Last week, Microsoft unveiled Microsoft Workflow Foundation (Google ‘microsoft workflow foundation’ for lots of press coverage). This product had a chance to really change the landscape of BPM vendors, but it missed its mark.Looking at the press releases, screen shots, and Microsoft’s own web page, you can see that MS Workflow bears a strong resemblance to lots of existing BPM products — including Oracle’s BPEL editor for Eclipse. This is a direct result of Microsoft’s decision to build Workflow on top of Visual Studio. Microsoft is declaring that Workflow is the domain of the programmer, not the business user.
I understand the argument to do this; I just don’t agree with it. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of declaring business people incapable of designing and maintaining an integrated workflow. It would have been much harder to find a way to put this power in the hands of a business user, and still maintain the solid technical underpinnings that an enterprise IT department requires.
But that’s what’s needed.
Microsoft has left the door open. There will be BPM vendors that rush in to fill this hole — at least until Microsoft realizes their mistake.