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Is BPM Business Re-Engineering in sheep’s clothing?

We note here the untimely passing of Michael Hammer. Hammer coined the term “Re-Engineering,” and started an influential trend to remove unneeded layers of bureaucracy from organizations. The ‘flat’ organization of today owes much to Mike Hammer. Could today’s BPM resurgence take the same course Re-Engineering did?

Business Re-Engineering proved popular. Many practitioners of the Re-Engineering art took it to lengths that Hammer did not support. Re-Engineering became the pseudo-scientific cover for whole scale layoffs in the workplace. One of the great practitioners was GE’s Jack Welsh, who earned the nickname “Neutron Jack.” Like the Cold War-era Neutron Bomb, which was more about radiation than explosiveness, he “kept the buildings and got rid of the people.” As his invention took this turn, Hammer himself decried the development.

Now we as an industry are looking at resurgence in interest in Business Process Management (BPM). There is no question that BPM is about process efficiency. BPM predates SOA (as a term) and is heard about quite a bit of late. It’s back!

Rich Seeley recently ran a story on how SOA and BPM may relate, but how they seem to be on different paths. “Even in the organizations pursuing both BPM and SOA, the two initiatives aren’t heading on paths that will lead them to be joined up,” Neil Ward-Dutton told Seeley in ”Business-side often drives BPM initiatives today”. Clearly, that is a concern.

It is the case that BPM is important to SOA, and vice versa. But one should realized that BPM is a most difficult type of middleware and it presents one of the biggest challenges for the enterprise architect. There is no plain vanilla brand of BPM.

Big players IBM and Oracle have both begun to trawl the BPM waters, although they seem to come to this from a transactional point of view. Tibco, which wrote the book on publish-and-subscribe messaging middleware that is often key in BPM, is preparing to answer their forays. A better UI for rules-making business wonks is among the latest addition to Tibco’s BusinessEvents suite.

As economic times are getting hard, it may be worth looking to see if BPM heads the way of Business Re-Engineering. It could be a step toward a great resurgence in innovative application development, or it could be a smoke screen for layoffs.

Related CEP information
Tibco releases Complex Event Processing (CEP) suite with new rules, query interfaces –

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