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SOA and BPM tools seen outpacing customer expectations

SOA and BPM tools can play well together in enterprises but one of the challenges vendors face is convincing customers that BPM is ready for prime time.

Past experience with business process management (BPM) tools may not always be a good thing as enterprises consider integrating them into SOA environments, says Shane Pearson, director of product management for BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic Portal.

The products have matured based on what we've learned from things that didn't work in first- or second-generation business process management or integration products.
Shane Pearson
Director of Product ManagementBEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic Portal

While BEA and other vendors view SOA and BPM as complementary, the challenge for product evangelists is to convince customers that BPM has matured to the point where it's a whole different animal from past incarnations, he said. In his view, the perception of BPM may have to overcome some of its 20 year history.

"BPM has been around for a while," he said. "The thing about BPM, which we are really working to educate the market on, is that we have a new generation of business process management products that really blend the best of the methodologies that have matured over the last 20 years."

If IT professionals and business users recall past frustrations with BPM, Pearson is asking them to take another look, as he believes product developers have learned from their past mistakes.

"The products have matured based on what we've learned from things that didn't work in first- or second-generation business process management or integration products," he said. "Historically, business process management products started out as modeling or business intelligence products. They provided some good visibility into business processes but they didn't give you direct ability to model and implement business processes."

In the days of EAI, BPM products required long development cycles that would not meet today's expectations for agility, Pearson recalls.

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"Basically, they would provide the model and then you'd hand it off to the developers and they'd code the solution," he recalled.

The new generation of BEA for SOA implementations offer what Pearson calls a "closed loop system."

"That allows you to model, implement and then continue to monitor and manage the system and be able to make changes," he explained. "It's a system where you've got a shared model that everybody is working off of. Instead of handing a model off to a developer and then finding out six months later whether it was really what you wanted. That was one of the limitations of historical BPM products. The new generation of products eliminate that by having a closed loop business system that supports business process management."

Now, Pearson and other evangelists for BPM in SOA environments have to convince businesses that the technology is worth a second look and a second try.

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