Enterprise application software developers are painting a future that will consist mostly of business process management components rather than the packaged applications of today.
Such a world would allow enterprises more flexibility in customizing and integrating applications, particularly in adding collaboration and workflow capabilities to those applications.
A recent study by Forrester Research Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., found nearly 90 percent of business users surveyed rated their enterprise applications poor on managing processes across functions and adapting to users business processes. Also, more than 70 percent of IT administrators rated their applications as unable to support business change.
SAP AG, of Walldorf, Germany, last week at its Sapphire conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, previewed its Enterprise Services Architecture, or ESA, which includes more than 500 online enterprise services that have been developed and deployed on the latest version of MySAP ERP. This ESA preview system will be available for partners, developers and customers to contribute to the definition and development of new business processes, SAP officials said.
Meanwhile, Onyx Software Corp. last week introduced its own business process management, or BPM, offering, Onyx Process Modeler. The product is built on the Bellevue, Wash., companys .Net-based SOA (service-oriented architecture), which is designed to work in conjunction with Onyxs Customer Management suite.
In addition, Siebel Systems Inc. detailed during its otherwise-dismal first-quarter-earnings call last week its plans to deliver a new BPM platform along with application development components, all built on the companys next-generation SOA that will support both Java and .Net. The first of the new offerings will be available as early as this summer, company officials in San Mateo, Calif., said.
SAPs BPM platform will revolve around the companys NetWeaver application integration technology and will support Java and SAPs proprietary ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming) code. In an exclusive interview with eWEEK, SAP CEO Henning Kagermann described the business process platform as "the future of applications."
"You can reconfigure and recompose the business processes," Kagermann said. "When you have a business process platform, you have Web services but also application components—predefined components, but configurable. You have options; you dont have to write them from scratch. Were giving companies flexibility to differentiate."
For Nick Voutsakis, chief technology officer of Glenmede Trust Co., an Onyx customer, the promise of BPM is about integrating workflow—collaboration, information sharing, approvals, reporting, compliance—into CRM (customer relationship management).
"[Onyxs existing Process Manager] is intended to be configurable. It will allow us to build applications for a particular workflow that will minimize the customizations that we have to pay for," said Voutsakis in Philadelphia.
While it may seem like the move to BPM platforms is putting more development burden on customers, the burden is even greater when buying separate workflow applications, Voutsakis said.
SAP, Onyx and Siebel all promise enough ease of use in customizing and designing business processes for business users to take advantage of the technology.
"Our customers will be able to further digitize key front-office processes by industry," said Siebel Executive Vice President David Schmaier during Siebels earnings call. "By allowing them to change processes, they become more agile and can adapt to new market needs.
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