Choosing the BPMS Supplier – What NOT to look for ?
Howard Smith (Computer Sciences)
Why are so many suppliers claiming their products are BPM centric?
Many products are constrained by the heritage of their vendor's technology. For example,
a workflow product evolving toward process management will provide a different set of
capabilities than an application server evolving into a process server. For this reason,
comparisons among current process-oriented products are difficult, even meaningless.
Companies must exercise extreme due diligence in the search for comprehensive
solutions, separating out the pretenders from the real competitors. Companies should
look for the following trends as diverse software vendors try to climb the food chain to
Enhanced Enterprise Application Integration (EAI): EAI products that include process
design, optimization, and analysis tools to assist in the deployment of the EAI solution
BPM Middleware: process or workflow engines added to or integrated with EAI,
application servers, and other middleware solutions
Enhanced workflow: modern workflow products that extend the collaboration paradigm
into the domain of enterprise integration by integrating middleware and transaction
New process managers: sophisticated and adaptive software products that connect to
and direct the operations of existing elements of the IT infrastructure, often positioning
them in an enterprise supervisory role.
Process development tools: application-development environments that use rules or
processes to create applications, rapidly
Process engineering tools: discovery, design, optimization, analysis, and simulation
Business Process Management Systems: intended to play a role similar to that of a
database management system, a comprehensive platform for the design, deployment,
and direct execution of enterprise business processes.
Because of their lineage, few process management products provide a complete solution
and those that claim to do so often rely on alliances or acquisitions of technologies that
do not necessarily work together systemically or naturally. As with other IT solutions,
such products and product suites vary in functionality, scale, reliability, and adherence to
standards. In lieu of a complete solution, companies will rely on systems integrators and
IT architects with the specialized knowledge and experience needed to combine best-of-
breed components and process engineering methods to assist them in migrating to a
Many Global 2000 companies are deploying BPM point solutions or individual layers in the
BPM stack. Many are finding it necessary to deploy EAI, some use workflow extensively,
a few are piloting departmental process managers, most use existing business process
reengineering (BPR) tools, and many have employed rule-based development to speed
application delivery. It's a complex picture. Today's application stack is complex and the
BPM layer is only part of the end-to-end process solution. A well thought-out, process-
centric architecture, developed with an experienced systems architect—a guide who has
gone before—will allow companies to plug in various point solutions today, and migrate
more smoothly to comprehensive solutions tomorrow.
BPM Market Growth: Leaders begin to emerge
Spending in the BPM sector reached $2.26 billion in 2001, under Aberdeen Group's
Of the three dozen or so vendors offering BPM products, IBM is the market leader, with a
16.4% share for a product portfolio that includes its IBM WebSphere. Right behind IBM
are FileNet, with an 8.5% market share, and Staffware with a 7.2% share.
Low budgets for capital expenditures are however dampening the BPM market's near-
term growth and are holding revenue for the sector to $2.54 billion in 2002, the analyst
company forecasts, but a focus on IT integration technologies and tools for increasing
corporate responsiveness will spur significant growth in the market over the next several
years. Manufacturing, financial services, retail and distribution companies will lead the
way, pushing total worldwide BPM spending to $6.32 billion in 2005, according to the
Forrester Research is also monitoring the growth in the BPM market. The Research group
added BPM as the ninth category tracked by its TechRankings service, which evaluates
vendors on a number of criteria.
As part of the recent evaluation Forrester includes in the rankings: FileNet, Fuego, IDS
Scheer, Intalio, Metastorm, Savvion, Staffware, and Ultimus.
"The evaluation results are indicative of an immature software market; they vary widely,"
Forrester analyst Sharyn Leaver wrote in a recent briefing.
In picking a BPM supplier, one of the factors companies should consider is whether their
internal processes rely more heavily on automated systems or employees. Each supplier
has its strengths: human based processes are best served by Ultimus and Metastorm,
while Fuego and Intalio specialize in system-intensive processes.
Reading between the lines suggests that we are heading for a market shakeout as the
bigger players acquire skills and capabilities from their smaller competitors. The message
for potential buyers of BPM services is to seek independent and objective advice before
investing heavily in a still very immature market.