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1/7/2008
11:48 AM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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BPMS and Gartner's Quadrant Problem

As 2007 came to a close, Gartner issued its long-awaited 2007 Magic Quadrant on Business Process Management Suites (BPMS)... BPMS vendors - or at least the ten in the top-right quadrant - now had reason to celebrate. Or did they? It wasn't long after the Dec. 14 publication of the report that I received a call from an irate vendor.

As 2007 came to a close, Gartner issued its long-awaited 2007 Magic Quadrant on Business Process Management Suites (BPMS). Gartner's previous BPMS Quadrant was issued in June 2006, so nearly 18 months had lapsed in its review cycle. No matter, 22 BPMS vendors - or at least the ten in the top-right quadrant - now had reason to celebrate. Or did they? It wasn't long after the Dec. 14 publication of the report (available from Quadrant leaders Pegasystems and Lombardi) that I received a call from an irate vendor."Gartner says this is the last Quadrant they'll publish on BPMS," asserted this executive representing one of the vendors in the top-right quadrant. "They say the next report will be on 'Business Process Platforms' rather than suites, which of course will favor the likes of IBM, SAP, Oracle and BEA."

What rankled this caller, who wished to remain anonymous, was that the small, independent BPMS vendors have each spent "hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars" with Gartner in recent years for advice and consulting on how to be better, industry-leading BPMS vendors, yet Gartner was now planning, this source asserted, to pull the rug out from under the entire category. Is Gartner abandoning the BPMS Quadrant, I asked Janelle Hill, a research vice president and lead analyst in Gartner's BPM practice? "BPMS vendors were not told any such thing," says Hill. "We've had some conversations to say, 'Gartner hasn't made a decision yet about what Magic Quadrants it will do next year.' We've adopted a new procedure in which we post on our Web site at the beginning of the year what Quadrants we expect to publish, but we haven't done that yet for 2008, and the decision making has only just started on what we do about the BPMS report."

Hill did acknowledge that Gartner is studying the Business Process Platform (BPP) as well as the "Integrated Composition Environment" as emerging concepts that reflect industry trends as well as consolidation within the industry. BPP is "an architecture in which businesses run their processes on a platform of automation," Hill explains. "In the future, as businesses want their processes to be much more adaptable to changing market conditions, the technology and infrastructure has to change to support this paradigm of composition and assembly rather than code development."

That change in technology requires a business services registry/repository, says Hill, something more closely associated with SOA infrastructure vendors than BPMS vendors. There are also organizational requirements, such as governance programs and a process-centric culture that fosters reuse of assets and a higher rate of change in processes. "Every end-user organization has a different application portfolio, so no two business process platforms would really look the same," says Hill. "That's why we call it a concept or architecture rather than a market."

The Integrated Composition Environment, or ICE, sounds more technology centric in that it is "the idea of bringing together a bunch of technologies that would be required to do composition as opposed to code development," says Hill. "What you put into that environment depends upon who you want to be the composer. Should that be an IT professional or business people or a mix of the two?" BPMS vendors would presumably excel in providing ICEs that would enable business users to compose and change applications and processes.

Given that the entire IT industry has been consolidating, it's no surprise that Gartner is consolidating Magic Quadrants. "At one point, Gartner had something like 284 Magic Quadrants -- way too many," says Jim Sinur, a former Gartner BPM analyst and now Chief Strategy Officer at BPMS vendor Global 360. "Quadrants are very difficult, time-consuming, legal and tumultuous. Some of the functionality is consolidating anyway, so consolidating seems like the right thing to do."

But will technology buyers find BPMS vendors in the prized top-right Quadrant focused on Business Process Platforms? Sinur predicts the likes of SAP and Oracle will have an edge in core back-office functionality while independents will have an edge on differentiating front-office functionality.

From my perspective, BPMS vendors have done a tremendous job of pioneering technologies that put business analysts and process owners in charge of business processes, but their horizontal secrets have been discovered and there's no way to put the genie back in the bottle. Technology buyers will inevitably demand an analysis that looks across applications, SOA infrastructure and process capabilities, and on that playing field, BPMS vendors will stand out for their business- and industry-specific content and process know-how.

To learn more about BPP, ICE, changes in the industry and what end-user organizations are looking for, read my Q&A interview with Gartner's Janelle Hill.As 2007 came to a close, Gartner issued its long-awaited 2007 Magic Quadrant on Business Process Management Suites (BPMS)... BPMS vendors - or at least the ten in the top-right quadrant - now had reason to celebrate. Or did they? It wasn't long after the Dec. 14 publication of the report that I received a call from an irate vendor.

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