In the coming year, IBM will expand the business process management capabilities of its WebSphere middleware. Business process management has become a focus as companies seek to improve and automate previously disconnected or manual processes.
Craig Hayman, general manager of IBM's Websphere middleware unit, said business process management is a natural follow-on to IBM's previous emphasis on services-oriented architecture. With SOA, companies sought to architect their software infrastructure as a set of modular services that could be modified separately but combined as needed.
SOA enables greater automation of business processes, or even re-engineering business processes, and IBM has been on an expansion kick to take advantage of its potential growth in business process management.
"The business process management space is an incredibly hot area in the market. We think it's going mainstream in 2010," he noted in an interview days after IBM announced it would acquire BPM vendor Lombardi Software. The acquisition is expected to be completed early this year.
Business process management has been the software focus of a dozen small vendors, such as Intalio, Lombardi, Fuego, and Savvion, each specializing in particular aspects of it. IBM thinks now is the time to put a set of products together to monitor and automate complex processes across the enterprise.
In January 2009, it acquired ILOG, a rules engine that lets business analysts compose English language rules that govern processes. When they are confronted with an if/then business condition, ILOG can recognize the "if"condition and fire off the correct rule in response.
"Businesses want to improve their top line, their bottom line. Improving processes does that," noted Hayman.
"Lombardi was a leader in making changes to business processes," noted Hayman. Its Teamworks product lets business users create rules that a Teamworks system can apply to operational processes, sending alerts and taking other actions when exceptions occur. Through Teamworks, business processes can be changed or updated as they continue running.