Most everyone likes the idea of open standards but few the frustration of too many standards to support. That's one reason why the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI.org) and the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) are negotiating a merger.
BPMI.org led the development of XML-based standards including Business Process Modeling Language (BPML) and Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN). BPML has been eclipsed by the now widely supported Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), which was developed by IBM, Microsoft and BEA. Meanwhile, BPMN continues to gain support as a standard set of graphics for process modeling.
WfMC's 12-year history is in developed standards for human-to-human interaction, notably Workflow XML (Wf-XML), and it has advocated eXstensible Process Definition Language (XPDL), which overlaps in some ways with BPMN.
"It would make sense to combine XPDL and BPMN," says Delphi Group's Nathaniel Palmer.
The real driver of a would-be merger, observers agree, is the need to maximize support as vendor ranks thin out in a maturing market. Gartner analyst Jim Sinur predicts the current crop of more than 125 BPM system suppliers will eventually shrink to about 40, and he says this will naturally lead BPM newbies toward the major platform vendors. The groups claim most of their membership from among the independents.
"Merging is not necessary [for the groups] to continue down the standards path," says Palmer, "but it would make sense politically."