NetWeaver BPM and SAP's BPM Strategy

SAP is probably the world's leading supplier of process automation software. Over half of the world?s business transactions, involving 12 Million users in 120 countries, touch one of 140,000 SAP systems. But the company is only now entering the "BPM market" with the launch of NetWeaver BPM, part of the NetWeaver middleware platform.

You would not expect SAP's approach to be anything like that of a BPMS pureplay like Lombardi or Savvion, but it's nothing like that of middleware giants like Oracle, IBM, or TIBCO, either. SAP is not a middleware company. It is a provider of enterprise apps, or "value scenarios" as they call them. In the short term at least, SAP is not looking for BPM to unlock process from the SAP Business Suite, but to integrate Business Suite with the outside world and deal with processes that the Business Suite does not touch.

At first glance, SAP's BPM strategy might seem like a ball of confusion. There's Business Workflow in the SAP Business Suite. There's a separate BPEL product. And there's NetWeaver BPM, based on executable BPMN. None of those are going away. On the modeling side, there's BPMN in NetWeaver BPM, but to many SAP customers there's also IDS Scheer ARIS for enterprise-level modeling. And then there's SAP's massive effort to create an army of Business Process Experts ("BPXers"), supported by an online community, education, and certification.

But there is surprising method to the madness. The pieces do fit together, and the strategy makes sense when you are talking about the process logic embedded in the mission-critical core applications that actually run the business. If you want to understand it all, check out my latest white paper, which registered BPMS Watch readers can download for free.