When I last had an in-depth look at NetWeaver BPM (business process management) late last year, it was in late beta; since then, it's been through the SAP ramp-up (early ship) process, and was released for unrestricted shipment last week. SAP's Wolfgang Hilpert and Thomas Vollmering briefed me at Sapphire on the current release and what's coming later this year. I'll be finishing up my review of the current release in an upcoming post, and as soon as Thomas forwards on the material that he promised to send (hint, hint), I'll be able to post a bit more on the future directions.
The newly released version is still lacking a lot of expected BPMS functionality, but has focused on the features that SAP's customers said that they needed the most: human-centric BPM (since there are existing products in the SAP suite that cover lower-level orchestration) and an integrated composition environment that can eventually be used for process composition across all layers -- human-facing tasks, Web services and core ERP processes.Due to the Yasu acquisition, SAP also did direct integration between the BPM and business rules management environments, although there were some rough edges there and in some of the other areas, such as handling the user interface at process steps.
In spite of the shortcomings of the first release, SAP's vision for BPM is far-reaching, especially around the integration of events and analytics. They are taking advantage of the innovation that's happening within the BusinessObjects group, and there's a potential for them to create a powerful platform not just for managing processes, but for handling events, including the results of analytics at a human-facing step as a decision-support tool, and for analyzing and optimizing processes.
At Sapphire I also attended an open forum on workflow and BPM hosted by a number of people from inside and outside SAP with experience in different workflow and BPM areas. The format was 100% audience Q&A, and the focus was really on the SAP Business Workflow within the core ERP system, not NetWeaver BPM; this isn't completely surprising considering that BPM just went into unrestricted release this week, so there's probably not enough of it in the wild to generate much discussion.
There was an interesting conversation on what types of processes and applications lend themselves to being "workflowed" -- time-sensitive (deadline monitoring), review and approval, audit and control requirements -- which was not specific to the workflow/BPM platform.
Unfortunately, there was not enough content in that session for me. Business Workflow is too buried within ERP to be of interest to me, so I ducked out early.The newly released version of NetWeaver BPM still lacks a lot of expected BPMS functionality, but it's focused on the features that SAP's customers said they needed most: human-centric BPM and an integrated process composition environment.