Not to be left out of the rush to introduce open-standards products, Commerce One said that it will release a Web servicesintegration platform late in 2002. The new platform will precede thecompany’s release of version 6.0 of its supplier relationship management(SRM) suite, which is scheduled for first quarter 2003.
Commerce One’s Web services offering will feature a standards-basedbusiness process management engine, the company said. According to CEO Mark Hoffman, the integration tools will facilitate linking oflegacy applications, third-party business partners and extended-enterprise applications.
The SRM suite version that is currently in developmentwill support modification of source-to-pay processes — either company-wide orwithin specific business units. Moreover, the suite, which is based on the Web services tools, will allow companies to expand source-to-pay functionality by integrating internal applications with business partners, Commerce One said.
All in the Process
Denis Pombriant, vice president with Aberdeen Group, told CRM Buyer Magazine that process definition has been the sticking point of Web services, up to thispoint. While such standards as XML (extensible markup language) can beused to define data for interchange between applications, workflows aremore difficult to document.
“At first, it looked like XML was going to take care of all this,” Pombriant said. “But, the industry has discovered that it’s a bigger issue — theneed to separate out rules, processes, and data.”
Out in the Field
Pombriant pointed to Siebel’s introduction of its Universal ApplicationNetwork (UAN) as another example of a predefined set of businessprocesses that can be used to integrate disparate applications.
Within a particular product family, like Siebel’s, inter-application process integration is likely to be accomplishedfairly smoothly, Pombriant said. However, integration amongapplication families — like the type that Commerce One is attempting tostandardize — may present bigger challenges.
“This is all part of a long, continuing effort to separate data andprocess from hard coding within applications,” he said.
AMR Research analyst Louis Columbus told CRM Buyer that integration is thenumber one priority for application and platform vendors alike. Thepoint is not lost on Commerce One, which cited a Forrester Research prediction that companies will spend an average of US$6.4 million each onintegration efforts in 2003.
Columbus pointed out that the very promise of Web services — easeof integration and customization — foretells a trend in the enterprisesoftware industry toward new relationships.
“Packaged application makers will have to merge or define partnershipsfor integration,” the analyst said. “They’ll have to buy their way into effectiveintegration to find buyers for their technology.”
Such industry consolidation and alignment appears to be the drivingforce behind announcements like those from Commerce One and Siebel.