Sunday, July 01, 2007

Take-aways from a Microsoft BPM Seminar

Recently I visited a seminar on BPM, organized by Microsoft and some of it's partners from the Microsoft BPM Alliance (in this case Ascentn, Ruleburst, IDS-Scheer and Amberpoint).

Ironic: the seminar was organized at the premises of the owner of Cordys, a direct competitor in the field of BPM-suites.
Another irony: while most Microsoft talks were about 30 - 50 minutes, each vendor was only allowed to speak for 10 minutes. How's that for powerplay. And that was unfortunate, because these partners seemed to understand BPM much better....
A bit scary is the strength of these parties in The Netherlands. When asked, most of these partners had only 1 or 2 implementations in the Netherlands.
Last.. I was surprised by the amount of people (about 100). Not bad for BPM.

On average, the BPM seminar was oriented at a fairly technical audience. Most talks were about SOA, services, engines, etc. E.g. not much attention to BPM as a business discipline. And as result, most talks were based on "if you built it, they will come...". Hm.

The typical SOA/BPM slides came along:
- Services from legacy and other apps
- A process layer to coordinate services and deliver outcome
- Business rules to drive decisions
- BI/BAM for process measurement/reporting
- Multichannel presentation layer for human interaction

And the typical promises on business case:
- Agility, nicely coordinated, loosely coupled...

It was nice that some anti-patterns were discussed:
- BDUF - Big design upfront , were architects design the grand future from an ivory tower
- "Buy an ESB and everything will go smoothly"
- Hacking it from the bottom-up

The suggestion was: Middle-Out, think big, act small, take incremental steps.

Two great presentations were given by David Chappel (
Some of his key statements:
- SOA has been around for years (DCE, Corba, COM). But now, with standards in place, we can really get it going (SOAP, WSDL).
- RPC standards are in place. However, a good standard for messaging is still missing.
- Reuse is unfortunately NOT the key business case driver for SOA. Did we ever leverage reuse that much? Remember OO? SOA's key driver is Agility. Reuse is limited to technical services, not business services.
- UDDI is a dead-end street. Nobody uses it.
- Business people developing and maintaining their own processes in a tool for execution - it is a myth.
- Business does not care about SOA.
- The future of Java is at risk. There is no clear process execution framework and infrastructure for Java, while Microsoft's Net.3.0 has this built in. In addition, there is no clear solution for business rules (repository and execution), where Microsoft has many.

He also went through the Microsoft technologies relating to BPM.
- Biztalk for system-2-system orchestration, with Workflow Foundation
- Sharepoint for Human processes
- Integration with browser and Outlook
- Ability to create process aware applications based on Office (OBA - Office Business Applications based on MOSS - Microsoft Office Services System)

An interesting thing was the Sharepoint Designer tool. Although only shown shortly, it was interesting to see that they had choosen not to use a traditional procesmodelling tool (activity, arrow, etc), but a rule-based (if XYZ happens, then create action ABC for person D), comparable with your "email rules".

I liked some of the collaborative options, with the integration of Outlook. For instance: define a proces, where a task will automatically schedule a meeting with certain stakeholders, to decide on a certain issue for this process.

But.... a key issue. If you want to define a business process (and rules) using Microsoft technology, and this process covers both System-2-System and Human workflow, you will need to work with 2 tools, and you will not have an integrated procesmodel.....
Microsoft and David did not see this as an issue "as there are not many other vendors that are supplying integrated process tools".

My soapbox...
I think they are wrong... In my opinion, this seriously limits the position of Microsoft in the BPM market. It leads to multiple technologies, competences, maintainance (2 repositories), and issues around BAM (where to measure what?).
They also said this themselves - MS will probably integrate the models.
Strangly, no word about Visio, which is I think a large player in the process modelling area.

Funny is that this lacking also explains partly the partner-strategy. But I wonder what will happen with the Alliance as soon as Microsoft has extended their capabilities.
In my view Microsoft is simply late, tries to compensates with partners, and will get back on track in some time. And some of the partners are so small in terms of ability to execute, lacking succesful implementations, I wonder who will go for these partners.
And as usual, no clear position on BPMN and BPEL (although BPEL seems to be supported end of this year...)

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