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4/28/2008
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Follow Three Best Practices to Succeed at Business Activity Monitoring

BAM can monitor crucial key performance indicators around time, cost, quality, and productivity, but many firms struggle when deploying the technology. Three best practices will jump start your project and help you choose the right metrics and alert levels.

Business activity monitoring (BAM) was a separated product niche until about five years ago when advanced business process management (BPM) vendors began including BAM capabilities in their product suites. The objective was to close the loop of continuous process improvement by providing business users with process monitoring dashboards.

Unfortunately, BAM adoption rates remain relatively low – dependent on industry, Forrester Research shows adoption rates to be between 20 and 40 percent of enterprises. Organizational politics, lack of skills, and lack of funding were found to be the primary roadblocks to BAM deployments. These issues are not entirely new as architects encountered them during the first waves of BPM and data warehouse implementations. But BAM implementations face the additional challenge of working in the operational dimension, mixing time- and individual-performance issues.

With the challenges facing BAM adoption in mind and based on Forrester's analysis, this article presents three best practices that will jump start your project and help you choose the right metrics and alert levels.

What is BAM?

BAM is software that lets organizations continuously monitor multiple key performance indicators (time, costs, quality, productivity and so on) of business activity. BAM enables fast reactions to problems during process execution by proactively detecting trends in operational performance and (hardware and human) resources constraints.

The general objective of BAM is to help process owners and participants to continuously improve productivity, resource usage and operational response. The immediate goal is to quickly alert operational employees when situations require attention, providing them with enough information to assess the situation and enabling them to take corrective action as soon as possible. Both BAM and operational intelligence contribute to the trend Forrester has previously labeled "enterprise performance management," which is about providing the right information at the right time to the right person.

Why Isn't BAM being deployed?

Many organizations are either in the early stages of BAM implementation, are not fully knowledgeable about BAM or lack BAM-related skills, but these factors alone do not fully explain the low deployment rates. Forrester's research shows that customers implementing or maintaining BAM can fall victim to three obstacles. Failed BAM projects often:

Attempt to traverse vertical or horizontal boundaries in siloed organizations. Organizational silos are a known problem for many BPM projects. Firms have trouble translating high-level metrics used, for example, in Balanced Scorecard (BSC) into midlevel management and individual operational metrics.

Face political or cultural barriers. BAM provides performance transparency that was previously difficult to obtain. However, in some countries, particularly in Europe, companies face trade union opposition to using BAM as a way to judge employees' personal performance.

Are never-ending. After implementation, a BAM project continues to live on, often with a high degree of change. This can provoke budget challenges when only the IT budget funds BAM maintenance.

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