Standards groups take shape

Renewed interest in business process engineering has spawned another group designed for promotion and education.

Software vendors, consultants, analysts and an industry institute launched the BPM Standards Group in late March.

The group plans to publish a definition for business process management, best-practice cases studies and a common agreement for the scope of business process projects, including an inventory of current technology.

'By presenting standard, agreed-upon definitions, guidelines and scope for BPM, [the group] will bring clarity to decision-makers who are interested in minimizing the expense of BPM and maximizing the return on investment,' the group announced.

There are about 20 similar groups in United States, although most are loosely structured and focus on technology issues that are subsets of business process management, such as enterprise planning, knowledge management and customer relationship systems, according to industry watchers.

Estimates published by the group say BPM industry revenues are projected to increase by at least 15 percent this year.

Analysts say much of the growth is being fueled by new federal rules requiring public companies to improve their record-keeping and governance, although cost savings through greater efficiency also drive business process software and services spending.

'This market is growing, but it is not booming,' said Sharyn C. Leaver, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., who spoke last month at the ProcessWorld conference in Miami Beach, Fla. 'People are taking a step-by-step approach to process management.'

One survey commissioned last fall by IBM Corp., a member of the new standards group, found 'improving performance management' atop the list of the five top challenges facing chief financial officers.

Other challenges include better governance of IT systems, risk management, forecasting and budgeting, and providing access to appropriate information. The survey was based on interviews with 450 CFOs from 35 countries.

The founding partners of the new group:

* Applix Inc., a Westborough, Mass., software company

* BPM Partners, a Stamford, Conn., professional services firm

* The Data Warehousing Institute, a Seattle-based group representing more than 5,000 members in government, corporate and consulting business and IT roles

* Hyperion Solutions Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., makers of software

* IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y.

* IDC, an IT market analysis and advisory company in Framingham, Mass.

* The Meta Group, consultants and analysts in Stamford, Conn.

* SAP, the German enterprise software and services company.

The group also is aligning with BPM Forum, a not-for-profit 'invitation-only thought leadership forum' that claims more than 230 members.

Earlier in March another group, the Business Process Management Initiative, announced 20 vendors have embraced BPMN, its business process modeling notation. The standard, which has been in draft form for months, allows a common modeling of business processes that cross applications.

"BPMN enables businesses to more effectively collaborate in the design of business processes and to communicate those designs because of the use of a standard notation," Stephen White, chairman of the BPMN Working Group, said in a statement.

Version 1.0 of BPMN was released May 3 and is available at the group's Web site http://www.bpmn.org.

The BPMI was set up in 2000 by 16 software vendors and consultants.

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