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12th Annual Well-Connected Awards: Enterprise Applications

Well Connected Awards 2006

Application infrastructure, like its network infrastructure counterpart, exists to support the apps critical to any business' success. Enterprise applications, such as BI (business intelligence) and BPM (business process management) suites, let IT support the increasing need for on-demand, near-time analysis and process automation. Meanwhile, IT is shifting other tasks, such as hosting customer relationship management processes, to outside organizations.


Plagued by years of poor ROI, clumsy upgrades and heavy IT maintenance costs, conventional in-house CRM implementations are a viable option for only the largest enterprises. Most small-to-midsize enterprises reap the benefits of a hosted solution from the likes of, Salesnet or one of a bevy of up-and-coming vendors. By outsourcing CRM, IT no longer needs to support mobile or secure external access to these applications, or worry about their availability and uptime. The time and money saved lets IT move forward on other initiatives.

One of those initiatives has been BPM, with products such as BEA AquaLogic Interaction Process, Oracle BPEL PM and Savvion BusinessManager. The automation of human workflow processes--say, correcting customer-entered data or processing credit approvals--has helped IT and business analysis streamline processes and make decisions in near real time. Of the nine BPM suites we tested in the past year, we're still stuck on FuegoBPM Suite 5.5. So is BEA, as the company acquired the BPM vendor in March. We like the clear delineation of the product as a BPM suite and nothing more. Although vendors such as Oracle and TIBCO continue to offer a full plate of SOA (service-oriented architecture) functionality in a single product, Fuego's BPM-only approach stood out. Its simulation capabilities blew away other implementations, and its careful attention to the diverse skills of modelers in terms of rules implementation language got us up and running quickly.

As with the strides made in the BPM world, BI suites from companies such as Cognos, Business-Objects and Microsoft have raised the bar for providing real-time data analysis capabilities to decision makers. BI suites offer on-demand reporting, real-time OLAP analysis, and easy-to-use data mining features. The products' ability to take advantage of office productivity suites has increased their usefulness and been a boon to analysts who demand access to widely varied data. The Web-based reporting and user-analysis features in Cognos Enterprise BI Series 7 are astoundingly powerful and simple to use.

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