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Insightful Hindsight on Forrester's 3 “Bs” Points to Need for EDM

(Posted by guest Blogger, Gib Bassett)

While reading recent news in the Process Management section of Intelligent Enterprise today, I noticed a September 27, 2007 post by Sandy Kemsley titled “Forrester: Why BI, BPM and Rules Technologies Will Converge.”  Sandy was part of a panel discussion at Forrester Research’s Technology Leadership Forum (Sept. 24-27) focused, in part, on the contents of a Forrester report issued to coincide with the event.  I previously blogged about that report, titled “The Dynamic Business Applications Imperative,” by John Rymer and Connie Moore.  Interestingly, three different Forrester researchers (Mike Gilpin, Boris Evelson and Colin Teubner) led this particular discussion, and will be issuing a complementary paper to the Dynamic Business Applications one in the near future.  That paper will likely argue for vendors moving toward a singular platform for all three classes of solutions or architectures (i.e. SOA) that enable seamless integration.  It illustrates the considerable amount of attention Forrester is paying to this emerging trend.

Sandy's perceptions of what happened are interesting because she didn’t have the benefit of having read Rymer and Moore’s report.  Her comments are based solely on presentations, discussions and audience observations from the forum.  Consider the following:

“…although a few people in the room stated that they use BPM and BI together, almost no one raised their hand to the combination of BPM and BR — a combination that I feel is critical to process agility.”

This is a surprising observation, given that Business Process Management System (BPMS) vendors either originated as Business Rules Engine (BRE) vendors or have this capability today embedded as part of the overall BPMS.  Having recently attended Gartner’s Business Process Management Summit, I suspect that few companies are actually employing current generation BPM platforms as opposed to using in-house developed process management functionality (if at all), and without the benefit of a business rules engine.  I think her observation also reflects BPMS vendors’ efforts to position their offerings as the lead in a sequence of implementations that might later include a Business Rules Management System (BRMS).   A BRMS compliant with Enterprise Decision Management principles adds value to potentially every decision point within an organization regardless of whether or not a BPMS is in place, using a web services concept called “Decision Services.”

“…although there are some two-way combinations in vendor products now, there are no vendors that combine all three in a single product. I'm not sure that this is a bad thing: I don't think that we necessarily want to see BR or BI become a part of BPM because it ultimately limits the usefulness of BR and BI. Instead, I see BR and BI as services to be consumed by BPM, with BI having the additional role of combining process execution statistics generated by the BPMS with other business data.”

The Dynamic Business Applications report prescribes that these applications always be composites, a point of view consistent with Sandy's comments.  She also cites the ideal state whereby a closed loop enables process changes driven by BI, which itself sources data from a variety of systems.  An analogy to what she describes is illustrated by the sizable market for BI platforms and tools alongside BI capabilities developed as part of CRM, ERP and Supply Chain products – the former is an enterprise play, the latter typically engineered for and hooked into the host application.  I’ve seen the battles fought among the pure plays and platforms, each arguing over who has the best and most relevant BI capabilities, yet the markets for both remain strong and the order of implementation is almost ways on a case by case basis; no doubt much the same for BPMS and BRMS.

“By using the BR and BI functionality within your BPMS, however, you're typically not getting full BR or BI functionality, but some limited subset that the BPMS vendor has selected to implement. Furthermore, you can't reuse that functionality outside the BPMS, and in the case of business rules, a change to the BPMS' rules often requires retesting and redeploying the process models, and does not apply to in-flight processes.”

This speaks again to the silo versus enterprise analogy, but raises the additional points of re-use and change management, both of which are key components of EDM solutions utilizing a BRMS capable of supporting Decision Services.

Stay tuned for commentary on the next Forrester report describing the convergence of the 3 “Bs”.

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