manual processes can be avoided.

Organizations use BPM systems to improve the effectiveness of their core operations. BPM specifically coordinates interactions between systems, business processes, and human interaction. It automates the routing of activities and tasks to employees, taking away non-value adding activities, such as routine decisions, data, and form transfer etc., and instead, provides users with tailored lists of task. With today's tight integration of process definitions and underlying applications, changes in the definition can be deployed and communicated virtually immediately.

Additionally, BPM can also add value to a company requiring procedures to be created and published because it offers compliance management. Companies can use it to meet the US Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) and International Standards Organization (ISO) requirements. It can opening up a range of functions such as process (quantitative) analysis, and optimization. Thus, by implementing BPM, companies are able to orchestrate and leverage cross-functional business processes that are used over multiple systems, divisions, people, and partners.

Ultimately, the beneficiary of BPM systems is actually the customer because the customer will receive information sooner and products faster. This results in an improved level of customer satisfaction and translates into more revenue for the company. For more information, see Business Process Management: How to Orchestrate Your Business.

The Present

These days, the flexibility of a solution is what is important to businesses. As a result, more vendors are using service oriented architectures (SOA) for their products. Using this type of platform and by adding modules, vendors can create flexible BPM solutions for their clients. The architecture is presented in such a way that the flexibility of the platform supports the growing demand and evolution of business processes within an organization. These modules are applications on their own, but when on a platform, they are connected and are not considered independent applications.

To meet business needs, vendors are also trying to integrate process modeling and execution engines. This is done through a common interface format (CIF) to interchange the legacy process models with ones coming from other modeling systems. The current BPM life cycle starts with the modeling processes through assessments and analysis. Most BPM solutions can import Microsoft (MS) Excel sheets, and MS Project to a define processes and BPM solutions can bring these imports to the executable modules within the BPM environment for further use.

Process mapping leads to process execution. Within the processes, organizations can use exception handling integration by defining the rules in the exception processes. All processes can be monitored and generate key performance indicators (KPI) for the organization as focus areas. BPM solutions can also interface with task lists, e-mail, and handheld devices. It can also integrate with the mainframe and other databases, and with ERP, CRM, and legacy systems.

To close the BPM life cycle, once reporting is completed, the KPIs can be used for input and to analyze and create evaluations based on the data and identify where the bottlenecks occur in the company.

BPM suites also use business process integration (BPI) to integrate business processes with other applications, and to enable the flow across their legacy systems. However, BPI doesn't have the business management capabilities that a BPM has in terms of dashboards, analytics, and the ability to define and track metrics across different processes. It also cannot analyze impact and simulations. Yet by working in conjunction with BPM, BPI brings more depth to the BPM systems.

The Future

BPM is becoming more important to organizations and companies are slowly becoming aware of the role of BPM suites. Organizations still see their business partners as important ways to fuel businesses. As result, process driven BPM is shifting towards execution driven BPM, which integrates with different applications. Organizations will also start looking for ways to orchestrate their processes to meet the demands of their dynamic business models. Finally, because business intelligence (BI) is also becoming more important, vendors will have to focus on their execution driven modules and BI integrations to meet market demand.

The importance between BI and BPM is a key reason for BPM vendors to incorporate a reporting element and the ability to measure performance of the business processes into their solutions. Most BPM vendors already integrate with BI solutions, but now BPM vendors are either creating their own modules, or are buying other vendors to merge their products into one solution.

Market Movements

CommerceQuest, recently acquired by Metastorm, is one such organization that is shaping its solution to become execution driven. CommerceQuest was founded in 1991, and was headquartered in Tampa, Florida (US). Prior to its acquisition by Metastorm, CommerceQuest was seen as one of the market leaders in the BPM segment, focusing on system-centric and high-performance process solutions, which is a valuable addition to Metastorm's functionality. It delivers a complete set of scalable BPM solutions that leverage existing IT investments to unite people, processes, and technology in a service-based architecture that spans the extended enterprise, from the mainframe to the Internet. Metastorm, with its headquarters located in Columbia, Maryland (US), has been a big player in the BPM market, focusing on human-centric processes.

CommerceQuest's, flagship product, TRAXION Enterprise Business Process Management Suite (now known within Metastorm as TRAXION BPM Platform), is a multi-platform solution for business process and resource collaboration. It provides tools for both business analysts and IT organizations to collaborate in the design and delivery of BPM initiatives.

The TRAXION BPM Platform uses an execution driven environment and can both capture and analyze process data. Previously, CommerceQuest partnered with Business Objects to broaden its BI capabilities, as TRAXION itself only has basic BI functionality and needed the integration layer for a full BI solution. Due to the acquisition, Metastorm's Insight BI solution (which is based on Hyperion) will provide more BI capabilities than CommerceQuest's solution offered; however, the new solution will still need to be integrated with full BI solutions for more advanced performance management functionality.

Currently, the market does not have a solution that drives business from the top down, where business goals are used to shape business processes, but because of the US SOX and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) legislations and the influence they have on the market, vendors will have to change their focus to support this.

CommerceQuest/Metastorm will be moving its product in this direction. A representative from the company explained its focus on BI, stating that Metastorm's product's value will be in its ability to turn the approach of BPM the other way around, by using a top down approach, which involves defining the business values or business goals, and working down to the business processes, tasks, and events that are meaningful for a company's KPI.

Because of this merger, Metastorm has become market leader in the BPM industry. Vendors such as Fuego, Chordiant, and Ultimus will have to catch up to close the gap that Metastorm has created with its acquisition. Metastorm is now capable of providing a heterogeneous platform, with more scalable and robust integration capabilities, and are both Java- and Microsoft-based. Its competitors will need to work on a variety of items to improve their product, scope, and position in the market. Even Metastorm has indicated that it will continue to work to make its solution even more scalable and robust, increasing product functionality, and building a stronger universal process engine.

Furthermore, the market will demand greater focus on resource management, including human and system resource management. Mainly, the focus here will be on a solution's capability to handle exceptions, capture the corresponding data, and find the next best resource to resolve the event when the first choice is not available. The capability of interfacing with MS Project or other project management solutions with the process execution engine will enable BPM solutions to handle exceptions by directly applying available human resources. While it is currently possible to import the design of MS Project into most BPM solutions, this integration will need to be expanded in the future. These are added values to BPM suites that will drive business to integrate their current solutions and legacy systems with full BPM suites.

Conclusion

With businesses changing into dynamic environments, organizations need to be able to adapt their processes rapidly and effectively. They need to be able to analyze problems and execute solutions accordingly. This is why organizations will need the full integration capabilities of BPM solutions. Integrating legacy systems with BPI, built-in report and monitoring functionality, and BI capabilities are especially important.

Even though Metastorm has become the market leader in BPM, and is leaving other vendors behind in terms of product robustness and broadness of functionality, Metastorm will have to work hard on integrating CommerceQuest's solution with its own solution. Users should be aware that in the early stages of this acquisition, some future focus areas of these products may be put on hold. The market will most likely see more mergers and acquisitions in the near future, following the footsteps of Metastorm and the demands from the market for full, pure play BPM suites.

 
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