The thing about any given business process is that it usually consists of machines and people in equal measures. Unfortunately, most of the focus on business process management (BPM) has been on machine processes. IBM is setting out to try to fix that by acquiring Lombardi Software, a provider of BPM software that has a strong emphasis on managing the role people play in a business process.
According to Angel Diaz, IBM vice president of business management and connectivity, as BPM goes mainstream, IBM is focusing more on the technologies that will bring people into a business process. After all, he notes, every action taken in a business consists of people, process and information. The Lombardi acquisition, says Diaz, will help IBM address the people part of that equation.
In recent years, BPM vendors across the board have been emphasizing the need to create systems that easily integrated people into an automated business process. By acquiring Lombardi, IBM is simultaneously acknowledging and filling a hole in its BPM offerings that, with the exception of some workflow software associated with Lotus Notes, has been primarily focused on automating machine-level processes.
As enterprise software becomes more flexible in response to customer need to develop innovative business processes that are driven by technology, the need to give people more control over the software environment is becoming more apparent. That means that rather than relying on software vendors to bake best practice business processes into complex pieces of enterprise software, the future of software is going to be characterized by more modular sets of code that can be easily extended and integrated to create dynamic business processes on the fly.
The IBM acquisition of Lombardi is another step in that direction, which should lead to a wave of other BPM acquisitions as SAP, Oracle and others look to use BPM technologies as the foundation for the next generation of enterprise software.