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To bring business process management technology to midsized and smaller enterprises, Microsoft has partnered with vendors specializing in modeling, business rules and human workflow.
Business process management (BPM) has hit its stride within larger companies, and it's now ready for mainstream adoption among small and midsize firms. That's Microsoft's view, and to seize the opportunity, the company yesterday announced a Business Process Alliance aimed at lowering the barriers to BPM adoption.
"The three primary roadblocks to BPM technology adoption outside of the Fortune 500 are cost, complexity and the need for connectivity," said Steven Martin, director of product management in the Connected Systems Division at Microsoft. "We're addressing all three of those challenges both on our own and with our Business Process Alliance partners to ensure mass adoption."
The Alliance, announced at the Gartner Business Process Management Summit in San Diego, was launched with 10 partners, including process modeling and analysis vendor IDS-Scheer, rules management vendor Fair Isaac and BPM pure-play vendors Global 360 and Metastorm. Martin said the partners were chosen based on their overlap with current Microsoft BizTalk customers and their commitment to support the .Net Framework 3.0 and its Windows Workflow Foundation.
To address cost concerns, Martin said Microsoft has aggressively priced the standard edition of the BizTalk BPEL execution engine at just $8,500, "a fraction of the cost of competitive products… from IBM, SAP, Oracle, TIBCO and others," he said.
To reduce complexity, Alliance partners will use Windows Workflow Foundation as a common backbone for workflow-enabling diverse applications that are part of larger processes, Martin said, adding that connectivity is addressed by .Net and BizTalk adapters for a variety of business systems and platforms.
The majority of Microsoft's more than 6,500 BizTalk deployments are among larger companies, according to Martin, but Microsoft's focus on midsize and smaller firms plays to the company's traditional powerbase. The modeling and rules partners clearly fill gaps in Microsoft's portfolio while Global 360 and Metastorm have made significant efforts to play well with Microsoft technologies -- though there are redundancies between many BPM suites and Windows Workflow Foundation.
"I suppose there are some overlaps [with our products] in the workflow area," acknowledged Ben Cody, vice president of product management at Global 360 . "But our view is that as BPM proliferates, so will the technologies that power it. Our strategy is to work in heterogeneous environments to collect information from multiple process engines and then put together an end-to-end view of what's going on in the business."
Metastorm last year introduced Webparts for the Microsoft's SharePoint portal last year, and it now plans to exploit the Office 2007 "ribbon bar" to expose process tasks, says CTO Greg Carter. "We're looking at Office 2007 as a platform that will let people work collaboratively inside of Office and SharePoint while still tracking, auditing and taking part in processes," said Carter. "That will really bring a new audience to BPM."
The six other partners in the Business Process Alliance are AmberPoint, Ascentn, PNMsoft, RuleBurst and SourceCode Technology Holdings.
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