The interesting thing about the much-hyped announcement of IBM Business Process Manager in Vegas earlier this week is how little attention it seems to have had.

Clay Richardson at Forrester described it on his blog as ‘a fresh coat of paint and new tires’. Over on the MWD blog, Neil Ward-Dutton is more optimistic, suggesting that IBM has ‘absorbed the Lombardi DNA’ and moved forward. Sandy Kemsley, whose Column 2 blog is the fount of BPM wisdom, is strangely silent.

I have no special insights here, I just read the press release, which, as you’d expect from IBM, sparkles. I’m a bit gullible and was totally sold, in fact, that IBM had scored a home run and created the ultimate enterprise optimization platform – until I got to the second half of the press release where the ‘key’ new developments are set out:

  • IBM Blueworks Live [re-announcement]
  • IBM Business Monitor [re-badged]
  • IBM BPM Industry Packs [presumably a BPMN catalog to match ARIS].

Which left me more with Clay than with Neil. Then I read on to this punchline, in the closing paragraph:

“The essential components of any service oriented architecture (SOA), these BPM offerings further enhance IBM’s position as the worldwide leader in the SOA market by providing the new products and services that help clients respond to rapid changes in the marketplace in order to gain a competitive advantage.”

What I know about SOA could be written on the head of a pin. It may be a very good thing. But I do know that SOA is not the answer in enabling operational excellence across the enterprise. There’s a far more basic requirement – for a platform that can underpin the joined-up enterprise; that connects strategy with operational reality; that blends risks and controls with operational process; and that can nurture effective collaboration and continuous improvement.

IBM Business Process Manager looks like a step in the right direction. For what’s automated, and automatable (let’s agree that’s a word), it may even be perfect. But, for the forseeable future, most of the enterprise is not going to be automated, and it’s outside the CIO’s domain. So any enterprise platform has to be comprehensive (end-to-end process, not just what’s automated) and accessible (in the language of the business).