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“Smart Enough”…Processes

(Posted by Guest Blogger, Gib Bassett)

The June 2007 issue of DM Review features an interview with business process management (BPM) vendor Metastorm CEO Bob Farrell, titled “Process Intelligence.”  Given Metastorm’s focus on BPM it isn’t surprising that Mr. Farrell has a process centric view of the world.  Rather surprisingly though, it seems their business is experiencing trends similar to those developing around Enterprise Decision Management (EDM).  Recalling the definition of EDM, it is an approach that automates, improves and connects decisions to improve business performance, and one which treats decision logic as a manageable enterprise resource reusable by multiple applications in different operational environments.  Similarly in the BPM space, customers are viewing processes as part of what is quite literally an “asset portfolio.”  Consider this quote from Mr. Farrell:

“The progressive customers we've talked to look at how they manage an activity and support it with content, with structured data, with services, with a bunch of other things including human activities, all in one model. There are great companies out there doing this that haven't abandoned data management; they still view their data as an asset, but they view it as an asset among many assets within a structure of a process model.”

Although EDM is an approach, it also implies the use of specific technologies, such as Business Rules Management Systems (BRMS).  With IT resources increasingly scarce, but with IT concerned with issues of oversight and integrity, BRMS’ which bring both business users and IT staff together to build and maintain rules applications are in high demand.  Aside from these very legitimate reasons for adopting a BRMS that enable business uses and IT staff to work collaboratively, Mr. Farrell states quite astoundingly the following statistics that especially validates the reason to pursue rules projects with vendors that possess these capabilities:

“…you may have seen a study from Gartner that says 95 percent of all BPM projects have been deemed a success, versus 20 percent for all IT projects. The reason for that is that a BPM project isn't an IT project. So as much as IT people need to be involved, it's still a business-driven project, which will generate more success than failure.”

The final question and answer of the interview was particularly pertinent, given EDM’s view that Decision Services blend the benefits of service oriented architecture (SOA), business rules and analytics to inject intelligence into operational systems – effectively creating “Smart Enough Systems”, which happens to be the title of a book by our Blog host James Taylor.

“DMR: Why do business process and business intelligence remain so disconnected?
BF: When you look at operational BI, you're running a process; you're collecting metrics and thinking about change. To me, that is process intelligence. We see performance management as something that can be driven on the back side of BPM very significantly. Records and case management, business rules; all these things are converging and need continuous improvement. All these things are core; they have to come together over time.”

Mr. Farrell describes here the not so distant future – intelligent processes.  That is a tremendously self serving statement, but taken up a level to intelligent systems – abstracting to a level where rules and analytics govern BPM and other systems via SOA-compliant Decision Services -- holds even greater promise for enabling the kind of business agility at the heart of EDM.

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