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Choosing the right BPMS

14 Aug
The following is a guest blog post that I wrote for BPM geek website. You can read the original post here.

Tring..tring…

Me: “Hello?”

Neal: “Hey, its me Neal.”

Me: “Neal…it has been a long time. How’s it going?”

Neal: “Its going well. My company has decided to invest in BPM software. I am leading the project. Since you have been through this, I thought you may be able to help.”

Me: “Sure. I am glad to help in any way I can.”

Neal: “Our CIO wants us to buy the best product that is out there. So tell me, which is the best BPM Suite out in the market today?”

Me: “It depends.”

Neal: “What do you mean?”

Me: “I don’t think there is a single, definitive answer to this. What is right for someone else, may not be right for you.”

Neal: “Can you explain? What is the approach should we take?”

Me: “Here’s my two cents…at a high level, choosing the right BPMS is no different from choosing any other software product. You need to carefully evaluate your requirements, your situation before making a decision. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered before you choose a BPM Suite.”

Neal: “Factors? Give me some examples.”

Me: “Have you identified the processes that you will be automating using BPMS? Are they simple straight-forward? Do you have any case or project management type processes? These may require a lot of flexibility.”

Neal: “We will be automating on-boarding of new employees to start with.”

Me: “Do you really need BPMS then? Perhaps, an HR application may suffice.”

Neal: “We already have an HR management system that can handle some of the basic setup along with benefits etc. but we also want to do things like granting user access to network and systems, send information to our payroll processor etc. Our HRMS cannot do all of that”.

Me: “I think you are on the right track with BPMS. As seems to be in you case, most BPMS implementations will need to integrate with other systems. So that is another important factor. You need to choose a product that can integrate easily with existing systems. Some provide built-in connectors for ERP, CRM and other applications. If you have to integrate with home-grown, legacy applications you may need customization.”

Neal: “Customization? When I looked at some product brochures and videos on vendor websites, it was all point, click, drag, drop and you are done.”

Me: “Ahh … BPMS utopia…but we live in the real world. It is likely that out-of-the-box you will be able to do 70-80% of what you need. For the remaining 20-30% you will need customizations, extensions etc. How easy are those going to be?”

Neal: “Hmm…didn’t think about that”

Me: “Actually, that raises another point. What skills are needed to make these customizations? Is the product built using Java technology, Microsoft technology or something different altogether? Do you have people who can do this? Or will you be depending on the vendor for this? I would venture to say that in any case you will need vendor support for the initial period but eventually your internal team could take ownership and run the show.”

Neal: “Great, this is just what I need. We are ready for take off”

Me: “No so fast buddy. Don’t forget the cost. These days with tight budgets you will need a good idea of how much all this will cost. There will be hardware costs, software licensing fees and professional services. You may also have to factor in your internal costs”

Neal: “Yes of course, total cost of ownership. I will work on that. This is great but where do I get started? What products should I be looking at?”

Me: “I suggest you start by looking at reports from research analysts like Gartner, Forrester, etc. As always the internet is your friend. Look at vendor websites, read blogs, browse discussions on LinkedIn and so on. Look at where different products are placed in the market and make your short-list from there.”

Neal: “And then?”

Me: “Arrange vendor demos and short-list further based on what you see. Once you are down to a handful of products, do a POC.”

Neal: “POC?”

Me: “Proof of concept. This is a deep dive into these products. Provide vendors with some use cases that are representative of your situation, have them implement it and see how each product fares. POCs typically last from a couple of days up to a week.”

Neal: “Fantastic ! Thanks for all this information”

Me: “You’re welcome. Remember, the bottom line is go with the one that best addresses your requirements. All the best.”

Neal: “Bye…”

Click…

No Gartner Magic Quadrant for BPMS in the future?

31 Jan

Business Process Management (BPM) products have matured considerably and are now seeing widespread adoption. BPM industry segment has evolved from having standalone products to having full fledged Business Process Management Suites (BPMS). When selecting a BPMS, many organizations rely on reports from leading industry analysts such as Gartner Magic Quadrant, Forrester Wave etc.
I came across this interesting blog post titled BPMS and Gartner’s Quadrant Problem by Doug Henschen on Intelligent Enterprise site. It appears that Gartner may be moving towards a Business Process Platform (BPP) or Integrated Composition Enviroment (ICE) quadrant instead of one for BPMS. BPM is an evolving market and I suppose this is to be expected. This is reflected in the acquisitions of pure play BPMS vendors by more established infrastructure companies: TIBCO’s acquisition of Staffware, BEA buying Feugo and softwareAG acquiring webMethods. All pure play BPMS vendors are potential candidates for acquisition. So does that tilt the balance in favor of infrastructure vendors? It depends on what products are considered to be a part of BPP/ICE – BPMS, middleware, ESB, SOA governance, etc. If it is required that all these be delivered by the same vendor it will favor the heavy weights.

Oracle buys BEA – now what?

26 Jan

The big news in technology last week was Oracle’s purchase of BEA systems. There is a lot of overlap in their product lines, specially in middleware. The general consensus is that BEA’s lineup was superior to competing Oracle products. Although Oracle has revamped its application server in the last few years, it has failed to displace IBM WebSphere and BEA Weblogic from the top two spots. Many analysts believe that this acquisition strengthens Oracle’s middleware portfolio and will allow it to go head on against IBM in that arena. Doug Henschen of Intelligent Enterprise points to a Forrester Research analysis (you made need to register to view this free report) published last year when Oracle announced its bid for BEA. The Forrester report has side-by-side product comparison and pointed out products from either stable that are at risk of being replaced. However, they mention that there is high level of overlap between Aqualogic BPM and Oracle BPEL Process Manager and that there is no BEA product comparable to Oracle BPA Suite. I think it would be more appropriate to put Aqualogic BPM and BPEL Process Manager together with BPA Suite into the same bracket.

Anyway, what does this mean for Oracle and BEA customers? In the short term, probably nothing. Licensing and maintenance revenues from BEA’s existing customers will add to Oracle’s coffers. The last thing it wants is to lose this money by pushing these customers into a rival’s arms. It will continue to support these products for the next few years just like it is doing with Peoplesoft, J.D. Edwards and Siebel under its Applications Unlimited promise . However, it may stop enhancing these products and eventually raise costs so much that customers will eventually be left with no choice but to migrate. If Oracle chooses to cherry pick best of breed products for the long run, even customers with some of its existing products may face a potential migration – only in this case it will be an “upgrade”.

For new customers customers this means that there will be one less available option. Forrester’s analysis concludes: “Shops that want to retain an independent middleware vendor as competitive leverage against their major suppliers will now have to look to smaller, more risky suppliers, to open source software, and to second-tier providers like Sun and Software AG.”