Today, with some fanfare, Oracle announced its Oracle BPM Suite 11g Release. Although the product has been GA since late April, Oracle is just now launching a major campaign to announce and promote the new release.
The Oracle BPM Suite 11g release comes as a long-awaited announcement for former BEA customers that built large-scale BPM practices and competency centers around BEA's AquaLogic BPM (ALBPM) Suite offering. Since Oracle announced its acquisition of BEA in January 2008, many of these customers have been scratching their heads trying to figure out whether Oracle was going to kill BEA's BPM Suite in favor of Oracle BPEL. And in some cases, Oracle helped fan the flames of confusion by putting out conflicting messages about which product would survive.
Prior to joining Forrester, I led a dedicated BPM practice for a global consulting firm based in Washington, DC. I stood up the practice with Fuego – a leading BPM suite vendor at the time – as our premier BPM suite partner. We transitioned to partnership with BEA when Fuego was acquired by BEA in 2006. And then finally transitioned to partnership with Oracle, when Oracle acquired BEA in 2008. Over the past 5 years I've had a front row seat – across sales, delivery, and support – to the evolution of the product that Oracle now calls Oracle BPM Suite 11g. I've seen its sparkles and its warts over numerous large-scale implementations for public sector and commercial customers.
Oracle BPM Suite 11g introduces some new features that will empower business stakeholders and also help developers accelerate and better manage BPM development activities, including:
- Web-based process design environment targeting business users – While Oracle still offers one of the best environments for process developers, Oracle BPM Suite 11g provides business analysts – and stakeholders – with a simpler and more intuitive environment for defining high-level business processes. And best of all, these high-level models are executable – so savvy business analysts can do quick mock-ups and prototypes and quickly walk through process execution with stakeholders.
- Native business rules management system (BRMS) – Business rules and BPM suites are now like conjoined twins – they're joined at the hip when it comes to implementing effective and flexible business process solutions. It always struck me as odd that BEA/Oracle did not include business rules as part of their BPM offering – since they typically compete against larger players that provided complex business rules environments. I guess Oracle finally got the message from customers – and competitors – that business rules aren't optional. Oracle BPM Suite 11g provides developers and analysts with a pretty slick environment for managing and configuring complex business rules.
- Support for "single-model refinement" – Some BPM teams complain of 5 or 6 different versions of the model being maintained throughout the life cycle – a high-level model, an intermediate model defined between the business and developers, and a final model developed by IT. Oracle makes an initial attempt to tackle this problem in its BPM Suite 11g release. Process model changes made in the development environment are reflected in the business-oriented model – without exposing/displaying irrelevant technical details to business stakeholders. When Oracle acquired BEA, many customers expressed concern that their BPM suite investments – including technology, skills, and development components – would diminish as Oracle integrated BEA's technology into the "Big Red" stack. Over the past 18 months – since the Oracle acquisition – I've stayed in touch with many of my previous BEA/Oracle BPM customers, and most still express concern and some confusion about Oracle's direction with BPM.
In many ways, Oracle's BPM strategy reminds me of the Israelites that wandered around for 40 years before finally stumbling out of the wilderness. With BPM Suite 11g, it seems Oracle's time in the "BPM wilderness" might be coming to a close – and I'm sure Oracle customers are happy it only took 2 years instead of 40 (smile). Oracle's BPM Suite offering still has some work to do to balance the needs of the business with the needs of developers, but 11g represents a major step in the right direction and should be well-received by existing Oracle BPM customers.
In an interesting twist from Oracle, customers can now evaluate Oracle BPM Suite 11g in the cloud using the Amazon EC2 environment. You can find the Amazon EC2 instructions for Oracle BPM Suite 11g here: http://bit.ly/cyE6XF.
I want to hear from you. Let me know if you think Oracle BPM Suite 11g will help Oracle emerge from the "BPM wilderness" or if they still have more work to do to make BPM a centerpiece in their overall strategy. If you're an existing Oracle BPM customer, let me know how you feel about this new release and which new features you feel will have the greatest impact in your environment. Post your thoughts in the comments section, or feel free to shoot me a quick email at email@example.com.