Privately held business process management (BPM) vendor Metastorm, fresh off its acquisition of former rival CommerceQuest, is working hard to differentiate itself in a BPM market crowded with as many as 150 competitors. Metastorm CEO Bob Farrell talked recently with Business Intelligence Pipeline about his company's philosophy on BPM, and where he sees the larger market heading.
Metastorm markets itself as providing "roundtrip" business process management. Explain what you mean by that.
We outlined the BPM roundtrip at the beginning of last year, and we talked about a group of technologies that are converging around the ability to automate, integrate, analyze, model and simulate business processes in a roundtrip fashion. Over the last couple years, we've been building out a BPM product suite to wrestle with those things, and building partnerships in areas we don't cover with our products -- business rules and things like that. Last October, we acquired CommerceQuest. That broke us away from the other pure-play BPM vendors in terms of scale. It made us significantly larger. It also gave us a full integration layer and a Java engine.
How much bigger did you get with the acquisition of CommerceQuest?
On a combined basis for 2006, we'll grow 60 percent over 2005. With two months of combined operations in 2005, we were able to grow 36 percent year-over-year in 2005.
It seems lots of companies trying to use BPM run up against a wall with process modeling. Can you give concrete recommendations or best practices for process modeling?
You hit the nail on the head in terms of the challenge of doing these projects. Once you have processes defined, doing the actual implementation is pretty easy. Defining processes is cultural. It's organizational. We suggest customers take a "stage-action-role" approach to the whole thing. If you think of processes in those three terms, you facilitate the identification and documentation of a business process's core elements by breaking it down into sub-processes and elements that are intuitive to the business. You break it into something companies understand in their own nomenclature, rather than in the context of some kind of technology.
How do you define stages, actions and roles in BPM?
Think of a process progressing through an organization. As it moves forward, it hits a different stage at each point along the road, if you will. As it reaches a new stage, you have a series of actions that have to take place at that stage. They're controlled by a series of roles, which are in turn controlled by various entities. The role could be controlled by a human, a system, an external entity or a Web service, for instance. If you break down your processes in that framework, they become easier to understand.
There's a lot of talk about the "convergence" of BPM and business intelligence. How do you see that unfolding in the coming years?
The key elements of BI in the context of business process management are the abilities to analyze processes as they're going on in real-time. You have to be able to understand what's going on with processes, and then have a set of rules operating against that analytical data so you can make changes to processes in real-time, whether manually or systematically. We have a product called Metastorm Insight that we use for analysis on processes.