SAP = BPM?

Scott Francis
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I recall not long ago -oh wait, two years ago (June 2009) –  poking fun at SAP’s BPM strategy:
Your last point about the definition of BPM reminds me of a press release SAP did about 2 years ago about BPM… which, if you read their definition, was merely EAI (integration services), and a “totally new groundbreaking category of software” that they called Collaborative Application Frameworks (CAF)… which would be available in … you guessed it… 2 years… and if you read the definition slowly, you realize that CAF was describing a BPMS. Curiously, I haven’t seen a press release about CAF being released into the wild. And their attempt to rebrand EAI as BPM hasn’t taken with the market…
Well.  Based on Bruce’s blog, it looks like 2 years after my comment, and 4 years after SAP’s strategic statement on BPM and CAF, SAP has finally delivered something that approximates what some people would call BPM:
Yesterday I got a look at SAP’s BPM v7.3, now in “ramp-up” (extended beta).  I hadn’t heard much lately about SAP in the BPM area, so I was really surprised to see how far they have come.  The new offering, called the “Process Orchestration Solution”, combines NetWeaver BPM, focused on human tasks, and NetWeaver Process Integration, which provides SOA, ESB, adapters, and Enterprise Service Repository (ESR).
Sorry, I should have said that they’ve delivered it into Beta, not GA.  Bruce’s review is positive, and, I think, reflects his low expectations going into the review.  Based on his review, SAP may finally be getting their BPM act together, and if the other vendors in the space sit still or get comfortable, they’ll get lapped in capability in some areas. However, SAP is still focused on BPM as a way to add value to their existing application suites, rather than a standalone technology/application offering.  It should be something they can sell into their install base of SAP customers (which is quite large), but I doubt it would get traction out side of that audience as some of the differentiating features are SAP-ERP specific. Even if I were an SAP customer, I’d still be tempted to use a third-party BPMS because there are processes that simply don’t touch SAP, and if you just want one BPMS, it seems to give you more flexibility.  But for tactical SAP-focused process improvement, or simply as a cheaper way to customize SAP to your needs, this could be a big time saver.  

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  • I think slightly off target. Netweaver BPM has always been about connecting SAP apps to non-SAP, plus “edge processes” not covered by the SAP apps. What is new is modification of the process embedded in the apps themselves.

    • For a long time, however, Netweaver BPM was much more EAI than BPM (though SAP made an attempt to redefine BPM down to EAI, and to introduce “CAF” as a new concept, though it was really just describing a BPMS).

      I should have specifically mentioned the modification of processes embedded in the apps – that is new, and it is actually something that differentiates SAP BPM (for SAP customers) in a way that other BPMS’ really can’t.

      Regardless, I appreciate your writeup, I haven’t seen much to update SAP BPM in a while, and it was a great update.

  • Ernie Huber

    We continue to monitor where SAP is heading in the BPM space but in the meantime are utilizing a standalone solution. I agree with your final paragraph that no matter how good the SAP solution eventually becomes, as long as we have processes that don’t touch SAP there will be a need for a standalone solution…….unless SAP changes their direction on this.

  • Harald Nehring

    Scott, I fear you confuse NetWeaver BPM with the underlying NetWeaver CE (composition environment) technology, which includes CAF as a composite app programming framework. I’m marketing this stuff at SAP for six years now and I don’t see BPM “redefined down to EAI”, rather the contrary. SAP’s EAI offering is NetWeaver PI (process integration), so there’s no need to redefine. PI alone sports many thousand active customers, with BPM growing fast after its introduction in 2009 with hundreds of customers already today. Feel free to get in contact with us if you’re interested in a more thorough update.

    • Admittedly I’m rehashing awfully old press releases from 2006/7 wherein SAP called NetWeaver its BPM (as you say, Netweaver PI didn’t even ship til 2009) – when Netweaver wasn’t a BPMS at the time (2007) by any stretch. That’s what I meant by redefining BPM as EAI.

      Having trouble finding the offending press release now:) Its been a bit too long, but here’s about netweaver as of Oct 2007: http://www.infoworld.com/d/applications/update-sap-buys-bpm-vendor-boost-netweaver-284

      Another interesting article: http://www.netweaverteam.com/SAP-Middleware-Strategy.htm

      And this community thread: http://forums.sdn.sap.com/thread.jspa?threadID=876794 which states that galaxy is new and 18-24 months away (as of May 2008).

      So I have to apologize, I said I hadn’t seen much about CAF, and that’s true, but clearly there are a lot of press releases about both that and SAP’s BPM strategy. I just haven’t been seeing them on my radar. And perhaps I shouldn’t complain, now that SAP is offering a better BPM solution than it has in the past :)