IBM tailors BPM for small business

IBM has configured its new BPM software for smaller organizations

IBM has customized its new BPM (business process management) software to help small and midsized organizations set up their own automated workflows just like big businesses do.

Most BPM tools "are built for thousands of users and to run across multiple servers, and so they can get complex and expensive. This [software] addresses the BPM need in the mid-market," said Ron Kline, an IBM director for marketing to small and midsized businesses. "It fits the need for a midsized company, without it being too lightweight."

The software is based on the recently revamped enterprise BPM software IBM launched earlier this month, called Business Process Manager.

The standard edition of Business Process Manager combined two of IBM's previous BPM offerings, the WebSphere Process Server and IBM WebSphere Lombardi Edition. IBM obtained the latter when it purchased Lombardi last year.

This Express edition offers the same capabilities, though its usage is limited to four CPUs, 200 users and three "authors," or administrators who build the processes, Kline said.

BPM software is designed to automate routine business processes, such as hiring help or tracking shipments.

The new software is "departmentally oriented," Kline said. "You wouldn't use this software like a large enterprise would to track multiple processes across your entire business process."

Instead, this software could accommodate a handful of processes. Organizations can upgrade to the standard edition should they require larger deployments. The standard edition has no user limit and can be clustered across multiple servers.

Express is different from IBM's Blueworks Live, another lightweight IBM BPM offering, in that its processes can be coupled with back-office systems, such as CRM (customer relationship management) software.

This software could be used to automate simple processes such as filing and submitting expense reports, Kline said. Instead of having employees fill out spreadsheets and e-mail them to their supervisors to be approved, an organization could use this software to automatically shuttle the employee's expense data, once filled out, to the supervisor for approval, and then submit the approved data to the appropriate financial system.

BPM Express is available directly from IBM and through its partners. The price for the software itself starts at US$600 per author and $120 per user. An average deployment for about 200 users would cost around $25,000, Kline said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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