Gartner: Business Process Platforms Key to Supply Chain Flexibility, Innovation

Pressure for greater profitability, faster innovation and growth requires enterprises to be more agile, says research firm

Pressure for greater profitability, faster innovation and growth requires enterprises to be more agile, says research firm

Stamford, CN — May 9, 2005 — Rather than buying and implementing an entirely new software infrastructure to meet the changing demands for companies, enterprises should implement business process platforms to adapt to the rapid changes in business, according to research firm Gartner Inc.

As enterprises emphasize business processes, Gartner commented, they need to establish a business process platform, specific to their needs, to enable business process creation, deployment and monitoring using service-enabled applications.

Gartner analysts said business process applications are experiencing a shift that is similar in scale as the original introduction of packaged enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The shift comes about because companies face constantly changing business models and processes, and growth in the breadth and depth where IT departments would like to use software to deliver business value.

"The relationship of business applications to the processes of a business is about to enter a period of substantial upheaval," said Yvonne Genovese, research vice president at Gartner. "Companies are increasingly unable to maintain the currency of support for their business processes by purchase of new or upgraded packaged software. As the base of installed software grows, traditional approaches to serving new business needs are proving inadequate. The IT organization needs a new plan to support business change by composing new business processes while still maintaining packaged applications."

In a Gartner Executive Programs (EXP) survey of more than 1,300 chief financial officers (CFOs), the respondents identified business process improvements as the No. 1 business priority in 2005. Pressure for greater profitability, faster innovation and growth requires enterprises to be more agile. That means doing things better, not just cheaper and faster. These pressures force a move towards business process improvement and integration.

Technologies such as service-oriented architecture (SOA) and service-oriented development of applications (SODA) have advanced to the point where IT organizations can visualize flexibility in building sustainable orchestration into business processes without affecting stable business processes, Gartner said. In a similar way, the whole set of application software within a business needs to become a flexible platform that supports ongoing evolution of business processes. Gartner refers to this platform as the "business process platform."

Gartner first identified and coined the term "business process platform" last year and presented the findings at the Symposium/ITxpo series of Gartner conferences. Technology providers are now addressing the issue. Large vendors such as SAP and Microsoft have recently announced business process platforms with the goal of making IT more adaptive to change.

"It is feasible to envision an IT environment where composition of business processes enables business-level flexibility and innovation," Genovese said. "This level of flexibility does not have to come at the expense of moving to a completely new business application solution, but rather leverages legacy environments through the use of service-oriented architecture. The emergence of a business process platform encompasses these applications, a business service repository to be used for content, and an integrated composition platform of tools to enable composition. Users must make choices on how to source the business process platform; ultimately, it will be specific to the needs of the enterprise."

More information is available in the Gartner report "Flexibility Drives the Emergence of the Business Process Platform," which identifies the components necessary for the successful implementation of a business process platform.

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