Using IBM BPM to Maximize the Value of Business Interactions
As IT systems have taken over the running of most businesses, it has become harder and harder for business teams to understand what is happening on a day-to-day basis, let alone minute-to-minute. Indeed, in its 2008 Global CEO Study, IBM found that 85% of CEOs required a greater degree of visibility into their businesses. After all, how can operations be guided and controlled in today’s highly competitive world without a clear picture of business performance? How can the senior management team ensure corporate goals and strategies are being achieved without this visibility? And what chance do companies have of improving their business operations and identifying new innovations if daily operations vanish into an IT black hole? It is only by being able to see how different parts of business operations are interacting, both historically and in real time, that business value can be maximized.
Over the last yew years, IT vendors have been striving to improve the alignment of IT to business needs, and to place more and more of the IT-based systems into a business-friendly context. Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) has emerged as the way to offer a business view of IT operational performance, giving the business community insight into how the business is running and interacting, and the opportunity to be made aware of anything that is performing outside expectations. Using BAM, users can have up-to-the minute and historical tracking of such business measures as key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as detailed information about individual business transactions, enabling them to visualize business performance and identify key situations as they occur. In addition, by clever usage of filters this visualization can be tuned to ensure that each user only sees items of interest, and is not swamped by reams of unwanted information.
This business-context based insight goes a long way to addressing the stated desire for better business visibility business, but it is only part of the story. Watching the pretty flames flicker as Rome burnt to the ground might have been fun for Nero, but the obvious corollary is that executives would prefer not just to see what is happening but be able to do something about it, or even stop it happening in the first place. BAM addresses this need in three ways. Firstly it offers extensive historical records of business performance combined with reporting and analytic tools to enable business analysts to identify business operations improvements. Secondly it offers the ability to define various business ‘events’ which cause some action to be taken. This action might be to send an email or text to alert someone of a potential problem, or even to automatically trigger some other IT-based activity to respond to the event. An event might be something like liquidity dropping below a prescribed level or customer response time goals being missed, and ideally should be created and customized by the business users themselves. However there is a third aspect that BAM brings to the table – the ability to see how the business is behaving and trending over time and to start making predictions based on these trends, so that responses can be taken proactively. For instance, knowing that a sales target has been missed is one thing, but realizing that if current trends continue the target is likely to be missed allows corrective action to be taken when it can still make a difference.
BAM therefore offers not just insight into business operations for the business community, but also the ability to turn that insight into action, both dynamically and proactively. It is this opportunity to change the way the business works based on how it is currently performing that is the basis of the extensive benefits offered by BAM. While numerous BAM offerings have appeared in the marketplace, IBM offers one of the more comprehensive solutions, and it is this solution that is the focus of this paper.