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12/14/2006
01:49 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Three Ways BI and BPM Will Work Together

You've heard about operational business intelligence. The idea is to liberate BI from the gurus in the ivory tower and share it with business users so everyone can make smart decisions. Well, you can't get more operational than core business processes, so there has been a lot of talk about the combination of BI and business process management (BPM). Will these two systems become one, or are they merely complementary? I'd say the latter. Here are three ways BI and BPM will work together.

No doubt you've heard about the trend toward operational business intelligence. The idea is to democratize BI, liberating it from the gurus in the ivory tower and sharing it with the masses of business users so everyone can make smart decisions. Well, you can't get more operational than core business processes, so there has been a lot of talk about the combination of BI and business process management (BPM).

Will these two systems become one some day, or are they merely complementary technologies? I'd lean toward the latter, viewing them as separate disciplines and technologies, but here are three ways they're likely to complement each other.As I pointed out when I wrote about Business Objects's recent Nsite acquisition, there have been plenty of alliances between BI and BPM vendors. To cite just a few, Cognos has deals with EMC, FileNet, IBM and Savvion among others, and Business Objects has alliances with Lombardi, Metastorm, Pegasystems, Savvion, TIBCO and Ultimus.

On the surface, these deals are about co-marketing: I'll go to your events if you go to mine, etc. But there is a deeper promise in pairing the technologies. Ben Frenkel of BPM and rules engine vendor Pegasystems recently told me his firm expects three standard types of integration.

"The first and easiest is to have a plug-in for the BI system whereby you're using it to analyze and report on process data," says Frenkel, strategic business development manager at Pega. "Next, the BI system could not only report on process data but also tigger alerts and kick off exception-handling queues and subprocesses. Finally, BI could be used for decision support within a business process."

Illustrating the last example, an insurance policy application process automated in BPM could be integrated with BI at a key point to evaluate the risk of each applicant. An example of the second approach is illustrated in my story about CompuCredit, which is using BI to detect fraud and kick off related exception processes as part of its credit card charge dispute resolution process.

So why won't these two technologies eventually converge? For one thing there's the difficulty of mastering two very different disciplines and technologies. Managing a process is far different than analyzing the data that process spits out, and there's not a lot of overlapping technology.

Don't forget the people side of the equation, either. When asked why BI-BPM alliances hadn't turned into acquisitions, Rod Favaron, CEO of BPM vendor Lombardi recently told me: "The BI vendors are used to catering to the executives who are interested in query and reporting. I don't think they're ready to deal with operational executives and all the nuts and bolts of executing critical business processes."

BI veteran Ken Rudin, CEO of SaaS startup LucidEra, sees it pretty much the same way, describing to me a decades-old swing on the separation of transactional and analytic systems. "Siebel, SAP and Oracle all responded to the trend toward embed analytics, but I think the pendulum went too far," says Rudin, a veteran of both Siebel and Oracle. "Every operational application started including its own little mini version of BI that looked solely at the data in that system. The trouble is you lost the advantages of having BI that could give you a view across your business."

In other words, let BI be a utility that you apply wherever it's needed. And don't force process owners to become pseudo BI gurus with their own little data silos. We all need each other, so let's integrate and align the technology and let the people get down to what they do best.You've heard about operational business intelligence. The idea is to liberate BI from the gurus in the ivory tower and share it with business users so everyone can make smart decisions. Well, you can't get more operational than core business processes, so there has been a lot of talk about the combination of BI and business process management (BPM).

Will these two systems become one, or are they merely complementary? I'd say the latter. Here are three ways BI and BPM will work together.

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