IBM, Others Bullish on BPM for 2010

Ann All

If you read my post yesterday on the shifting landscape for IT professionals, you'll see companies are increasingly looking for broader business skills centered around what I am calling the Three Ps: people (managing vendor relationships), processes (designing and streamlining business processes) and putting stuff together (integrating data and systems).


Interestingly, just this morning I received an e-mail in which Tom Silver, Dice.com's SVP North America, reports the technology jobs site is seeing growth in job opportunities for folks with experience working with software from Pegasystems, a provider of business process management solutions. Job postings are up 10 percent year-over-year for Pega positions such as software developers, systems architects or business analysts.


"While small in number, it's one of the few skill sets showing consistent growth even through the recession," wrote Silver. BPM is popular among financial and manufacturing companies and government agencies, he added. (The latter group will be doing plenty of IT hiring over the next few years.)


Mike Gammage, a VP of BPM provider Nimbus Partners, writes on his Sourcing Shangri-La blog that BPM is "headed for the Board agenda, will touch every corner of the enterprise, and will be the hottest place to work" in 2010. (Yes, I realize he has a vested interest, but he goes on to make some good points.)


Gammage credits growing interest in BPM to "the emerging consensus that the DNA of any business is its end-to-end business processes-and the whole process, not just the automated parts." BPM stresses a culture of continual process improvement and, if that isn't enough to win business fans, it also streamlines compliance and risk management efforts by making end-to-end processes -- and accountability for them -- more transparent. He spotlights five significant shifts in BPM applications:

  • Ownership by the business rather than IT or a quality team or process group
  • Based on a holistic view of an organization
  • Can incorporate real-time KPI metrics, documents and other information relevant to end users
  • Provide a common language for collaboration between IT and business stakeholders
  • Are secure and highly auditable, so they can be used as governance frameworks


IBM, which is purchasing BPM provider Lombardi Software, also is bullish on BPM. Craig Hayman, general manager of IBM's Websphere middleware unit, told InformationWeek BPM is "incredibly hot" and will be "going mainstream in 2010." BPM makes particular sense for IBM, as a follow-on to service-oriented architecture, another one of its marquee technologies. Because of its emphasis on modular software architecture, SOA makes it easier to automate or re-engineer business processes. In its effort to offer all of the pieces of the process puzzle, IBM also recently acquired ILOG, a rules engine that lets business analysts compose English language rules that govern processes.


Some features of Lombardi's software will be incorporated into IBM's WebSphere suite this year, with some slated for IBM BlueWorks, an online business process modeling and simulation system.


The InformationWeek article includes a real-world example of how BPM helped one company streamline its processes and save money. Canadian clothing retailer Mark's Work Wearhouse used BlueWorks to tweak a manual ordering process employed when customers found an item out of stock to offer customers a new way to order product from a store that both had it in stock and was located near the customer. The company realized $3.6 million in additional sales within 10 months of implementing the new processes. Nice.

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