Meta Group's 6 'Musts' for BPM Tools

Architects and devs frustrated by a fragmented BPM market of more than 140 different tools may finally get some relief in 2005. The Meta Group's new report shows CIOs, architects and devs the Top 6 features to look for in a business process management solution. Review the checklist.

Tags: BPM, Hill, Technologies, Integration, BPM Solutions, Workflow, Managers,

Architects and devs frustrated by a fragmented BPM market of more than 140 different tools may finally get some relief in 2005. The Meta Group has released a report that shows CIOs, architects and devs the Top 6 features they should look for when reviewing business process management solutions.

Meta's report recommends that corporate buyers rank their BPM solutions against the following requirements:

1. The tool's fit with enterprise development skills and environment

2. The tool's support for the company's initial BPMS use case(s)

3. The ease of integration across business silos

4. The ease of modeling

5. Cost

6. The potential stability of the vendor

Inside Meta's "BPM Checklist":

Bridging the IT/Business Divide

Meta's BPM checklist is designed to provide IT execs and staff an efficient way to review technologies, Janelle Hill, vice president and practice lead for Meta's BPM unit told Integration Developer News. Another important criteria to Meta, Hill told IDN, is to make sure clients can use BPM solutions to help "bridge the divide" between the company's IT technical staff and the business managers.

"There is a huge divide between IT talent and the business managers over BPM," Hill said. "And, it's still a pretty difficult divide to cross, because in 2005 companies face two concerns." These 2 concerns are: (1) the traditional one about getting 'technical' and 'business' managers on the same page and (2) the fact that IT technology is now in a transition between traditional integration technologies to SOA [Service Oriented Architectures], Hill added.

Faced with these two compounding complexities, many high-level CIOs can freeze, Hill said. "They [clients] look at me and ask, 'So, now what? Where's the best place to start?'" she confided. But, Hill added, she's optimistic that the confusion may finally start to lift in 2005.

"There is a tipping point coming in BPM, where we will see real leaders emerge," she said.
Some technical BPM firms will begin to get market traction, even among smaller start-up firms. "The leaders may surprise some execs, I think," Hill conceded.

Clearing BPM Confusion

As Hill sees it, just because a company has a big customer base in enterprise integration or with J2EE app servers, it's no guarantee that they'll be the default choice.

One other market trend Hill sees is that current BPM firms with roots in: (1) content/document management or (2) workflow, may give up on their plan to extent their offerings to be broad-based BPM solutions and revert to being specialists.

So, what's the impact of all this vendor change on users? Hill offers a simple example: "I tell my clients not to worry about betting their company on a smaller vendor," Hill said. "With this move to SOA, it will be different. What may really happen is that at first a company might go with a solution from smaller company, but that decision won't be the 'end all' decision. That first technology may turn out to be a transitional technology that will help move the company to a collaborative suite of technologies that all support SOA."

So, how do these 140 BPM vendors stack up? Hill has some interesting observations.

Knowing the Difference

Between Workflow and BPM

The most rewarding vendors for users to work with will be those that "recognize the key thing that differentiates BPM from workflow is a unified approach to managing all kinds of interaction, including people, systems, and integration rules all on equal footing," Hill said.

Interestingly, a start-up may offer customers an advantage over legacy firms (platform, integration or workflow), Hill added. "Start-ups that don't already do workflow, portals or middleware won't just focus on one of those. They'll bring a more balanced approach to BPM. In fact a start-up will often offer a tool that will plug into a popular platform, such as WebSphere, WebLogic, JBoss or [something] from Microsoft," Hill added.

That said, Hill says the big enterprise giants -- like IBM, Microsoft, SAP and BEA -- will play a role in de-mystifying BPM. "As we see the pain in the enterprise getting deeper, these bigger companies are getting more aggressive, and we expect that will lead to some better solutions this year," Hill said.