Convergence of BPM and BI

If you’re interested in more about the Forrester report about BPM and BI that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, but still don’t want to shell out the cash for it, you can find a more complete summary on here on BPM.com (registration required), written by a Forrester VP who was one of the original report authors.

The more that I look at compliance, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately, the more that I understand that BPM needs to feed its performance data into a larger BI infrastructure. And I can buy into what the Forrester report refers to as Process to Data, or P2D (as if we needed another TLA), which is the two-way synergy between BPM and BI: BPM feeds process performance data to BI, and BI invokes processes in BPM in order to gather information. However, I have to draw the line at their statement:

BI and BPM can no longer live without each other, and the time is right for these technologies to merge.

I don’t think so, any more than BPM will merge with any number of other technologies, although obviously there will be closer and closer integration ties in order to make all of this work smoothly. BPM and BI are strong, distinct markets served by a variety of strong vendors, and customers develop quite a bit of loyalty to their BPM and BI vendors because both of these technologies are pervasive in an organization’s IT infrastructure. If BPM vendor A decides to merge with BI vendor B and suggests to their customer that they should change all of their existing BI from vendor C to vendor B, there would be a great deal of rolling around on the floor and laughing. There’s a much stronger argument to be had for merging BPM and BR (business rules), but I don’t think that’s going to happen either, for much the same reasons: both technologies have strong, independent markets (that is, the technologies can exist successfully in organizations without each other) and there is little reason for a customer to want to buy their corporate-wide BR from their BPM vendor, or vice versa.

If the merging that Forrester suggets actually occurs, we’ll end up with monolithic Swiss-Army-knife-like vendor offerings from a few large players — how retro! — and a lot of unhappy customers. What most customers want is the best of both worlds: the best-of-breed technology, and the minimum amount of integration; hence the huge popularity of SOA. In the past, you couldn’t get both: you could buy best-of-breed from different vendors and take a lot of effort to integrate it, or you could buy a fully-integrated suite from a single vendor that included at least one sub-optimal component. Today, however, with the advent of integration standards and SOA, the integration effort for properly-constructed products from different vendors should be no more than that required for products from the same vendor.

My conclusion: as long as the vendors do what they’re supposed to in order to enable easy integration, there’s very few customer drivers for merging BI and BPM.

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