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Q&A: Gartner's Janelle Hill on the Future of BPM, SOA and Enterprise Apps

The drive toward model-driven application composition has Gartner considering two emerging concepts: Business Process Platforms and Integrated Composition Environments. Janelle Hill, a Gartner research vice president and lead analyst in the business process management arena, discusses the trends and implications for technology vendors and end-user organizations.

Janelle Hill

You say Gartner has yet to make final decisions about the reports it will publish in 2008, but you also acknowledge that you're considering new concepts that could supplant the current BPMS (business process management suites) Magic Quadrant. Why consider a change?

What we're sensing is that the market is in transition, but we don't know whether that's to the broader concept of a Business Process Platform (BPP) or what we call an Integrated Composition Environment (ICE). It's really the convergence of model-driven tools. Tools that are traditionally more oriented toward developers, versus a BPMS, which is much more business-user oriented (see related blog, "BPMS and Gartner's Quadrant Problem").

What, exactly, is a business process platform?

The business process platform (BPP) is a phrase Gartner uses to refer to a concept — one might say an architecture — that essentially describes the idea that businesses will run their processes on a platform of automation. 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 requires what we call a business services registry-repository where you keep your library or reusable technology assets. You have to decide, based on things you have in your application portfolio, which ones should be exposed as reusable assets, and then you have new composition environment that lets you assemble those Lego-like building blocks into end-user-facing solutions.

That sounds like services-oriented infrastructure and composite applications.

It is, but the key is that you've got to get a lot of governance around this, and you have to have a very process-centric culture that fosters reuse and that encourages a faster rate of change in processes. So there are organizational aspects to this, and that's why we say it's a concept or architecture, not a product. Every end-user organization has a different application portfolio, so no two business process platforms would look alike. Of course, all the vendors are starting to provide the technological pieces of that vision.

And what is an Integrated Composition Environment?

That refers to the bringing together a whole bunch of technologies that would be required to do composition as opposed to code development. What you put into that environment depends upon who you want to be the composer. Should that be an IT professional, business people or a mix of the two? That, too, is an evolving concept.

The ICE concept would seem to favor vendors that are deep in development technologies.

Not necessarily. It depends on who you want to be the composer. The success of the BPMS pure plays has been their recognition that composition requires a lower skill level than a Java programmer and that there aren't enough Java programmers in the World to create flexible applications. They recognized that we have to generalize the composition skill to increase the audience of potential composers.

Just by deciding which type of Quadrant you're going to publish, Gartner will have a big influence on what end-user organizations will look for. To what extend are you conscious of following where the market is going versus leading where the market is going?

I am very conscious of leading where the market goes, but Gartner is on the conservative side. To predict the next market requires the coordination of multiple analysts. That coordination is planned to happen this month in an offsite meeting, so I'm hoping that we will come out of that meeting with some directional views.

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