"We found 85 percent of the [BPM] work being done is human-to-human; 15 percent is IT. The reality is that companies weve surveyed, most of what is happening is above the water line," said Gartner Group Inc. BPM analyst Jim Sinur, who is leading the BPM Summit.
"We think eventually there will be more things below the water line in IT, and we think this is going to fire off a whole new generation of IT."
Over the past couple of years Gartner, of Stamford, Conn., has conducted annual surveys of companies undergoing BPM projects to document, model, execute and refine business processes.
The biggest finding to date: Managing business processes has surpassed security as CIOs top concern for 2005, according to Gartners 2004 survey, a finding that has prompted the company to predict the IT industry is at an inflection point that will bring together the business and IT sides of the house like never before.
"There is a partnership between IT and business, which I havent seen," said Sinur. "And Ive been in the IT business for a long time."
In 2004 Gartner surveyed more than 50 companies that undertook a total of 154 BPM projects.
What it found is that BPM is not just for the big boys anymore; with 25 percent of the companies responding reporting assets in the millions (the remaining 75 percent had assets in the billions).
The study also found the average number of departments involved to be three, which means fusion is happening across companies, according to Sinur.
At the same time, the study showed that successful projects had no less than a 10 percent internal rate of return, with an "almost scary level of success," according to Sinur: Over 95 percent of the respondents reported successful BPM projects.
The study also found some BPM pitfalls, including the ability for companies to enable external users, and to reduce the number of steps for workers.
Gartner found that BPM actually doesnt make people more productive, rather it gives them more work, but with fewer administrative tasks.
Despite current findings, Gartner believes there are a lot of processes that can use help—and more and more of that work will go into IT systems.
And there are a lot of software vendor choices, with an estimated 225 pure play vendors that focus on different aspects of BPM.
Its primarily the big players, however—Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. SAP AG and IBM—that provide a full-suite approach, one that Gartner recommends.
Gartner suggests companies eventually move to BPM suites that provide a round-trip experience that combines modeling, execution, measurement and refinement capabilities.
"Of the giants, Oracle is the closest. If you look at Microsoft, BizTalk is really select for system-to-system, and they can send exceptions to people," said Sinur.
"IBM has a real strong WebSphere [offering], and they are rewriting human-to-human [capabilities], but their rules engine is pathetic. SAP is just starting people-to-people."
Steven Martin, group product manager in Microsofts Business Process and Integration Division, said the company has seen a 50 percent up-tick in new customer demand for BPM capabilities.
"Most CIOs are looking at BPM as an opportunity," said Martin, in Redmond, Wash. "We are getting a lot of feedback on [users] wanting to document what a process looks like, and what it should look like. People are wanting to get really, really clear on that [end-to-end] process."
From this inflection point, Microsoft believes users will move more into process optimization.
To this end, the 2006 version of BizTalk Server, an incremental release due in the first quarter of 2006, will address several issues including enhancements for developer productivity with some optimizations for IT Pro.
On the business user side, 2006 will bring an infrastructure of real-time alerts.