A Late Christmas for BPM

Scott Francis
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Monday was a pretty big news day in the world of BPM.  Gartner just released a new version of its BPM Magic Quadrant for 2009.  Its been nearly 2 years since the last Magic Quadrant came out, so the interest and anticipation were a little higher than usual, and no doubt the jockeying was pretty fierce! One of the complaints oft-voiced is the inclusion/exclusion of various vendors.  Dennis Byron contends that the language for inclusion isn’t really clear:
The companies covered are said to be “the top 22 vendors offering multiregional, cross-industry business process management suites (BPMSs) that interest Gartner clients and nonclients the most. These vendors account for most spending in the BPMS market. See (Gartner’s) Market Share: Application Infrastructure and Middleware Software, Worldwide, 2007.” I am not sure how to parse the qualifier. Is AuraPortal one of the top 22 vendors as measured by spending-based market share? Spending may be the operative words; turn it around to revenue and I find it hard to believe that Aura is larger than Sun (nee SeeBeyond) in BPM. I also don’t see how Sun would not make the cut based on the capabilities criteria. No content maybe? That’s a little too granular for my taste. Gartner does explain why it does not include Autonomy, Handysoft, Magic iBolt, NewGen, Vitria and a few others as well as why it dropped a few suppliers previously included in its previous BPM MQ such as Captaris and SunGard.
But I guess I give the analysts a pass on this one, as I’ve been in the BPM space for long enough to know that Gartner is already including *too many* vendors in the space, which legitimizes vendors who really aren’t in contention, rather than too few vendors.  From my time on the vendor side of the fence, most of the vendors on the quadrant were rarely involved in competitive sales cycles with the top couple of pure plays. There are also some hidden nuggets of irony in the report, such as the note that IBM has a Smarter SOA compaign about how SOA and BPM work better together… this is a message that BPM evangelists have been expounding for years, while IBM and fellow SOA (stack) vendors argued vehemently that SOA didn’t need BPM or that BPM did not, in fact, better inform SOA efforts… (no fault of Gartner here, it is just a single bullet on a list of quick-hits on the various vendors). I was also pleased to read the assessment that Lombardi customer references “are among the most advanced in BPM maturity. They demonstrate broad adoption of BPM across an organization that yield transformative business results.”  Process maturity is like a tree, whose seeds are planted and nurtured over a long period of time in order to yield a tree that will bear fruit (savings).  Several of us at BP3 were senior members and management of Lombardi’s professional services staff or within deployments of Lombardi’s software, and can rightly feel pride in fostering a culture of BPM adoption at a great number of Lombardi’s customers, as well as within Lombardi itself.  It is always gratifying to read that someone else recognizes the fruits of your labor (even if they don’t know of your efforts!).   Gartner also points out a few Lombardi weaknesses, around smaller deal-sizes and support for case management, and templates and frameworks.  These are weaknesses that can be addressed by working with certain independent professional services firms! There are notes, of course, on all of the vendors, that are well worth reading.  In particular I thought the assessments of Appian and Intalio (the written part) were fairly spot-on to the feedback I’ve heard from our prospects and customers (both pros and cons). One other thing I liked:  on the Ability to Execute axis, Gartner (appropriately) reduced the weighting of the “viability” part of the ability to execute evaluation.  I’ve always felt that that part of the quadrant received too much weight, to the benefit of very large software vendors, and to the detriment of perfectly viable, but smaller, independent vendors.  (Viable was generally synonymous with large revenues, and a bit self-reinforcing)

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