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Harness real-time BPM analytics, streamline processes

Business Process Management came to prominence as a means to optimize processes. Now it drives better enterprise reporting.

“For the first time companies can now do monitoring so they can see what is happening in real time, perform analysis, and shift workloads and resources,” Jim Sinur says. Sinur, vice president in Gartner Research, has seen the future of BPM analytics—and it works.

Sinur says current BPM tools offer many common capabilities such as the ability to quickly spot process exceptions. However the more sophisticated BPM products offer more automation and better analytics culminating in predictive capabilities.

He cites the example of the authority that runs busy Heathrow Airport. In recent years, Heathrow faced a challenge not only keeping up with existing traffic but bracing for major increases in traffic. Due to political and geographic issues, the airport had to live within its existing footprint. In short, it needed to be a model of efficiency.

Heathrow tunes and harnesses

By harnessing the analytic capabilities of a BPM system, Heathrow managers have been able to tune ground crews to incoming traffic by linking to the Euro Air Space system to give crews a full 30 minutes warning before a plane arrives. A business activity monitoring (BAM) capability is also used to manage crews, gate assignments, docking and undocking, refueling, cleaning, and more, says Sinur.

In addition to providing a visual and intuitive indicator of where planes are in the process, numerous scenarios can be invoked for different levels of traffic and delays.

For instance, if significant delays are expected for departing passengers, security systems are adjusted to keep people in retail areas rather than gate areas for a longer period. This has resulted in happier passengers and security workers and also had the serendipitous result of substantially raising retail revenues.

“Today’s BPM handles expected exceptions but with newer tools you can start looking for unexpected exceptions,” says Sinur. For instance, he indicated, you can start to look for signs of inflation or deflation. You can look at complex event patterns and certain recurring events and combine that with modeling.

“That is the top level—where someone managing the process gets notification either from complex events or modeling tools that there is a good chance something unusual is happening,” says Sinur.

Seek, model, adapt

Sinur says Gartner talks about using BPM in conjunction with a “Seek, Model, and Adapt” approach. To date, BPM has tended to focus on the adapting part of the equation and may have missed the “seeking” part, often because information exists across multiple processes.

He says the most successful users of BPM real time analytics should consider taking different approaches, depending on whether they are a planning-oriented or reactive company and depending on the specific analytic capabilities their system provides.

  • Plan-oriented companies often prepare for different scenarios and compose alternative responses for each—so when BPM provides an early warning, they can leverage that information for quick action.
  • Reactive companies, on the other hand, may be able to leverage elements of real time analysis to “learn by doing”—inventing new ways to operate quickly with the help of BPM analytics. “Some BPM systems can provide modeling tools and automated process discovery to look for patterns,” says Sinur.

“This stuff is hot and will be for the next decade—companies are just starting to discover the potential this represents,” he adds.


Alan Earls is a technical writer based in the Boston area.

[This material originally appeared in the SearchSOA BPM ezine, Vol 1. #1, 2010.]

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