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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.
Wouldn't a BPP Quadrant force BPMS pure-play vendors to focus on specific vertical niches (assuming the big vendors would have the broadest portfolios)?

That's certainly one choice, but it's wrong to assume that software markets in the future will behave as they have for the last ten years (see related blog, "BPMS and Gartner's Quadrant Problem"). A lot of current trends tell us that user organizations don't want to commit to one and only one major platform vendor. The biggest complaint from users about SAP, for example, is that it takes too long to implement an upgrade. They want to be able to change their processes at a faster rate then they are able to today. They want to unify transaction workloads with decision support and human workflow. They want to move to environments in which there's a lot more self sufficiency on the part of the end user to configure the process.

You also have to consider the fact that open source and open standards continue to gain momentum. It's very easy for a new software company to enter the market — because their R&D costs are so much lower — and quickly get to strong leadership position. For example, our BPMS Magic Quadrant continues to be dominated by privately held companies with $40 to $60 million in annual revenue, and they're selling their software like crazy.

Where do end-user organizations stand in pushing the market transition?

They're not going to go from where they are today in their application portfolios, where process is completely embedded, to having 100 percent of that being explicitly modeled and externalized from the application. You don't do that in one full swoop. Every organization I talk to is struggling to figure out which applications need that higher level of flexibility. It's not all of them and they're certainly not ready to make all of them that flexible. So there's a lot of room for small vendors to focus on emerging process styles, which may or may not be industry specific, to enable composition and end-user configurable workflow.

The changes we're talking about are huge, really, in that they touch on process, architecture and applications.

That's why Gartner hasn't made a decision as yet as to how we want to articulate that future market. If you look at SAP as an example, it is one of the most successful application vendors. In my view, the old R3 application was one of the best-architected multi-tier applications of its generation. SAP has spent the last three years rearchitecting a lot of that functionality into what they call SOA By Design and SOA By Evolution — the next generation of their application suite.

But despite all of the rearchitecting SAP has done for SOA, it still doesn't have explicit process management. The company is beginning to preview and demo a new product called Galaxy, which is the company's new explicit process management technology, but it won't be delivered until late 2008. By that point, maybe there will be enough of an installed base of these SOA-architected application portfolios that it's reasonable to talk about composition.

Where would you place end-user organizations in terms of maturation toward composition?

At best, the most advanced companies might have 50 reusable SOA-designed services — at best. I see lots of organizations that have lots of SOA components, but they're not reusable. To get to 50 truly shared and reusable services is a big accomplishment. It's going to take companies a couple of years to evolve their application portfolios. So considering that, maybe we'll still call it the BPMS Quadrant in 2008 or maybe we'll call it Integrated Composition Environment or Business Process Platform, but I don't know at this point, and it's defiantly not a Janelle Hill-only decision.

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