Friday, April 18, 2003

A new report suggests that an emerging Web services market focused on new business-process technologies could make the current market for application-integration software obsolete. Emerging service-oriented process software is founded on the notion that data can be integrated in the context of a particular business process. For example, rather than simply moving data between two points, an application designed around a specific process could draw data from several sources through a multistep workflow, such as handling a new insurance claim. "When you're putting together a process, in effect you're integrating," said Ronald Schmelzer, the author of the report. This alternative approach to application integration could mean trouble for companies focused solely on enterprise application integration (EAI). Traditional application-integration middleware takes information from one application source and transports that data to another application. EAI companies "are going to have to think about where the value proposition is," said Schmelzer. "If you're just trying to connect things together as an afterthought, you're never going to win."

Report: Trouble for integration tools [source]

Thursday, April 17, 2003

BEA Systems, IBM, and Microsoft on Wednesday submitted a major standard proposal for Web services to OASIS, snubbing similar work underway at the Worldwide Web Consortium. The trio, all major players in the development of Web services standards, submitted a specification for Business Process Execution Language, or BPEL, which was co-authored by SAP and Siebel Systems. Twenty other businesses have signed on as co-submitters, and OASIS has started the process of forming a technical committee to develop the spec, Microsoft and IBM officials said. Indeed, what's unclear is the effect the submission will have on similar work underway by the W3C. With BPEL, OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) will have work underway in all three major areas of Web services development. W3C officials could not say whether their work would overlap or complement OASIS' effort, because they had not seen the charter that would govern the work of the latter group's technical committee. However, all the BPEL authors are members of the W3C. The standards body couldn't understand why OASIS was chosen. "I would be hard pressed to give a reason why organizations dedicated to getting Web services out the door don't commit to an open way to do their work, having proposals reviewed, having specifications reviewed, and having ways to deal with interoperability requirements," W3C spokeswoman Janet Daly said. Officials with IBM and Microsoft said OASIS was chosen because the organization is more focused on technical issues related to automating business processes, where the W3C was more directed at lower-level infrastructure technology related to Web services, such as SOAP. However, vendors tend to have different perceptions of the W3C and OASIS, Schmelzer said. The former is seen as having rigorous processes and standards for creating and releasing specifications. The latter is perceived as more lax and less controlled about what's released.

IBM, Microsoft, BEA Snub W3C, Submit Web Services Spec To Oasis [source TechWeb]
Microsoft, IBM, and BEA Systems plan to submit their Web services choreography and business process specification, initially proposed in August 2002, to a standards body later this week. According to a source familiar with the announcement, SAP and Siebel are joining the original developers of BPEL4WS, IBM, Microsoft, and BEA, in the submission. Co-submitters of the technical committee charter include the following: Accenture, Akazi, CGEY, Collaxa, CommerceQuest, EDS, Vignette, FiveSight, Handysoft, HP, i2, JDEdwards, NEC, Novell, OpenStorm, SeeBeyond, SourceCode, TeamPlate, Tibco, Unisys, Ultimus, and WebV2, according to the source.

OASIS to get BPEL4WS jurisdiction [source InfoWorld]
IBM, Microsoft and BEA Systems plan to submit a high-profile Web services proposal to the OASIS standards body, company executives say, despite an ongoing effort by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to sort through similar ones. Led by the three powerhouse companies, about 20 businesses will propose the creation of a technical committee within the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) to standardize the Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL), which is used to automate complex business processes. The companies, which include SAP and Siebel Systems, planned to make the submission to OASIS as early as Tuesday, according to the IBM executive. An official announcement from OASIS is expected in about a week. Executives at IBM, Microsoft and BEA said that any products based on BPEL can be sold without any royalties to the authors of the specification. IBM and Microsoft intend to implement the BPEL standard within their respective products this year, company executives said. The group of companies, which originally authored BPEL, also plans to publish an update to the BPEL specification when it is submitted to OASIS.

Web Services face a split [source]
As enterprises apply Service-oriented architecture principles to business process management and automation, they will find that such "Service-Oriented Process" solutions will supplant the need for today's integration solutions, concludes a report published today by ZapThink, LLC, an analyst firm focused on XML, Web Services, and Service-oriented architectures. The report concludes that Service-oriented process tools enable business users to assemble business-oriented Web Services into business processes that are themselves exposed as Web Services.

