Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Is There Really an Enterprise Architecture Market?

Bookmark and Share

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Gartner EA Conference in London. Although the event appeared to be well attended from a delegate perspective, the same cannot be said for the exhibitors! There were only 9 of them - Alfabet, Architecting the Enterprise, Casewise, IBM, iterplan, MEGA, Metastorm, Software AG and Troux.

Seeing so few vendors present led me to ask the question, is there really an Enterprise Architecture market. Sure there are greater numbers of people talking about EA, attending events and joining groups, but this alone does not create a market. If one was to add together the EA revenues of all the players present I estimate that the sum would be at a maximum $100m, then if we add in the revenues of other vendors not present we might get to around $200-$300m, not an insignificant number, but in software terms not really enough to make a market.

I may not be alone in my assessment, looking at the signage of the booths and talking with the vendors, even they seem uncertain. Alfabet were at pains to point out to me that they were not an EA player, but an IT planning tool vendor (apparently they only play in EA because Gartner say they are in the EA space!), MEGA seem to be playing increasingly in the GRC (Governance, Compliance & Risk) market, although they still had an EA story - as an aside they were making an interesting claim, they suggest that they are the only EA vendor that is profitable and debt free, I am not certain about this claim. Iteraplan told me that they are really a consulting company with a tool for their customers to use. Metastorm are mainly a BPM vendor, only playing in EA as a result of their acquisition of Proforma. Software AG with IDS Scheer talk to EA, but seem more rooted in BPA and now SOA and middleware.  From what I could see, at the event at least only Casewise and Troux appeared to be seriously promoting EA (Others such as MEGA did talk to it, but it did not seem there key message).

Changes are apparently afoot at Gartner too, some of the vendors told me that this year will see a revamp of the EA magic quadrant, with open source tools and other small vendors being included. A sure sign that Gartner too feel that they are not getting enough traction in their EA practice (from vendors).

While at the event I also managed to catch up with Brian Burke, Gartner VP, it is nearly 8 years since I sat down and recorded an interview on the state of the EA market with Brian, so a catch up was long overdue.

According to Brian "EA as a discipline is intended to solve a wide variety of problems IT/Business and Application oriented, it is intended to provide insight and enable organizations to be more proactive. However, for the most part it has not been focused enough on the the high impact business problems. A skilled EA knows how to cut through the noise and to focus narrowly on only the key business problems and then delivers value against those quickly." Brian also reminded me that too many people "still think of EA as and end in and of itself."

I also asked Brian about how he saw the market changes over the past few years, as it seemed that the products in the space did not seem to have evolved much. He shared some thoughts which best remain private, but did point out that there are now more people doing EA than there were before. He did seem to suggest, though not in as many words, that perhaps the EA space was more of a focused niche than a full market.

His final thoughts were that perhaps "EA could do more to assist with looking ad the value added activities and managing in a boundary less world."

The other fashion that seems to be taking hold is around Business Architecture (indeed I recently wrote a paper which Casewise bought on this subject, 7 Steps to BA Success you can get a copy via http://bit.ly/b4YZiu) This causes me to wonder if EA belongs to an age of Data Centricity, whereas today in a world of process centricity Business Architecture may make more sense, maybe it has a greater emphasis on those value adds that Brian talked off.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Playing With Casewise's New iPad App

Bookmark and Share

If you have been following my "tweets" then you will know that I was lucky enough top pick up an Apple iPad a few weeks ago while in the USA, and I have to say I love it! Some of you may already be playing with it, while others may be waiting anxiously on the postman next week to see if he will bring you your pre-ordered machine.

Much of the press coverage has centered around the fact that it is a potentially game changing personal multi-media, content serving device. This of course may be true, but some software developers with a more visionary approach, see that it has major applicability in the business marketplace and are looking to develop applications for the device.

To my mind at least software vendors in the BPM space have been a little slow in understanding and embracing mobile devices and the iPad in particular. One look at the US App Store says that in other segments developers have been preparing their offerings for some time.

Now that appears to be changing, I was fortunate enough to met up with some of the team at Casewise and they told me about some of their plans. More importantly (for me!) they kindly installed their new iPad App on my machine and have let me play with it. I have to say that it looks really cool and from what I can see has the makings of something very special. As with any product, it was easy to come up with a wish list or an if-only list, but many of those things I thought already appear to be on the roadmap.

