For companies developing business process management software, nobody said it better than Dylan: The times they are a-changin.
There is increasing pressure from a host of new competitors taking a newfound process-centric approach to application and platform development, from traditional middleware vendors like IBM and BEA to ERP (enterprise resource planning) providers such as SAP, Oracle and Microsoft. At the same time, there is the ever-present threat of mergers and acquisitions; MetaStorms December 2005 merger with CommerceQuest and BEA Systems acquisition of Fuego come to mind.
There is also the SOA (service-oriented architecture) and SAAS (software as a service] movements to consider. One is a methodology and the other a delivery model, but both have a growing dependence on BPM, which brings increasing competition to the fore.
Finally, there is the evolution of BPM itself. While vendors spent much of their time over the past few years evangelizing the "model, automate, execute and manage" message behind BPM, the term itself has evolved, morphing from workflow to BPM to BPMS (BPM Suite) to now BPM playing a part in the SOA world.
"Weve done our own evaluation of what the board expects, what technology companies expect," said Brian Boxman, the COO at BPM provider HandySoft Global, a subsidiary of HandySoft Global Corp." Things are moving so fast, you cant do what youve done in the past."
For "pure-play" companies like HandySoft and Savvion, the shifting landscape means taking a hard look at how business was done in the past and devising new solutions for the future.
HandySoft, brought to the U.S. market seven years ago, has swapped out its management team and devised parallel plans the new executives will deliberate to determine the companys future. HandySoft announced June 29 four new top executives. Jae Ahn has been appointed CEO; Boxman will assume chief operating officer responsibilities; William Chatterton will serve as chief financial officer and vice president; and Scott Byrnes has recently been appointed vice president of marketing.
Savvion has taken a less dramatic but no-less rebellious approach to its standard delivery model. The company launched June 28 new functionality through its BusinessManager 6.8 platform that enables just about anyone to model a business process, from business to IT—and download Savvions process models for free.
"We finally cracked the code on this, allowing people to model as is processes and allowing anyone to do it," said Patrick Morrissey, senior vice president at Savvion, in Santa Clara, Calif.
The company also announced ProcessXchange, a BPM community where users can share questions, experiences and insights about process improvement. The site offers free process models (which require Savvion software to execute), best practices, advice and a dash of humor. To jump-start the whole community process, Savvion is holding a "Show Us Your Process" contest, with categories for the best real business improvement process, funniest personal process, and most stupid organizational process.
HandySoft is looking at more serious alternatives. It has developed two separate business plans to determine, really, the companys future direction: either compete as a middleware platform provider or as an on-demand, verticalized BPM vendor.
"Maybe it makes sense to pick a vertical market were a big fish in—finance, government, health care—that sits on top of our BPM platform, and ultimately evolve it rapidly toward software as a service," said Boxman, in Vienna, Va. "By the end of the year we will have our final direction."
The decision to take the company on a new path will affect HandySoft at the highest levels, according to Boxman, determining the future needs for funding, strategic partnerships and the build out of technology.
"We are not trying to make the decision quickly, nor in a vacuum, but as a holistic strategy," said Boxman.
Boxman said he cant say which way the company will lean, but his personal preference is toward SAAS. "From a growth perspective, we can maintain growth," he said. "Middleware, we have access to all the applications already, but its a very competitive market."
But there are other influences to consider, including mergers and acquisitions; HandySoft is kicking around the idea of acquiring a company in the SOA sector, or itself being acquired. "If it turns out a merger makes sense, the company will look at that as well," said Boxman. "Sooner or later [Microsoft, Oracle and SAP] will get BPM right."
Boxman believes stiff competition from the ERP sector (middleware and Enterprise Application Integration vendors are already there) is a couple years out. For now HandySoft tells its customers and prospects that the best approach is to implement ERP without any customizations. Where customizations are necessary, users are counseled to wrap applications with a BPM suite.
But thats for now. Boxman and the team at HandySoft realize their world is changing; to rest on its laurels is not an option.
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