Web Services-based Process to Displace Integration Solutions; Implementing Service-Oriented Process Key to Meeting Business Agility Requirements [source ZapThink]

Thursday, April 10, 2003

In one corner is the Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS, but most often pronounced "bee-pell"). BPEL4WS is a business process and choreography API that was co-authored by IBM, Microsoft and BEA. Although it is completely proprietary and hasn't even been submitted to a standards-setting body, all three companies already have plans to support the specification in their solutions as though it were a standard. At the very least, IBM and Microsoft will be able to continue focusing on picking off each other's customers as well as BEA's. Unfortunately, while the three companies steam forward on BPEL4WS, the rest of the world is standing in the other corner with a competing specification--the Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI, pronounced "whiskey). Unlike BPEL4WS, WSCI has taken the first step towards standardization through a submission to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) by (which also developed an alternative to BPEL4WS called BPML), Commerce One, Fujitsu Limited, Intalio, IONA, Oracle Corporation, SAP AG, SeeBeyond Technology Corporation, Sun Microsystems, and strange as it may seem, BPEL4WS co-author BEA. This industry chasm over the handling of choreography and transactions in service oriented architectures (SOA), and the costs that could be associated with it, are not to be underestimated. Nor is BEA's duplicitous hedging by appearing as a proponent of both. Forget for a moment the problem of interoperation, or lack thereof, should the industry not agree on a common language for this very critical part of any mission critical application. Let's suppose that BPEL4WS becomes the de facto standard, by virtue of BEA's, Microsoft's, and IBM's support for BPEL4WS in their application servers (which happen to be the application server market's three leading products). The three intellectual property owners would be in the driver's seat not only when it comes to Web services, but for a portion of the Web itself.

Web services in serious jeopardy [source ZDNet]
To business people, it seems that technology is always getting more complex. Technical people feel the same way. Over the last five years, delivering business applications has become much more complex, with layer upon layer of new infrastructure requirements and new features. While this has been good for IT industry players that sell new products for new layers in the "technology stack," it isn't necessarily so good for companies that use them as business tools. When complexity mounts and eventually becomes unmanageable, it's time for action. As Walt Disney once said, objecting to a proposed sequel to his "Three Little Pigs" cartoon, "You can't top pigs with pigs." In the world of business, stacking a thousand doghouses, one atop the other, to build a skyscraper is a great proposition for doghouse vendors, but not for future occupants. Skyscrapers need an architecture of their own - their own paradigm, not a sequel to the doghouse paradigm.

Don't Bridge the Business-IT Divide: Obliterate it! [source and]
Collaborative and transactional business processes don't have a chance if they're not coordinated. In his landmark book, Process Innovation, Thomas Davenport defined a process as follows: Simply a structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specified output for a particular customer or market. It implies a strong emphasis upon how work is done within an enterprise, in contrast to a product focus's emphasis on what. A process is thus a specific ordering of work activities across time and place, with a beginning, an end, and clearly identified inputs and outputs: a structure for action. This definition, although helpful, hardly begins to explain the true nature of collaborative and transactional business processes. At the very least, the word "coordination" is missing.

Coordination, Coordination, Coordination [source DarwinMagazine]

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Combining Business Process Management with Composite Application (CA) development can reap rewards for companies now and down the road. It enables them to preserve existing technology investments, provides more agile technology infrastructures, and better supports short-term customer service and long-term business goals. Tom Dwyer, who oversees The Aberdeen Group’s middleware and integration technology group, sees it all fitting together through the "ability to deliver composite application through an easy-to-use intuitive interface - and bringing in content and data, responding to alerts, or easily talking to front-office and relationship marketing systems." He went on to describe industry initiatives to define both processes and business elements. "We're foreseeing the evolution and starting to see the work toward a unified modeling language, so that when you define elements in one company, it's easily understood by another company and you're seeing agreement over the appropriate standards that are underlying the business process model."

Synthesizing The Synergies: BPM And Composite Application Development [source]
As enterprise business processes become more automated, and more interconnected, one piece of technology refuses to go away: the human being. As a result, workflow systems, which handle processes involving human input, have begun to play a larger role in the world of BPM (business process management). Workflow engines, originally used for document-and people-intensive tasks such as processing insurance claims, are now moving into the mainstream, getting incorporated into most major BPM offerings, which must increasingly handle processes involving both computers and people. Unlike straight-through, machine-to-machine processes, things tend to take more time when humans are involved, especially if judgment is required to deal with exceptions in a highly repetitive process. So-called "long-running processes" such as credit approval, new product development, clinical drug trials, and telco provisioning involve many starts, stops, and detours that traditional workflow systems are designed to handle.

