IBM's Academic Initiative, which provides training materials for university professors, is honing in on BPM (business process management) as the new semester begins.
The vendor has developed two courses around BPM, which refers to a discipline and related software modeling tools meant to help companies improve elements of their workflow.
One course teaches users how to work with Innov8, a game-like "BPM simulator" previously released by IBM.
A more advanced training course allows teachers to download IBM's commercial WebSphere Business Modeler tool for use in classrooms.
About 130 business students at San Jose State University will begin using the Innov8 tool this fall, said Richard Burkhard, an assistant professor in the school's Department of Management Information Systems.
On a scale of one to 10, BPM rates a seven or eight in terms of its importance to business students overall, according to Burkhard.
"Our focus is information systems and business, and it is increasingly the case that information systems are tightly linked to business processes and business services," he said. "We want to strengthen our coverage of this relationship in our courses."
An IBM executive echoed Burkhard. "The definition of IT has definitely broadened in the last 10 years," said Mark Hanny, vice president of alliances and the Academic Initiative. "What people are telling us is they need people with a good balance of technical and business skills. One of those areas that has come up a lot is [BPM]."
A recent Forrester Research report on 16 growing IT roles listed business process analyst as "hot" and business architect as "extremely hot."
The first group gathers requirements for business processes and puts them into a form suitable for technical workers, who use BPM and tools to make the changes, whereas business architects "define business processes at a high level, how they fit together and how they should be supported by technology," the report states.
The fact that BPM can be tied to multiple roles makes it tough to size the market, according to David Foote, CEO of IT jobs research firm Foote Partners. "BPM is less a job and sort of a skill within many jobs," he said.
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