In addition to looking at the App, the team also shared with me some of their thoughts about how the market is changing and what people will need in order to be able to respond to those changes. Radical, was the word that sprang to my mind, but at the same time relief, that at last someone seems to get where the market needs to go. I am a firm believer in modeling, but also a worrier. A worrier in that unless the modeling tool vendors really step up their game they will find it increasingly hard to compete against other genres of tools taking a relatively lightweight approach to analysis and design.

Of course, they say there is no such thing as a free lunch, and sure enough tomorrow I have to repay their kindness by showing the App to visitors at the GartnerGroup EA Conference in London - seems that if you actually have an iPad right now you are in demand! So if you are attending the event and are interested to see it, pop by their booth and make an appointment.

You can learn more about what Casewise are planning for the iPad and a whole host of other devices by reading the press release that they put out today.

Click here to read the Casewise iPad Press Release

Friday, 19 February 2010

IS BPMS Just the New Word For Application Development

Bookmark and Share

With the recent acquisitions of Lombardi and Savvion some are questioning the long term viability of BPMS vendors. They may be right, they may be wrong, but certainly things are changing.

If you look at some of the key players in the BPM market today you see names like Progress, Software AG, Oracle and IBM, all of whom come from an application development background. Interestingly enough in the case of the first three they were also key players in the 4GL market. This brings me back to the title of this post, is BPMS now just becoming the next incarnation of application development.

Of course interestingly enough back in the 1990's we also had three other vendors of note TI, Forte and Dynasty, each of whom were trying to promote the idea of a model driven approach to development with little or no programming involved. At the time these vendors struggled and one by one fell by the wayside, due in a major part to resistance from programmers who suggested that black box application development was not appropriate. I wonder if they were not more right than people realized at the time. One could have thought of them as the BPMS vendors of their time, if it were not the case that largely they took a data-centric rather than a process-centric view of life.

Today the world is very different; many organisations have either downsized or outsourced their development teams. The armies of developers seem to be shrinking. The time taken to bring applications to market is shorter and the need for flexibility is greater.

It was during this potential trough of disillusionment that we saw the rise of package applications, component based development with a high level of granularity. The use of such applications certainly enabled organisations to focus on their own business rather than that of building systems, but the high cost of maintenance, the challenges of implementation and the monolithic style seems to be going out of favour. Again we see the needs for agility and flexibility going against the traditional ERP type approaches. It some ways these vendors helped to make us understand process better, for many it was not until they started to change their organisation to fit the application that the need to understand how people work really came home.

So we saw the rise of the BPMS approach, it was to be a marriage of good process thinking and practice with new technology to enable us to do things we never thought possible. In part this has been true; in part it has missed the objective. The needs of any organisation are complex, to consider process without considering data is highly risky, and now increasingly interest is turning to rules too. So if we are to create systems taking into account process, data and rules, then we are simply going back to plain simple application development, hence the inevitability that that as the market matures we will see the dominant players coming from the ranks of the application development vendors.

So who may yet come to the party? Sybase, Compuware, and Unify are all names that have yet to seriously enter the BPMS fray, while one cannot be sure they will, given their strong 4GL heritage I think they offer good potential exit routes for some of the BPMS vendors and it is hard to see how they can let the others in their space have things their own way for too long.

As the market evolves other vendors such as Magic Software are likely to see resurgence too, they played well in the 4GL, application generation market and are still operating in the market. Interestingly enough we may yet see another twist before Magic comes to the fore. Magic changed their business model many years ago, recognising that actually their clients did not simply want to build applications, they wanted to buy them. So Magic started to use their own products to build applications or solutions for specific verticals. This is likely to be something we see more of over the next few years, BPMS vendors selling not just a platform, but core solution blocks, with the added benefit to clients that they can easily be customised to suit their own environment. This will be important to users as they seek to maintain competitive advantage in their markets, something that the ERP solutions made difficult for them.

So it could yet be that the Object Management Group's (OMG) vision of Model Driven Architecture may yet come true, just that it may operate at a far higher level of granularity than they envisaged. MDA being used to assemble and customise components, rather than create components.

Finally then to the Modelling tool vendors, here my hope is that at least some of the independent vendors survive, they will have to work hard to deliver more by way of pre-built models and to play more easily with a greater number of vendors, but we need them. As mentioned before we need to address issues of process with issues of data and to be able to deal with rules too. When you combine that with the need to understand and mange impact, to communicate effectively and to address proper anlaysis, it is hard to see how we can manage without them. The raft of BPMS Vendor based and free tools are certainly giving users choice and make some things easier, but in the long run to model one piece of the jigsaw without the others is to create another problem.