Software // Information Management
11:46 AM

BPMS Watch Rates 11 Business Process Management Suites

The BPMS Watch Ratings Report for the Second-Quarter 2008 takes a close look at the integration, human workflow, production workflow and case management capabilities of industry-leading BPM suites. All-around standouts include BEA and Lombardi, Oracle, Software AG, EMC and Global 360.

Over the past 12 months, BPMS Watch has reviewed 11 leading business process management (BPM) suites using a common analytical framework. Based on that research, this report offers a comparative scoring of these BPM suites. Each suite was rated for both human-centric and integration-centric processes, and the human-centric evaluation was further broken out into two subclasses, production workflow and case management. Thus, identifying the BPMS "leaders" depends on whether your goal is a single BPMS to handle all types of processes, or separate consideration of human-centric and integration-centric processes, or even specific focus on production workflow or case management.

This analysis concerns only the current BPMS product offerings. It ignores factors explored in other analysts' ratings — potentially important factors in the buying decision — such as the vendor's size, financial condition, international sales capability and "completeness of vision."

The BPMS Watch analysis finds that the leaders when considering a single BPMS for all types of processes are Lombardi and BEA. For integration-centric BPM, the leaders are Oracle, BEA, and SoftwareAG/webMethods. For human-centric BPM, equally weighting production workflow and case management processes, Lombardi is the overall leader, followed by a cluster including BEA, Appian, EMC, and Global 360. Specifically focusing on the production workflow segment of human-centric BPM, Lombardi is followed by BEA, Appian, and TIBCO. For collaborative/case management specifically, EMC and Global 360 lead the pack, followed by Appian, BEA, and Lombardi.

The report that follows details the state of the BPMS market, basic process types, the BPMS Watch research methodology itself and the resulting ratings for all 11 vendors along three dimensions of comparison. Finally, the report concludes with snapshots of product strengths and shortcomings as well as information on downloading free in-depth reports on each vendor.


BPM adoption is enjoying double-digit growth, and adopters are rapidly shifting from the modeling/analysis phase to implementation of automated BPM solutions. BPM Suites are unified platforms combining all of the design and runtime components of a BPM solution — modeling and analysis, automated orchestration, human tasks, application integration, business rules, business activity monitoring (BAM) and process analytics. In specific process categories features such as content management, collaboration, case management, and packaged solution content have moved from nice-to-have to important suite components as well.

Such integrated BPM platforms were first introduced about five years ago from the so-called BPM pureplays, small vendors such as Savvion, Lombardi, and Appian. They soon attracted competition from established workflow and EAI vendors like TIBCO, Global 360, Pegasystems, and BEA, at which point Gartner christened the segment BPM Suites and offered a checklist of the category's essential features. Now even larger infrastructure, middleware, and enterprise application vendors like IBM, SAP, and Oracle have entered the BPMS market, and there is talk of renaming the category "process platforms." But for this report, we'll stick with BPMS.

Today there are 30 or more vendors who can tick off the entire BPMS checklist, but to date, each BPMS has largely remained within its own comfort zone of a specific class of processes, which at a high level breaks down as human-centric or integration-centric. The human-centric category encompasses a spectrum of use cases, ranging from generic forms routing to production workflow to collaborative case management.

While, strictly speaking, human-centric means that the process emphasizes human tasks, BPM Suites optimized for this class of processes are also more likely to emphasize one of the central goals of BPM as a management discipline, which is empowering business to play a more direct implementation role. In human-centric BPM, process modeling — a business function — is not just used to develop requirements handed off to IT for implementation, but becomes a foundation for the implementation itself. In human-centric BPMSs, process modeling and executable design are increasingly provided as two "perspectives" of a common tool, sharing a single process metamodel, single data model, and single programming model shared by business and IT.

That gives these products a huge advantage over offerings based on separate tools for modeling and implementation, since they do not suffer from the notorious "round-tripping problem" — the inability to keep the model in sync with changes to the implementation once the developers take hold of it. The unification of modeling and executable design actually enables a new iterative implementation style in which business and IT collaborate, resulting in shorter deployment cycles and increased satisfaction of process owners.

Business-empowered implementation has had a far lower priority in integration-centric BPM, where implementation is more technical and suites retain their traditional developer orientation. The middleware vendors on the integration-centric side tend to view BPM as more of a marketing label for their SOA suite offering, rather than something separate from SOA, a consumer of the services that SOA is building.

However, it is clear that the energy in the BPMS market today is on the human-centric side and that business-empowered implementation is beginning to define what a BPMS is all about. The Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) standard from OMG has emerged as a key enabler of this new style, and is becoming a must-have for any BPMS. This is important because the large middleware companies tend to approach the BPM market with the idea that customers want a single BPMS to handle the full spectrum of processes in the enterprise, not separate ones for human-centric and integration-centric processes. Those vendors have the resources, and apparently the desire, to gradually move into the space now occupied by the smaller human-centric vendors, but for the most part their products are not as good, particularly in the area of business-empowered implementation. And they have been slower to move to BPMN than the human-centric pureplays, a move perhaps hampered by an early bet on BPEL — not the best runtime match for BPMN models.

Some of the integration vendors have addressed gaps on the human-centric BPM side via acquisition — BEA with Fuego and TIBCO with Staffware come immediately to mind — and made those acquisitions the centerpiece of their overall BPM offering, leveraging the company's SOA middleware as BPM's integration component. Others, like IBM, SAP, and Oracle, active in the development of BPMN 2.0, have signaled that they are moving in this general direction as well.

Thus, in the future it will be even more difficult than it is today to classify BPM Suites as human-centric, integration-centric, document-centric, etc. BPM Suites will be increasingly offered as a single platform for all process types. For a while, however, their strengths may be far greater in one process type than in another. And that is the basic reason for the approach we have taken with this report.

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