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Forget BPM: It's Process Intelligence

The BI/DW market has flowed quite independently for more than a decade, but increasingly it’s converging with other software streams, including ERP, MDM, search, and content management. This makes for an exciting, if not confusing, marketplace.

For example, what does BPM stand for? Business performance management or business process management? Well, technically it stands for both, but the identical acronyms have caused heartburn for those who have tried to evangelize, analyze, buy, or sell software in these two rapidly converging domains.

Helge Hess, SVP of Product and Solution Marketing at Germany-based IDS Scheer, shines a clear light on the space. He uses the term “process intelligence” to describe software that visualizes and analyzes how well business processes execute. I like the term. It reflects the growing convergence of process management and business intelligence yet creates a distinct identity for this emerging class of software.

For example, IDS Scheer’s ARIS Process Performance Manager, which shipped six years ago and is used by 300 customers, helps managers evaluate the performance of core processes and understand the root causes of highlighted problems and inefficiencies, according to Hess. (See figure 1.)


Figure 1. IDS Scheer’s ARIS Process Performance Manager lets users drill down from a performance metric in a dashboard to underlying process steps that caused the alert.

IDS Scheer partners with the big process management players (Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, and Tibco). For example, SAP resells ARIS PPM and Tibco OEMs it. While some partners offer process intelligence tools, Hess says its biggest competitors in this space are BI vendors. This is not because they offer process intelligence tools but because the IT department doesn’t want to purchase another “analytical” product unless it can eliminate other BI tools it already has through a standardization or consolidation program.

Selling into that kind of environment is challenging. Plus, mapping out business processes sounds like a nightmare and a potentially big inhibitor to doing deals. So I asked Hess to explain where his company has been most successful in selling ARIS PPM. He said the biggest market for the product is SAP customers who want to analyze “order-to-cash” and “procure-to-pay” processes within SAP’s sales and administration and procurement modules respectively. IDS Scheer offers a package for these two processes that come with predefined extraction routines for SAP content and analytical templates for displaying key process metrics. The packages reduce the complexity and time needed to map processes and deploy the tool.

“It takes five days to install and configure the packages” compared to 15 to 20 days for a custom implementation, says Hess. IDS Scheer also offers packages for human resources (“hire to retire” and recruitment), IT (incident management), accounting (billing), insurance (claims management) and banking (loans.) However, Hess was quick to point out that process mapping isn’t a time consuming nightmare. Evidently, ARIS PPM can automatically generate process workflows using sophisticated algorithms, which takes the pain out of mapping actual processes. I’ll have to see this to believe it!

Finally, Hess said that last year IDS Scheer augmented its nascent process intelligence portfolio by shipping a a product called ARIS Process Event Manager (PEM). Whereas ARIS PPM helps customers analyze and optimize processes, PEM monitors events so front-line workers can take action and close the loop. I’ve written about products like this in my research on operational BI. (Click here for a recent report.) Until recently, most companies needing such capabilities for fraud detection, stock market trading, or online recommendation engines have built it themselves. However, the off-the-shelf products from IDS Scheer, Altosoft, SeeWhy, and Coral8 (now Aleri) enable companies to save money and time when creating event-driven analytical applications.


Posted by Wayne Eckerson on June 24, 2009


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