There’s no doubt that Microsoft understands the value and opportunity in the ECM/BPM intersection. It is also clear that the roads MOSS will use to get there are not confined to small neighborhoods, hence the reference to the U.S.’ most famous highway.
Microsoft’s significant investments in workflow and business intelligence have been widely reported. I’ll leave the work of dissecting components such as Windows Workflow Foundation, Excel Services, and MOSS BI web parts to resources such as Ziff Davis’ Microsoft Watch and Russ Stalters’ BetterECM blogs as well as Microsoft resources from the SharePoint Product Group and Customer Experience Team (although this one does not show much action since the summer’s LOBi (line-of-business interoperability) announcement.
Blogging over at BPMEnterprise.com, Stalters also has an excellent 3-part series called BPM and Steak: A Great Combo, the latest of which pinpoints MOSS capabilities designed for BPM practitioners. Microsoft’s strategy for full-scale ECM/BPM however, requires somewhat of a “detour” from MOSS and Office 2007 suburbs. The roadmap is evident via multiple, alliance-driven crossroads. Avenues include “Gold Certified” partners such as Bluespring Software, Global 360, Lombardi Software, and Ultimus as well as “Certified” or “Registered” partners such as Savvion and Appian.
Implementing integrations with some of these products does not appear to be fraught with “Exit here” or “In Construction” signposts. (And given all in the “Gold Certified” group are private, one can’t help wondering if there’s an acquisition strategy in the works. I digress…) Rather many are direct and well-embedded crossroads between MOSS and Office 2007, targeted directly at business users.
Case in point: Bluespring’s BPM Suite 4.5, the result of a decidedly Microsoft-centric BPM play that began in 2003. Most interesting to me is the 4.5 focus on “document manipulation,” highlighted multiple times during my briefing with the company. Capabilities include rules-driven analysis, extraction, and dynamic assembly of content from Word, Excel and InfoPath — with PDF thrown in for good measure. Although many ECM players have been doing “ETL for content” for years, this is not common expertise in the BPM market. In a content-centric BPM application such as compliance, this certainly provides some interesting opportunities for aggregated, context-specific reporting.
As I noted in my last ECM-BPM checkpoint, there are multiple road signs (quickly becoming billboards…) that signal technology convergence and deeper integrations between two blurring market segments. Microsoft’s Route 66 strategy is surely one of them.