Workflow meets BPM [source Infoworld]
Identitech, Inc. announced FYI Visual(TM), an extension to the FYI® suite of business automation and content management solutions, that moves Identitech into the Business Process Management market. FYI Visual is a breakthrough, patented technology that goes beyond traditional charts, graphs, gauges and reports to provide powerful, actionable, real-time displays of business metrics. FYI Visual extends Identitech's solutions for workflow, content management, records management and forms to provide a single, integrated solution for Business Process Management. FYI Visual is also sold stand-alone to provide an actionable and visual interface for any enterprise system.

Identitech Revolutionizes Business Process Management with FYI Visual(TM) [source Identitech]

Monday, April 07, 2003

Business Process Management Systems enable business people to create and change processes with little if any dependence on IT departments, and enable IT managers to cut operational costs. What's more, BPMS helps bridge the business-IT gap. How it does all that was illustrated in the ebizQ webinar, "The Operational Benefits of BPM," part of our webinar series "BPM and the Real Time Enterprise", sponsored by CommerceQuest. In essence, BPMS puts the business process horse before the IT cart, explains Peter Fingar, executive partner of digital strategy firm the Greystone Group. Fingar, who pens a monthly column for ebizQ along with Howard Smith and co-authored Business Process Management - The Third Wave with Smith, says companies today spend 30 percent of their IT budgets on integration, in such forms as EAI and B2Bi. They do it, he says, to build end-to-end business processes. So if business process is the object of integration, asks Fingar, why not put it, and not the application, at the heart of business automation? And that, he adds, is precisely what BPMS does.

BPM Systems: The Great Enablers [source]
Behind every company's brand - the facade it promotes to customers - increasingly stands an extended enterprise, a dynamic value chain of suppliers and business partners interconnected over the Internet. This change is once again focusing CEO attention on business process management (BPM), but with a difference from the workflow and reengineering efforts of the 1990s. Integration has replaced automation as the critical objective of process improvement. Where workflow once tried to stamp out inefficiency by automating isolated functional bottlenecks, BPM software aims to interconnect the myriad islands of process automation created by that earlier effort and to integrate them with the processes of trading partners. E-business inherently means end-to-end processes that cross functional boundaries spanning the extended enterprise.

Three Promises of BPM: Agility, Flexibility, Visibility [source TransformMag]
Here's how and why four companies are placing big bets on business process management. Like a car that runs smoothly instead of stalling at every traffic light, a business that makes good use of business process management (BPM) strategies and technologies can eliminate delays, bottlenecks and errors. Although BPM is very new, pioneers are proving its value.

Well-Oiled Machines: BPM Projects Point to Success [source TransformMag]
Business process management solutions offer obvious payoffs. The challenge is selecting the right solution for your application. Doculabs describes typical applications for BPM and the capabilities and vendors that best fit each scenario. In the current economic environment, organizations are struggling to radically improve efficiency and leverage existing investments in systems while remaining responsive to their customers. At the same time, businesses require systems that are more automated, involve less human intervention and can gather data from multiple systems to provide customers with the products or services they need. These frequently conflicting imperatives are driving demand for business process management (BPM) solutions, especially in process-intensive industries such as financial services, insurance, healthcare and manufacturing. BPM is a framework of applications that maintain complete control over a process. These solutions automatically manage processes, allow manual intervention, extract customer information from a database, add new customer transaction information, generate transactions in multiple related systems and support straight-though processing without human invention when needed (for example, in trade and settlement processing).

BPM: When Speed Counts [source TransformMag]
But as a dazzling array of vendor-driven standards continues to emerge, a fresh set of machinations are proving that the battle for control of Web services standards remains alive and well between two camps: IBM and Microsoft on one side, Sun and to some extent Oracle on the other. The issue reared its head most recently when IBM and Microsoft had declined to participate in the newly formed W3C Web Services Choreography Working Group. But then two Microsoft officials showed up at the initial meeting on March 13 at Oracle headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif. According to Steven VanRoekel, director of Web services at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. , the two officials attended the meeting to determine the scope of the group's work pertaining to contract language, which is intended to establish communications between end points. But Microsoft discontinued participation after finding out the group's work on contract language did not coincide with its own, VanRoekel said.

