Historically, one of the main value propositions of leveraging a BPMS was to ensure the business community had some agility and flexibility in how their processes operated without having to wait for resources from IT to make modifications. By transferring control of execution time behavior to business friendly models and rule sets, the various LOBs were able to tweak and modify various elements of a process in order to ensure the process was operating as desired. On almost every client engagement, I have been involved with, the question of how much control the process owner will have is inevitably asked. As we all know, there is a long history of tension between the IT and LOB functions. In response to changing business conditions and strategies, the LOBs drive more and more customization of solutions purchased or developed by IT. Couple this ever-changing demand with the historical use of a waterfall methodology and you have an environment begging for a new approach that would allow the LOBs to regain control of the way they do business. One of the comments I heard most often during discussions with clients on why they wanted a BPMS solution was "We want to do business the way we want to do business. Not the way IT says we have to."
With the assimilation of BEA's AquaLogic BPM into the Oracle BPM 11g release, the future assimilation of Lombardi into IBM's WebSphere behemoth, and Savvion's purchase by Progress, it would appear the business aspect of business process management is at risk of disappearing and instead being replaced with EAI 2.0. The organizations within Oracle and IBM that now respectively own the ALBPM and Lombardi products sell primarily to IT. The tools contained within the IBM WebSphere family and the Oracle Fusion Middleware family are IT-centric tools which are used to develop custom solutions. Lombardi and Oracle BPM 10g (a rebranded AquaLogic BPM 6.0) both have significantly more business friendly user interfaces which can be used fairly easily by business analyst and process owners. Will the future incarnations of the Lombardi and AquaLogic BPM products continue to have a strong business user focus? If they move away from the business user focus, are we not on course for EAI 2.0?
Bruce Silver had an interesting post on the Lombardi acquisition which contained some images provided by IBM on where Lombardi was going to fit within the WebSphere family. Much like Oracle tried to do with the AquaLogic BPM product, IBM has squarely positioned Lombardi as solely a departmental (read not as impactful and valuable) solution. For enterprise BPM implementations, IBM, again much like Oracle did in 2009, is recommending their legacy BPM products. While it would appear that with the release of Oracle BPM 11g, Oracle is attempting to change tact a bit and start to focus more on both the LOB and IT communities. However, it remains to be seen how much of the emphasis on the LOB is positioning versus a true strategic change. It will also be interesting to see how Oracle coordinates their Apps division (Siebel, JDE, etc.) with the Tech division (Fusion Middleware) if both groups decide it makes sense to talk to the LOB about owning process.
In 2009, there has been a significant amount of change in the BPM market. With the acquisitions of the pure play based BPM products by primarily IT focused organizations, the business drive course of the BPM market has a strong possibility to veer off course and continue the status quo of IT based projects not matching the LOB needs.
Looking back through Gartner BPM Magic Quadrant reports, it is evident the BPM market is still in flux. Gone are three out of the four companies within the leaders quadrant in the 2006 version. In the 2009 version, there are 22 organizations included (40 were evaluated) in the Magic Quadrant versus 16 in the 2006 version. Given this growth, it would appear the market for pure play BPM products is still strong. If the products from acquired companies get lost within IT centric organizations, there will be a significant opportunity for the pure play providers to capitalize on the LOB desire to control their processes and remove as much IT constraints as possible.