Vendors Seek Leap in Life-Cycle Automation

SAP and Dralasoft are readying business process management software that helps users automate the life cycle of the processes.

While Business Process Management Software to date has enabled companies to document and model their processes—and to some degree execute on those processes—there is still a disconnect between process models and IT execution.

Enterprise software vendor SAP AG and the lesser-known Dralasoft Inc. are each readying business process management software that offers users a leap forward in the ability to automate the life cycle of business processes.

SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, is teaming with business process modeling software development partner IDS Scheer Inc. to bring together a users process architecture models with process configuration models at the implementation level, with SAPs NetWeaver platform serving as the integration component.

The near-term goal of the partnership is to help business process owners and IT implementers in a given company better understand how each fits into the actual IT configuration of process models. The longer-range goal is to unify on NetWeaver the layers of process execution and management with a single look and feel.

This year, SAP and IDS Scheer, of Berwyn, Pa., will focus on bringing process execution and process configuration models together on the NetWeaver platform to enable better IT execution. SAP is expected to hold its first discussions around the new capabilities at the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, this week.

Next year, SAP and IDS Scheer plan to go to the next stage of BPM development by bringing together disparate process management elements—process configuration, process monitoring, business activity monitoring—so the whole life cycle of BPM is extended, according to Thomas Volmering, product manager for NetWeaver BPM.

"The goal is to provide a unified modeling environment that is totally integrated into NetWeaver where you have different roles, different users, modeling business processes that are based on one model and sharing one process repository," Volmering said.

"The important thing is [our] Aris [BPM] component for design and modeling [will be combined with] the SAP execution software component," said IDS chief executive, Mathias Kirchmer.

BPM automates the process life cycle

  • Working with IDS Scheer to let companies bring together their process architecture and execution models on the SAP NetWeaver integration platform
  • Unifying process management technologies with a single look and feel on NetWeaverDralasoft
  • Releasing Workflow 3.0, which includes SOAP interface to invoke Dralasofts Workflow Engine as a Web service for process collaboration
  • Enhancing cluster capability for better process scalability in Version 3.0

Separately, Dralasofts namesake BPM software also addresses the question of automating the life cycle of a process by providing the capability to go outside the enterprise on process collaboration.

The Westminster, Colo., company this week will release Version 3.0 of its namesake Workflow engine, which provides a SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) interface to enable intraenterprise process collaboration. This will allow companies and their trading partners to integrate common workflow technology into any major production situation, officials said.

The effort to expand BPMs reach, however, is an uphill battle.

"What weve seen as traditionally workflow and BPM have been viewed with a lot of reluctance; its perceived as being very complex, with the products monolithic, expensive and requiring a lot of hardware to run on," said Suresh Ramaswamy, president and chief technology officer of Dralasoft. "Its a somewhat negative perspective of [BPM]. Weve felt it doesnt have to be painful."

Other BPM vendors are touting products that lack the full execution capabilities that BPM ultimately promises. Microsoft Corp., for example, touts the process automation capabilities in its BizTalk Server 2004, which the Redmond, Wash., company will ship April 1, but some users said the upgrade doesnt quite fit the bill when it comes to process execution.

Ammara Massood, whose company is helping Virgin Entertainment Group implement an early version of BizTalk Server 2004, is not able to fully execute process models using the software.

"We would like to see a capability to really define the [business] process and take it into implementation," said Massood, senior vice president of Xavor Corp., in Irvine, Calif. "That capability is still not there. That would be definitely an advantage."

Microsoft officials said the company is in talks with customers and partners to eventually provide the capability to configure process models.