Business process firms must work with Web

Web services could bring more business activities into XML coding; forms management companies will have to adjust to keep up

Business process management (BPM) vendors are gearing up to work with Web services, if the latter concept takes off as predicted. A new version of Metastorm's e-work package is being presented as a step towards that.

BPM, which has evolved from the earlier concepts of forms management, workflow and EDI (electronic data interchange), automates the movement of tasks between people. A typical BPM task might be the automation of the raising of a purchase order. Products have been comparatively specialised, with vendors working to improve their operation on current networks, but "the next big thing will be integration with Web services," says Neil Hudspeth, product manager at Metastorm. Web services will mean that more business activities are handled by XML, so BPM systems must become more flexible and integrate more Web-like abilities.

Version 5.2 of Metastorm's e-Work package includes access through Web clients, and offline synchronisation of work items, to be used by executives on the road. Metastorm supports Microsoft's Active Directory and Biztalk, as well as XML, said Hudspeth. "This expands the market and makes application integration easier," said Hudspeth.

Metastorm's e-work suite evolved from a BPM package developed by UK software house Sysgenix, which was bought by Metastorm (then a forms management company) in 1996. Other companies in the BPM area include Vitria and Action Technologies.

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