Business Process Management: Are You Looking at the Right Products?

According to Forrester Research, one third of companies are currently using or piloting BPM products or services. The company's suggestions for matching your needs with the right BPM vendors.

If you’ve ever thought that business process management (BPM) is just another over-hyped technology trend, take note: A new report from consultancy Forrester Research finds that nearly half of all companies have already implemented or are at least considering implementing BPM solutions. Utility companies are among the most likely businesses to purchase BPM products this year.

Forrester researchers found that 33 percent of companies are currently using or piloting BPM products or services today, while another 16 percent say they’re considering deploying the technology. By contrast, in 2002, when Forrester first predicted that the BPM market would heat up, only 11 percent of companies were using or piloting BPM products or services.

Potential BPM uptake is greatest in the chemical and petroleum industries, where 67 percent of companies are at the very least considering deploying BPM technologies, with 44 percent already underway with or rolling out BPM implementations. Conversely, the retail industry is a BPM laggard, with only 31 percent of companies underway with or rolling out BPM implementations.

Not surprisingly, Forrester finds that most BPM vendors can’t be all things to all customers. Instead, the research firm recommends that companies try to assess their BPM needs and partner with vendors that demonstrate particular strengths in those areas. For example, companies trying to integrate business processes across a range of heterogeneous systems—in other words, a classic BPM scenario—should consider solutions from enterprise application integration (EAI) powers such as SeeBeyond, TIBCO, Webmethods, or Vitria.

At the same time, organizations that are balancing the integration of heterogeneous systems with custom application development efforts should probably opt for BPM technologies from BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., or Sybase Inc.

Companies that want integrated business processes across enterprise applications should opt for BPM technologies from Oracle Corp., PeopleSoft Inc., SAP AG, or Siebel Systems Inc.

Forrester researchers also point to the emergence of BPM standards—such as BPMN and BPEL—and say that organizations would do well to partner with vendors with a commitment to these standards.

BPM vendors tout a dizzying array of features, but Forrester analysts recommend organizations shop for solutions that offer simulation and dynamic deployment features that will enable them to fine tune their process improvements.

Finally, Forrester finds that some BPM vendors have acquired expertise in specific industries, such as financial services. As companies such as IBM and SAP acquire additional BPM expertise and expand their EAI and workflow tools to include support for features such as process modeling and rules engines, Forrester researchers speculate, this trend will only continue. The firm says many such BPM pure-plays will be forced to focus on specific business processes or industries—i.e., as best-of-breed providers—to remain viable.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.