Two Sets Of Vendors Zero In On Business Processes

As business-intelligence vendors seek to expand their reach beyond data analysis, integration vendors are working to provide visibility into business processes.
Being able to monitor business activity reflected in software operations offers promising capabilities, Mark Smith, CEO of Ventana Research, told InformationWeek after his keynote address Monday at IntelligentBPM, a business-intelligence conference debuting in San Francisco.

Ventana is a market researcher in business-intelligence software, and Smith sees vendors such as Alphablox, Business Objects, Cognos, and Hyperion expanding their reach beyond data analysis and presentation into processes at the heart of the business. At the same time, he knows the integration vendors such as SeeBeyond, Tibco Software, and webMethods are beginning to mobilize the capabilities of their infrastructure connecting software to provide visibility upward into business processes.

"Customers have needs from both sides. Customers are willing to take risks to get their businesses to the next level," and they'll be experimenting with both sources of business-process-management software, he predicted.

Soon after its acquisition of Brio Software is completed in 60 to 90 days, Hyperion will be able to offer a product line that is "much more process-oriented," said Richard Clayton, VP of product marketing. Hyperion plans to combine the strengths of its own business-performance-management applications with Brio's query and user-interaction dashboard. The result will be a set of applications more tuned to "planning, modeling, and monitoring" business processes and "analyzing their results," instead of focusing on data, he said.

"Traditional analysis [business intelligence] systems were decoupled from business processes," agreed Bill Wagstaff, chief technology officer at Alphablox, which supplies its business-intelligence system not as a package application but as a module to be built into other software companies' products or into custom enterprise applications.

With its analytics system tied into business-operations software, Wagstaff believes the steps of a business process will become "smarter and more self-tuning." For users and vendors alike, it was evident that business-process monitoring and analysis was the next round of development for business-intelligence product lines.

But Wagstaff conceded that analytics software makers aren't the only ones thinking along those lines. "Tibco and SeeBeyond are trying to add agility to the integration layer. They let you map the business process onto the physical systems," he said. He concedes that they bring their own capabilities from the middleware integration layer.

Both sets of vendors have been good at their primary purpose--analyzing data or providing connecting systems of the software infrastructure. Businesses want to realize as much return as possible on their investments in each area, and the way to do that is to find the hidden information and knowledge in the business processes executed in the software, Wagstaff said.

As a result, he said, vendors "are transitioning their architectures to get further up the information stack. If you're not relevant to the business, you will be left behind."