Software AG's business is helping applications talk to one another, but now it wants to get people talking -- about BPM.
The company is branching out from its existing businesses of legacy application integration, SOA governance, and BPM to build a social network, AlignSpace.com. It hopes enterprises will use the network to discover information about their business processes and then automate those processes effectively -- perhaps using Software AG's tools.
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While it can be relatively easy for businesses to improve the processes used by a single team or department, one challenge in developing efficient processes across departments is that "Each department has a different language and a different way of thinking. It's even more complex across companies," said Software AG CEO Karl-Heinz Streibich in a news conference at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, on Monday.
To break down those linguistic and cultural barriers, Software AG decided to turn to social-networking systems, more often associated with teenagers than managers.
"Young people have more advanced technology at home than we do in the workplace. They have worldwide social networks, but companies still have IT silos at the scale of their own departments," said Streibich.
Software AG chief product officer Peter Kürpick said the AlignSpace social network will give companies a way to overcome the first hurdles in modelling and improving their business processes.
"Our customers say, 'I love BPM, but give me a way to open the very first door,'" said Kürpick.
The idea is that employees of an enterprise will create profiles on AlignSpace describing the projects and processes they are working on, and the skills they have, while the service will suggest colleagues with the right skills or process experience to help.
Existing business-oriented social networks already go some way to doing that, but Software AG wants to go further, incorporating tools into AlignSpace for exchanging documents and modelling processes.
"You can go all the way from taking notes to doing the initial level of modelling -- and then export it to whatever BPM tool you are using," Kürpick said.
AlignSpace will be compatible with Open Social specifications for social-networking services, he said, allowing members to log in or invite colleagues more easily, and perhaps later to import or exchange information to fill out their profiles.
The service is still in very early beta testing, and Software AG is showing only screenshots, not demonstrating the Web site at Cebit. The company plans to push out successive beta versions throughout the year as it recruits members to the community, releasing a more polished version next year.