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Gartner has just published its list of ‘cool’ business process management (BPM) vendors for 2010. The list consists of five small companies that have made key advances in BPM over the course of the last year.

Taking as a caveat the disclaimer contained in the report that it does not guarantee any warranties or abilities of any software to perform any particular task -- Gartner (news, site) reports tend to contain this as a matter of course -- the report does throw up some interesting material, apart from the list of companies that it considers ‘cool’ in respect of BPM.

What Is BPM Anyway?

So what is BPM? As a term it is thrown around the web like cheap confetti, but it is as often as not applied to systems that are not truly BPM systems. According to Gartner, BPM implements processes that will directly improve enterprise performance and operational performance.

BPM software or suites is software that applies those processes and achieves the dual goals of best performance and enhanced efficiency.

Again by Gartner's definition, a BPM suite must include 10 areas of functionality:

  1. Process execution and state management engine
  2. Model-driven composition environment
  3. Document and content interaction
  4. User and group interaction
  5. Basic connectivity
  6. Business activity monitoring (BAM) and business event support
  7. Simulation and optimization
  8. Business rule management
  9. System management and administration
  10. Process component/registry repository

Taking this list of functionality and by analyzing the different abilities of the five, Gartner has managed to draw some conclusions about current BPM software that are probably worth noting.

Simply put:

  • BPO providers are increasingly using BPM suites to implement process changes.
  • BPM suites are increasingly being used as platforms to build solutions for process-specific tasks.
  • BPM suites are increasingly being characterized by ease of use for workers not directly involved in IT.

‘Cool’ or ‘Uncool’?

Before plunging into the list it is worth noting what it means by a ‘cool’ vendor in the first place. Gartner defines a ‘cool vendor’ as one that is innovative, interesting, and has or will have a business impact on the future of IT.

The result is a list of companies that are not particularly well known, but which have developed software that has drawn the attention of Gartner at least.

Cool BPM - So who made it onto the list?

BizAgi

BizAgi, based in Bogota, Colombia, focuses on handing more responsibility to business users to improve processes. Its principal products include a free BPMN 1.2-based modeler, an Express Edition and its "model once, execute anywhere” edition which have all contributed to building a wide customer base that includes 150 academic institutions.

ICCM Solutions

ICCM Solutions provides an IT service management (ITSM) and service desk solution built on Metastorm BPM. Its principal product, e-Service Desk , which comes on-premises and as a hosted service, supports Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) processes across all phases of the business process life cycle using a BPMS that gives scope for continuous improvement in processes.

PNMsoft

PNMSoft is a member of the Microsoft Business Alliance, has developed processes that help business process outsourcing companies respond more efficiently and quickly to the changing process needs of their clients. It also focuses on improving end-to-end demand management processes between the business process outsourcing provider and its client organizations.

Questetra

Questetra provides a cloud-based solution to manage human workflow and improve worker productivity. It offers business people, who have no programming or systems knowledge, a simple to use workable platform for process improvement running on a shared Amazon EC2 infrastructure. It charges a US$ 10 per end user per month fee for this cloud service.

Whitestein Technologies

WhitesteinTechnologies applies processes that have the ability to self-adapt to changing business conditions. Focusing on an agile and dynamic world, the architecture, using a multiagent approach, ensures self-adaptive behaviour in processes whether those behaviours are proactive or reactive.

BPM in 2010 and Beyond

In January this year, Gartner published its 5 BPM predictions for 2010 and beyond. Combined they outlined BPM moving forward as agile and dynamic with technologies like discovery software, social software and mobile applications coming together and making them easier to use and more relevant for the end user.

In the five ‘cool’ vendors listed it is possible to find some, if not all, of these characteristics with emphasis on dynamic and agile deployment.