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Other features include the Web Services Factory, adaptors that provide almost instant point-and-click integration with Salesforce.com and Siebel CRM OnDemand, which simplifies integration with commonly used legacy apps so their information can be accessed by Nsite processes and Nsite can function as a portal-like environment for accessing them via tabs. Users can also build BAM functionality with objects in the development environment that allow capabilities like analytics and reporting. Nsite also integrates with common BI packages so users can, for example, pull an Excel spreadsheet from Nsite into the BI tool.

Hauser says most of Nsite's processes have to do with quote management--creating a proposal and price for new business for a potential customer--which requires performing activities like accessing data from electronic product catalogs and porting data back and forth in real time between Salesforce.com and Siebel OnDemand.

Nsite serves mostly SMBs like software manufacturers that can't afford installed BPM or the IT staff to support it. It charges a $1,500 activation fee and $40 per user per month for the first 100 users and $20 above 100. It also lets customers include "outside contacts" for free. Those are users like suppliers and partners that, says Hauser, "have certain privileges--they can approve, download documents and stop a routing, but they can't initiate a routing or see reports and some other activities."

M1 Global

At M1 Global, Lawrence Catchpole, chief strategy officer, says that this ASP's big differentiator is that its processes are voice- as well as Web-enabled. Customers access the hosted BPM processes via phone calls, and the audio attachment accompanies the work item throughout the process so other participants can access it too. That lets outside customers get access to the process--for mostly customer service and sales processes--and internal employees process the request or order. The company even has evolved outbound sales and inbound service process templates.

Catchpole says, "We orchestrate the processes, control the PBX, IVR platform, Web screens and Web services." That enables the provider to accelerate process speed--with voice-enabled self- or human-enabled customer service. Says Catchpole, "Process speed is critical--you can't have dead air." Those processes extend throughout the organization, from front to back office, so they can be complex.

M1 Global's customers, as you might expect, are mostly SMB outsourced or in-house contact centers. The ASP can host their processes on its platform and, with VOIP, can distribute work from any ASP collocation facility.

M1 Global does modeling with its Business Convergence Studio, an Eclipse-based open source product using the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) standard, which enables model visualization and process orchestration. BPMN also enables other key functions like Web services for integration, database access and support for gateways (rules-based decision points for routing items). It also supports JBoss open source and IBM WebSphere app servers.

Value-added services include process modeling; construction and implementation for customers; eCRM capabilities, which, using Studio, customers can drag-and-drop into the solution; and Web service access to CRM apps like Siebel.

Catchpole says M1 Global also expedites integration with legacy apps. "If the legacy app has a Web service, you import the WSL into our tool; if it's a relational database, you basically create a JVC definition inside our management console, and you're ready to go in terms of direct, select, insert and delete sort of activities," he explains.

M1 Global charges $250 per seat per month with unlimited transactions, or customers can opt for a per transaction cost model. There are no setup costs. The Process Factory

The Process Factory

The Process Factory takes a more general approach. Jon Pyke, president, says his ASP hosts an all-in-one BPM app with which customers can model, orchestrate, deploy and, with BAM, monitor and manage processes. It also can spin off discrete services like expense claims the ASP creates with hosted BPM and customers lease singly or incorporate as components of larger processes they build themselves.

The ASP hosts mainly line-of-business processes (so they can be complex) but also simplifies integration with legacy apps "by providing flexible ‘hosting' options--either on the customer's site as a managed service or at our own hosting facilities," says Pyke. The Process Factory also hosts complementary apps like content management so, although it charges per seat per month, bundling and other considerations affect final price.

Discriminating shopping

There are a growing number of BPM ASPs, but most of them have focused on specific types of processes, vertical markets, value-added services, IT platform and so forth to differentiate themselves. So comparison-shopping based on cost alone will not serve the customer well. It's probably best to go with an ASP that has a solid customer base using processes that the shopper wants to implement.

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