The summer of ’06 gave credence to the notion that multiple ECM and BPM suite vendors are preparing for the business buyer at the ECM/BPM intersection. Examples include:

June’s announcements included EMC/Documentum’s acquisition of ProActivity, Metastorm’s integration with Documentum, Hummingbird, Interwoven and Meridio — quickly followed by a major upgrade of its BPMS suite, which includes a strong focus on strengthening its Sharepoint integration. Not to be outdone, Ultimus announced its iBAM Suite, targeting non-technical business users who need visibility into BPM-enabled business processes. The tagline? “Go from Zero to BAM in less than 10 minutes.”

July’s announcements included one from the open source community, a hot arena across all content technology categories. Describing its offering as the first Zero-Code BPMS, Intalio describes its BPMS 4.2 product as ideal for “complex business processes that include Web Services orchestration and web-based human workflow.”

August’s IBM-FileNet merger got lots of press and continues to focus on “synergistic BPM technologies.” Although this news seemed to overshadow the Oracle-IDS Scheer partnership, this announcement also deserves attention for those following the chase between Oracle, IBM and Tibco Software (who seems to have finally made significant progress in 2006 on maximizing its 2004 Staffware acquisition.

These “catch up” summer activities are strong signals to competing vendors already traveling the path toward meeting the requirements of complex business processes that must combine data-centric BPM integrations (including SOA) with content-centric, human-driven interactions. Players with earlier investments or partnerships supporting this roadmap include BEA’s Fuego acquisition in March, the Vignette-Lombardi alliance in April, Interwoven’s strategy to bolster visibility for its Fujitsu partnership, and Global 360’s steady progress toward “bridging the islands of process automation across BPM, transaction management, ERP and content management systems” by integrating its G360 EX and G360 BOS products.

Now comes the fall and expectations for 2007 products that are not simply infrastructure-ready, but rather solution-specific ready. It is our belief that applying integrated ECM/BPM solutions to real-world issues requires the ability to handle hybrid, complex, and high-volume processes in a manner that enables rapid deployment through ease of use and pre-packaging of vertical or horizontally-specific capabilities including workflow, modeling objects, business rules, and end-user dashboards for monitoring and analytics. This will be critical to vertical uptake in industries such as Banking, Insurance and Telecommunications as well as horizontal arenas such as compliance, claims processing, accounts payable, and human resources.

Some vendors can already point to these capabilities, which ultimately cross the unstructured content and structured data worlds; Others are well on their way to demonstrating them. The fall of 2006 should be an interesting quarter.

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