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SAP, Oracle playing catch-up with BPM technologies

Large software vendors are 12 to 18 months away from catching up to the established pure-play business process management vendors, according to an analyst with Gartner Inc.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- SAP, Oracle, IBM and other large software vendors are racing to address gaps in their business process management (BPM) portfolios as more businesses are examining processes as part of service-oriented architecture projects.

The power vendors need to demonstrate credibility, and that will only come as the market matures.
Jim Sinur,
vice president and distinguished analystGartner Inc.

SAP, which has an established relationship with Germany-based IDS Scheer to address process modeling, is embedding IDS Scheer's ARIS technology into its NetWeaver platform. Still, SAP's BPM workflow tools are too complicated, have too few rules management features, and lack human-to-human task support, according to Jim Sinur, vice president and distinguished analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research Inc.

Sinur researches business modeling, BPM technologies, and rules-based systems for Gartner. He addressed participants at the Gartner Business Process Management Summit, held here this week.

"SAP has a mindset to do something in this area," Sinur said. "There are no clear leaders among the power vendors yet, but it's very early and we're still generating a report card."

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Sinur ranks SAP, IBM, Fujitsu, Microsoft, and Oracle among the "power vendors" that have been addressing the issue of BPM over the last year or two. Meanwhile, he said, pure-play vendors such as Pegasystems Inc., Global 360 Inc., Lombardi Software Inc., Metastorm Inc., Savvion Inc., and Appian Corp. have launched BPM suites that integrate with company systems and go far beyond process modeling.

"Modeling has become a commodity. All power vendors have solved the modeling problem," Sinur said. "The power vendors need to demonstrate credibility, and that will only come as the market matures."

SAP and Oracle each had a presence at the conference, highlighting the business activity management tools within their products. SAP's BAM technology resides in the SAP Solution Manager, which is the main portal used for servicing SAP software, said Harald G. Nehring, director of product marketing for SAP NetWeaver.

"SAP customers have the ability to directly model, manage and analyze business processes using NetWeaver," Nehring said.

Features within SAP Web Application Server enable business rules integration to control and monitor processes within an application, he said. SAP Exchange Infrastructure can be used to extend BPM to third-party applications.

Meanwhile, Oracle scores high marks with integration and business activity monitoring, located within its Fusion middleware stack. The company has strong human task support, but relies on partners for simulation and lacks solid modeling tools, according to Sinur, who said that the company plans to make a move to bolster modeling this year.

Microsoft holds the title for having the most disjointed offering, Sinur believes. The company has BPM technology within its Office 12 and SharePoint portal software and its BizTalk server. Sinur called Microsoft's human task support and modeling tools "anemic," but the interface within BizTalk is a winner and has good integration, he said.

"Microsoft uses partners to increase its ability in the area of modeling and human-to-human capabilities."

IBM is building and acquiring technology to bolster its BPM offering, Sinur said. Big Blue scored high with integration, using its WebSphere Process Server product. It has a very strong modeling tool that leads customers to IBM's models, Sinur said, and it has high content and collaboration capabilities. Still, he believes that the company has work to do in the area of human task support and rules management features.

Sinur gives Fujitsu Ltd. high marks for human tasks and system integration. The company's product has built-in simulation that is improving. It relies heavily on partners for process modeling, content management, and rules management features, he said.

While all the "power vendors" are still playing catch-up, it is still not a bad move to invest in a suite from one of the pure-play vendors, according to Sinur. There is no need to wait for market consolidation to take place, he said.

"Pure-play vendors will be able to compete because they know what's coming. Some will also thrive in niche markets," Sinur said. "Risk avoidance depends on the culture, but every organization will end up with multiple BPM engines."

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