The company announced Feb. 26 at the Gartner BPM Summit in San Diego that it has formed the Microsoft Business Process Alliance, a group of about 10 companies dedicated to building out BPM functionality on Microsofts BPM platform.
The companies include IDS Scheer (a key process modeling partner with SAP and Oracle), Fair Isaac, Global 360, Metastorm, Ascentn, SourceCode Technology Holding, AmberPoint, InRule, PNMsoft and RuleBurst.
The goal of the alliance is to break down barriers to BPM deployment—particularly for small and midsize businesses—by providing a less expensive BPM technology deployment option for companies, Microsoft officials said.
"The business process management space has become a classic case of the haves and have-nots between very large enterprises and the rest of the industry," said Steven Martin, director of product management in the Connected Systems Division at Microsoft, in a statement.
"The formation of the Business Process Alliance serves as a great opportunity for a wider range of customers to adopt game-changing business process management technologies."
The way Microsoft plans to lower the cost of BPM is by integrating those technologies companies need to automate processes on its BPM platform.
That platform is composed primarily of BizTalk Server, which has capabilities for system-centric processes and rules, and Office SharePoint Server 2007 that has human-to-human and human-to-system capabilities through document collaboration, workflow design (in the SharePoint Designer) and through its integration with the 2007 Office System that includes Word and Excel.
The other areas Microsoft wants to bring to the table through the Business Process Alliance—based on recommendations from users—are process modeling, analysis, business rules management, human-centric workflow, process simulation and SOA (service-oriented architecture) life-cycle management.
Microsoft is also taking a standards-based approach to process execution with its roadmap for the adoption of BPEL 2.0, which will enable the import and export of BPEL into Windows Workflow Foundation (which itself is part of the .Net Framework 3.0).
Workflow Foundation, or WF, contrary to popular belief, is not a software product.
Rather, its the programming model, engine and tools for building workflow-enabled software on Windows, according to a blog written by Paul Andrew, Windows Workflow Foundation Technical Product Manager at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash.
It provides software developers with a model driven tool for process or business logic execution that is integrated with .Net code.
Microsoft plans to offer further integration between WF and BizTalk as part of its 2006 R2 release, available in the third quarter of 2007.
In March the company will release a set of BPEL activities for WF, which will implement the BPEL 1.1 specification.
The final release of BPEL for WF, planned for release in the fourth quarter, will implement the upcoming OASIS BPEL 2.0 standard.
Process management is not a new concept; its been around for a couple of decades. But new automation capabilities—and the emergence of SOA—has heightened both the capabilities and focus on process automation, execution and management.
At the same time, major application and integration vendors have started adding BPM capabilities to their technology stacks.
SAP has had a long-standing relationship with IDS Scheer and has the companys Aris modeling platform integrated into its NetWeaver integration stack.
Oracle likewise has a relationship with IDS Scheer—though burgeoning—and is looking to integrate Aris in its Fusion Middleware stack.
IBM recently acquired FileNet, a company that offers content centric workflow capabilities, to complement the integration and process management capabilities in WebSphere.
BEA acquired Fuego last year for its BPM capabilities.
And BPEL is emerging as the process execution standard, as evidenced by Oracles development of a BPEL engine for Fusion Middleware.