Business intelligence (BI) is a top strategic priority for organisations worldwide. Today's CIOs and business leaders require a solution that can deliver a complete view of business issues for high value decision-making on a global scale. However, operational performance management requires the integration of business processes and BI.
An industry-leading analyst report tracking trends in performance management suggests that the market is on the brink of what the firm has coined a "Process to Data" (P2D) explosion as more BI and Business Process Management (BPM) vendors begin to recognise the business value in establishing formal technology relationships.
As one of the analysts notes: "What is different today is that companies are looking for a better way of linking the decision-making process with available data and existing workflow to gain an improvement in overall business performance. For this to happen, BI solutions must include a consistent mechanism for defining and using pre-defined processes, while BPM must include a mechanism to analyse and report on business process performance."
The current states of the BI and BPM markets further drive the need for a tighter relationship between the two technologies.
BI initiatives are at the top of CIOs' priority lists as there is a desire to drive BI adoption to a wider audience. CIOs need to ensure BI solutions can be applied to all data across the enterprise and bring value to all aspects of the business.
Another key issue that CIOs recognised as a priority for 2006, ranking just below BI, was business process management (BPM). There is growing recognition that BPM solutions need to go beyond modelling and automation, into process monitoring, management and optimisation.
So, with the interest and focus on both BI and BPM, the time is right to bring these technologies together to deliver business value.
Cognos anticipated this closing of the BI and BPM gap. To achieve its vision, they have partnered with IBM to integrate their FileNet BPM solution with Cognos 8 BI's business process intelligence capability. This seamless integration of the two solutions gives customers a more holistic view of business process information and allows them to obtain deeper contextual information and intelligence about processes. With a better view of the organisation, greater opportunity for increased operational efficiencies can be identified.
The combination of BI and Business Process Management allows processes to be fine tuned and optimised, providing companies with the means to react to issues before they become problems and to identify opportunities with increased speed and agility, thereby maximising the value that employees deliver to customers.
There are three ways in which BI and BPM solutions can interact to deliver value:
* BI can use the BPM process as a source of data. Tapping in directly to the current status of a particular event provides 'real time' feedback on the progress of the process;
* The process as a consumer of BI. BI can deliver a prompt to continue with the next part of a process or processes. The process thus requests or awaits information from the BI system before proceeding, and
* BI using process to enhance the value to BI consumers. Integrating BI with BPM delivers information that incorporates required activities or actions needed to complete a task, providing BI users with a broader view of what is necessary to achieve an 'end result'.
It can be difficult to gain visibility into what is going on within the process such as:
* How many transactions are there at any given step?
* What is their value?
* How long are we taking to deal with transactions between process steps?
By timely identification of bottlenecks (specifically high value or high cost bottlenecks), managers can make the appropriate resource allocation to improve the process flow and business performance.
But it should not stop there. By simply focusing on the transactions in the process the manager is in danger of 'managing the process in a silo.' It is important to view the process in the context of the whole business and to consider the impact of any process decision in the overall business environment.
For example, the manager may feel it important to add extra people to a process step or to reallocate people, but without access to information such as their hourly rate the manager cannot understand the cost implication of the potential action. The process must be understood, monitored and managed but always in the context of the business.
This can be achieved by producing a single metadata model of both the process specific data as well as data external to the process. A single metadata model allows the process owner to have all reporting, ad hoc query, dashboard, scorecard, analysis and event management capabilities they need to manage the process, whilst also linking other pertinent information from across the organisation to provide a complete picture.
Using BPM as a data source drives the use of BI across all data sources and in all aspects of the business. It enables alignment of business processes with business goals and strategies by making it possible to monitor, manage and optimise processes.
The tools? Through scorecards, organisations can align operational execution to strategy. Dashboards and event management provide monitoring and management of the process and the agility to respond. Reporting and analysis provide the understanding necessary to optimise the process and further improve performance.
Key business takeaways include:
* Managing and optimising BPM processes via BI can help to avoid managing processes as a silo.
* Exploiting BI in BPM process steps can ensure that timely, fact-based decisions are made.
* Using process to bring key decision makers into the loop when required and provide consistent ways to deal with issues through to resolution can help the BI consumer focus on high priority issues.
Key technology takeaways include
* Making a single BI metadata model available allows users to aggregate both process and corporate data to BI capabilities.
* Using a modern BI and BPM vendor solution, process forms and BI content can be seamlessly integrated.
* Creating business real-time metrics on processes is possible without 'owning and executing' the process.
* Putting process around the delivery and use of BI content can help consumers use the information more efficiently.