Q&A with Gartner's Jim Sinur: Process Management Grows Up

In an era of rapid and drastic change, adaptive organizations are embracing BPM as the way to streamline operations. Gartner Analyst Jim Sinur talks about what it takes to get to the next level of process performance.

Q: Can you summarize Gartner's maturity model?

A: There are five stages: process understanding, process control, enterprise execution, corporate performance management and competitive differentiation. You start modeling and measuring in the process understanding stage. In the second stage you're optimizing and tweaking. In the third stage you craft a cross-enterprise process architecture. In the fourth stage you instrument a framework of corporate performance management goals against the processes.

You've long predicted that business intelligence, business activity monitoring (BAM) and other approaches will be blended with BPM. Is it happening?

Combining things into a round-trip methodology is what seems to be taking off--the notion of incremental improvement that's iterative in nature and run by business users. The iteration is about defining, modeling, simulating, deploying, executing, monitoring, analyzing and optimizing. People may say they're going to quickly model, deploy and reap the benefits--without monitoring--but then you're subject to the second law of thermal dynamics, which is that all things rot, including processes. The ROI benefits will erode if you don't monitor and optimize.

What tools and approaches are companies adding to get to the more mature stages of BPM?

We're seeing BPM suites that have aspects of modeling, simulation and execution for human and system processes, as well as BI, BAM, event infrastructure and optimization and rules capabilities that let you tweak the processes.

All sorts of vendors say they do BAM. How do you define it?

If you're driving down the road and you're looking through your rear-view mirror, you have BI. If you're looking through the windshield and anticipating where you have to turn off next and where the holes are in the traffic so you can move around slower traffic, that's BAM. It lets you know what's happening on the road while you can still make decisions and optimize as you thread your way through the traffic.

Can you give an example of BAM in practice?

It's about using events, not just data. In the railroad business, for example, one of the biggest problems is derailment. In a BI approach, you would say, "This boxcar has X miles on it, so we think [based on analysis of historical data] that the bearings are wearing out." In a BAM approach you'd have an RFID reader along the tracks to measure temperature and determine whether there's a set of bearings or an axle that is getting too hot. Then you'd signal the engineer to swap out certain cars at the next siding rather than risk a derailment. That's real time.

What other techniques are being applied?

The convergence of methodologies is the trend. We'll use statistics, predictive modeling, optimization, inline simulation, system dynamics and some of the algorithms the BI vendors use. It's not that BI didn't bring anything to the table; it's just missing some pieces. Similarly, BAM gets the event, but it may not get the data. This is not a zero-sum game, and different techniques aren't mutually exclusive.

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