Linking business intelligence (BI) and business process management (BPM) create stronger operational business intelligence (OBI). As organizations move from developing cubes and management reports towards scorecards, dashboards and real-time BI, the way BI is used is transformed into a proactive decision-making tool. This, coupled with BPM, pushes the concept of embedded BI to the next level.
Generally, embedding BI applications into business processes enable forward-looking planning and decision-making by granting business units access to a constant stream of information. OBI and embedded BI are terms that are used to describe the use of BI within the organizations business processes - almost like using BI as an extension of business process reengineering to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes with the ability to analyze the current environment and shift business planning and decision-making from a reactive process into a proactive one. However, the gap between the two is rarely bridged.
Although many companies are deploying OBI solutions, the concept of using BI within an environment focused on business process improvement has yet to be discussed at length within the realm of OBI. This is because the general goal of BI is the focus on financial performance. By coupling the two, organizations can move their use of BI to the next level.
Bridging the Gaps
BPM software allows organizations to optimize their internal processes and manage process performance. OBI is used to manage performance within business processes and help organizations take a proactive approach to analyzing what is happening within the organization. With both, an organization can focus on constant process improvement as well as tie time savings to lower costs and enhanced performance at the same time.
Unfortunately, very few formal links exist between BI and BPM vendors. Although BI is focused on embedding BI into current business processes to improve organizational efficiencies and tie them to financial success, the benefits of utilizing BPM to help with this process goes unnoticed. There are few options available to organizations outside of independently evaluating and implementing both solutions with the goal of integration. For organizations considering the merging of the two, the first step is to identify some of the benefits of BPM and how they relate to BI.
Benefits of BPM
Figure 1 identifies general benefits of implementing BPM. It is obvious that many of BPMs benefits directly relate to those of BI.
The Tie In to BI
Many of the benefits in Figure 1 directly relate to BI. By looking deeper into a few of the items organizations can see the natural link that exists between the two.
- Reduce process cycle time. Implementing BI helps organizations deliver reports and analysis to decision-makers quicker, enabling them to make informed decisions faster. For instance, reports that may have taken weeks to generate and distribute can be distributed within hours. Additionally, through the use of a data warehouse, information required for specific business processes is housed in a centralized location making it easier to focus in on data required for decision-making without having to search through many thousands or millions of rows that may reside within multiple datasets across the organization. This means that information can be easily accessed, saving time and helping to increase process efficiency.
- Handle exceptions faster and better. OBI can be used to identify quality control issues as they occur, giving organizations the ability to detect and correct potential issues proactively instead of after the fact. Just as BPM monitors exceptions to identify issues as they occur, BI can report on these discrepancies within business processes to enable early detection of issues. As an extension, the use of BI to analyze efficiencies in business processes allows organizations to tie financial performance to increased process efficiencies.
- Consistent execution. BPM talks about consistent execution of tasks. Within BI, consistency can be related to processes but also expanded to actual data. Through BI, reported and analyzed data becomes consistent throughout the organization. Although Excel may be the most widely used BI tool, when each employee uses their own method to calculate and forecast financial performance, results are anything but consistent. BI allows decision makers across the organization the ability to analyze the same data.
- Faster regulatory compliance. One benefit of BI that is constantly being discussed is the ability to meet the requirements of SOX, HIPAA and other regulatory bodies. BPM allows organizations to put processes in place that enable organizations to focus on what tasks need to be completed to meet regulatory compliance, thereby placing regulatory-based activities within everyday tasks. When merged with BI, accurate and faster reporting of data can be ensured to meet compliance on an ongoing basis.
Although vendors have been lax in the area of software offerings that merge both BI and process management, this doesnt mean that benefits dont exist. On the contrary, organizations that are committed to constant process improvement and a proactive approach to decision making should consider embedding their BI and process management suites to actually achieve embedded BI.
- Lombardi. Making the Case for BPM A Benefits Checklist. Lombardi White Paper, September 2006.
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