Web services paths remain divided [source Infoworld]
Imagine a world where people speak a language that brilliantly describes the molecular structure of a large object, but can't tell you what the object is - or that it's about to fall on you. You've just glimpsed the arcane world of business process applications. Fortunately, an emerging Business Process Management Language (BPML) standard is beginning to change all that. BPML is being designed as an easy-to-use, declarative language that describes processes in ways that executives can understand and also provides the detail for developers to execute them.

Business Process Management Language (BPML): Automating Business Relationships [source SterlingCommerce and EAIJournal]
A slew of product announcements indicate growing focus on BPM by vendors in different categories:
In 1931, statistician Walter Shewhart developed a framework for "continuous improvement." What became known as the Shewhart Cycle outlined four key steps for improving processes: Plan-Do-Check-Act. A plan is developed to improve a process; the plan is implemented; the results are tested; adjustments are made; and the cycle begins again. One of Shewhart's most famous students, W. Edwards Deming, took this concept, along with others, to Japan. The manufacturing world has never been the same. The Deming revolution--built around concepts like continuous improvement and just-in-time (JIT) inventory--had a universal impact on global manufacturing. Today, there is a new form of enterprise software that has the ability to do for white-collar business processes what Deming did for manufacturing. Delphi Group believes that business process management (BPM) is "quickly emerging as the moniker for the next killer app in enterprise software." Believe it or not, this may actually undersell the potential impact of BPM. BPM will not just change the software industry--it will change industry in general. Just like Deming.

Pay attention to BPM [source]
The Port of San Diego now relies on business performance management (BPM) processes and technology (courtesy of Comshare) to strengthen its decision-making capabilities and to make those decisions, and the budget derived from them, more visible to the public. It is not alone. Federal, state, and local governments gravitate toward BPM processes and applications thanks to a surge of regulatory and fiscal pressure. As with most types of technology adoption, governmental entities generally lag behind their corporate counterparts—about two to four years, in the case of BPM investment. But that gap is narrowing as governments, spurred on by regulations, declining tax revenue, and a public that demands ever-increasing levels of visibility and accountability, drives governments into a deeper analysis of their financial data and the factors that influence it.

Government Hammers BPM [source InternetWorld]
Citing ingredients necessary for BPM (business process management), an official at Addison, Texas-based BPM vendor Fuego offered attendees at the InfoWorld CTO Forum conference on Tuesday a glimpse of organizations that have shortened the gap between business processes and execution. Fuego CEO Mark Theilken stressed that a BPM implementation must be technology- and application-independent as well as not rely on a single individual for its operation. Theilken added that systems must be designed to represent activities in a single process model. "It's not just Web services you have to integrate, it's also desktop services from [Microsoft] Excel and Windows [plus] integrate mainframe services, and you have to turn Web applications into Web services to integrate that as well," said Theilken.

CTO Forum: Fuego illuminates crucial BPM ingredients [source Infoworld]
In tough economic times, many companies are cutting costs by making internal operations more efficient. At the same time, some of these enterprises are laying the groundwork for carrying efficiencies to activities with customers and suppliers. In attacking wasted time and unnecessary effort on the part of employees, many companies are turning to business process management (BPM) software. These systems consist of a modeling environment capable of building, deploying, and managing business processes, including the flow of forms and documents among people responsible for completing the activities. In addition, the systems contain business logic that ensures tasks are completed before starting the next step.

Companies Tap BPM Software To Automate, Orchestrate Processes [source InternetWeek]
Business software company SAP is strengthening the workflow capabilities of its middleware as it launches NetWeaver to wrest back control of enterprise application integration within the SAP world. For a long time, however, one of the problems it faced was the "big hole" in the process layer - the middleware for integration. Exchange Infrastructure is aimed at plugging this hole. It is less than a year old, but SAP plans to eventually "move the Exchange Infrastructure towards what everything a middleware product will do", said Dale. Instead of sending in armies of programmers, enterprises can define a business process, and the services can be combined to form xApps that snap on to an existing IT environment. Compared to the seven or eight key applications currently offered by SAP, for example, in the areas of human resource management or financials, there will be hundreds of xApps, said Dale.

Integrating the SAP world [source ComputerWorld]