There is a debate going on about BPM standards. Two most recent articles were written by Ismael Ghalimi and Rhashid Khan. They discuss the merits of having a BPM Ecosystem. This ecosystem is based on interoperability standards that span across vendors and BPM related technologies and applications. The ecosystem provides “a natural unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro-organisms(biotic factors) in an area functioning together with all of the non-living physical (abiotic) factors of the environment.”
In these articles (http://www.bpmlab.org/2008/11/07/developing-a-true-bpm-ecosystem/
http://leadershipbpm.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/the-bpm-ecosystem-2/) they discuss what the ecosystem should be and its use of standards.
The thing about standards in IT is that they are very hard to agree on. There are a few reasons for this:
1) There is no central organisation akin to the IEEE like there is for Electrical Engineers that governs the industry. In BPM the organisations that come up with these standards are loosely defined. If we had a central figure with near dictatorial powers then perhaps they could make this happen.
2) In engineering standards are the key to everything they do. The same amount of discipline is not installed in the average IT professional. There are many “cowboy coders” but there are not cowboy engineers. Due to it being a less regimented culture to begin with there will be less standardisation and fewer people who follow the standards.
3) There is no real punishment for not observing standards like there is in engineering disciplines.
4) It is very simple for someone to invent a new “standard”. They can also easily modify an existing standard and call it something else.
5) Microsoft (the company who provides alot of the underlying technology on which many BPM vendors rely) will always follow standards but only upto a point.
Mr Ghalimi and Khan seek to illustrate how the use of standards or lack of use of standards will improve the industry as a whole. However I think that without a very strong governing body in place and strong cultural shift this simply will not happen so the argument is a bit academic. If there is to be a standard that everyone agrees on it is a long way off and may only come about through consolidation and not agreement.