Four Pillars of BPM 7.5: Visibility
Krista Summitt 270003YAW6 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  bpm ibmbpm bizagility business visibility software 4pillarsofbpm7.5 improvement ibm process
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For the fourth and final installment in our series on the Four Pillars of IBM BPM 7.5, we have this post on Visibility, contributed by Marc Smith, a senior Product Manager for IBM Business Process and Decision Management products. Marc came to IBM as part of the Lombardi Software acquisition in 2010.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
This slogan – coined by the early pioneers of business process management, and in widespread use today – is a reminder to all BPM practitioners about one of the most important ingredients for process improvement: Visibility. Makes sense, right? If you don’t have visibility into what’s happening in your business operations, how can you understand the real issues and improvement opportunities? How can you determine how to control, fix, or optimize operational trouble spots?
IBM BPM 7.5 is designed to provide unmatched process visibility … as easily as possible.
Making process visibility a priority
Many initial BPM projects start out with all the emphasis on Automation. Perhaps that’s not too surprising: a typical first BPM project is often a response to a “burning” process problem, where painful inefficiencies are felt every day (often because the current process is largely manual and error-prone) and potential benefits for a BPM solution are easy to imagine. In one real-life example: when a customer service team required an average of 33+ days to resolve “by hand” all of the billing issues encountered in each month’s billing cycle, the pain was obvious, and anyone would agree that automation was bound to help.
But once an initial BPM project is put into production to achieve some immediate relief, what’s next? Is there still room for further improvement? And if so, how can it be achieved? Which changes will have the biggest bang for the buck?
The only way to get the insights needed for further operational improvement and optimization is through establishing and measuring key performance metrics for the process.
Making process visibility a priority is one of our recommended 11 Habits for Highly Successful BPM Programs. Successful BPM practitioners determine upfront the key metrics and goals they are trying to improve, and then instrument their processes so they can measure the “before” and “after” at each stage of improvement. This is key to showing the business value that is gained at each stage, and to guide iterative improvement. Fine-grained process visibility is also needed to trace back process outcomes to the decisions and actions performed at each step in a process.
More companies are shifting their focus toward visibility first … prior to jumping into any automation. For example, a COO of a mortgage company was tasked to find ways to triple growth over an 18 month period, primarily by improving their customers’ experience in order to increase repeat sales and customer retention. Their loan origination process was basically “working” – at the time they already had customer satisfaction ratings of 85%. But they had no visibility into how individual loans were being processed by the 1200 employees across a dozen back office systems. You can’t improve what you can’t see!
So they initiated a BPM project to track the flow of each loan through the origination process. With this new visibility, they were able to identify bottlenecks and unnecessary rework in the process that would cause loans to be delayed, and they were able to better prioritize loan processing tasks in order to guarantee that loans would be completed on time. From their process improvement they were able to improve customer satisfaction ratings to a very high 92%. A few years later, nearly 100% of the business tasks at the mortgage company were managed using BPM. Now employees can see their performance against dozens of SLAs (service level agreements) in the processes that are tied to the strategic initiatives of improving customer satisfaction and enabling company growth and efficiency. And management can see a holistic view of performance – all loans, all tasks, all SLAs, all in real-time.
Making process visibility easy
Traditional “Business Activity Monitoring” (BAM) has been around for a long time. But Traditional BAM still remains difficult to implement. Monitoring is often a separate activity from process modeling and implementation, relying on separate tools. Consequently, it’s hard to keep process monitoring and reporting in synch with a process implementation as it changes over time. And in turn, it becomes a challenge to relate warnings from performance reports and dashboards back to root causes in the process design and implementation.
In IBM BPM 7.5, process visibility is automatic. This is made possible by the unique “shared model architecture” in IBM BPM 7.5: the same process model that directly drives process execution also drives real-time operational monitoring and reporting, as well as historical performance data capture. Since there is a single shared process model, there is no effort required to keep multiple related data sets in synch. When a process activity is performed, the performance data and events for that activity are stored with the shared model. All the data pertaining to a process – its design, implementation, in-flight process data, historical data checkpoints – is all aggregated on-the-fly and linked together within the shared model of a process, thereby reducing the time and effort required to “connect the dots” during analysis.
The “auto tracking” feature in IBM BPM will automatically log performance events and associated “tracked variables” at the start and end of every process activity.
And for explicit tracking events, simply drag and drop “tracking points” onto the appropriate spots of a BPMN flow diagram.
Sophisticated innovations, simplified
IBM BPM 7.5 includes highly differentiated innovations for simplifying sophisticated process visibility:
A built-in Performance Data Warehouse automatically collects and correlates performance events on the fly. It’s entirely driven by the single shared model of the process – no special programming or configuration is needed.
The Performance Data Warehouse proactively aggregates performance data into simple tabular performance views that can be queried easily by built-in reports or 3rd-party business intelligence tools (avoiding long-running OLAP queries with mega-joins).
“Timing intervals” for modeling and measuring cycle times within a process. Timing intervals can have alternative start and end points in the process flow, can be embedded within loops, and can span multiple processes. The Performance Data Warehouse computes the timing intervals correctly so you don’t have to.
Out-of –the-box real time scoreboards will alert users proactively when awaiting tasks are “At Risk” of becoming overdue. “At Risk” tasks have deadlines that are now less than the average time needed to execute the task, as determined by historical data in the Performance Data Warehouse. Of course, you can construct custom reports and scoreboards using a report wizard.
Process Optimizer “heat maps” allow you to visualize performance bottlenecks, SLA violations, and exception path frequencies – as overlays on top of the process flow diagram. The heat maps are interactive, allowing you to drill down on any trouble spot to view the underlying performance data that can provide insights to root causes.
Critical Path Analysis provides visibility and control of time-critical processes. Participants can see on a flow diagram how far a process has progressed (“Where am I?”), with the expected critical path highlighted to show which steps will determine the length of time to completion. Participants can then go to a process task schedule to adjust task assignments, due dates, and expected completion times in order to improve the completion time of the process.
Integration with Business Monitor for end-to-end visibility
What if you need end-to-end visibility across multiple BPM applications and non-BPM applications across the enterprise? IBM Business Monitor is designed for that case.
The monitoring capabilities of IBM Business Monitor complement and extend the built-in monitoring capabilities of IBM BPM. IBM Business Monitor can monitor and correlate business events that occur within IBM BPM applications, non-BPM applications, system orchestrations using BPEL (using IBM BPM Advanced), middleware, integration products, and decision management products. IBM Business Monitor also embeds Cognos Business Intelligence for powerful reporting and analysis across a collection of performance data sets.
It’s easy to use IBM Business Monitor with IBM BPM applications: you can select an IBM BPM process model and export a corresponding “monitor model” for IBM Business Monitor with a click of a button.
Where Can You Go To Learn More?
To view recorded demos of IBM BPM, or for a quick “test drive” of IBM BPM in an on-line sandbox environment, visit IBMBPMDemos.com.