The convergence of business process management and business service management

* BSM and SLM are variations on a theme

Last week, I discussed my view that business service management and service-level management are really variations on a theme, and that the natural evolution and acceptance of SLM concepts resulted in BSM. This week, I am going to continue driving "up the stack" to discuss the pending convergence of business process management with BSM (and, by my definition, SLM).

Let's begin with a brief definition and history of BPM. BPM started a number of years ago during the craze to optimize business workflows, thereby speeding product delivery and driving out cost. As you might guess, many of the early BPM projects were done by the largest outsourcers - carriers and systems integrators - that realized that the more efficient they could make their internal systems, the more profitable they were. They were also, not coincidentally, some of the more complex and obfuscated business processes (particularly on the carrier side), and as a result were prime candidates for optimization.

BPM analyzes and retools business processes such as hiring/firing an employee, handling a customer service request from report to resolution and "lead to order" - the steps from receiving a sales lead through completing a sales order. Through BPM tools, a company can create a workflow for business processes that automates all or most of the processes. Automation increases efficiency and often cuts costs.

BPM began as a non-IT function whereas actual business processes were analyzed and mapped using specialized BPM systems such as CommerceQuest and Fuego, which combine manual process mapping with the ability to extract process state information using business intelligence technologies (and then determine how to optimize the business process). It didn't take the BPM vendors long to realize that today, the vast majority of business processes are inexorably intertwined with the supporting IT infrastructure, and that most business process optimization (BPO) projects rapidly spawned parallel IT optimization projects. BPM also has a distinct quality angle, with Six Sigma being the preferred methodology.

At the same time, many of the traditionally IT-centric BSM vendors such as Proxima Technology and Managed Objects began to realize that they held many of the keys to the BPM/BPO kingdom, particularly since the advent of standards began to make the integration of business services and the business processes that depend on them feasible. As a result, the chasm between BSM and BPM began to shrink, and the pending convergence of BSM and BPM seems inevitable.

Examples of these standards include open specifications such as the Business Process Modeling Language (BPML) and the Business Process Query Language (BPQL) that will enable the standards-based management of e-Business processes with forthcoming Business Process Management Systems (BPMS), in much the same way SQL enabled the standards-based management of business data with off-the-shelf Database Management Systems (DBMS). For more information on these standards, go to http://www.bpmi.org

As one might expect, there have been a number of partnerships announced between key BSM and BPM vendors, and I fully expect to see more of these over the next few years, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some merger/acquisition activity in this area as well. It promises to be an interesting market to watch develop.

I welcome your feedback on the subjects of SLM, BSM, and IT/business alignment, not to mention outsourcing in general, and thanks for reading.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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