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Sandy Kemsley

Gartner Day 2: Bill Gassman

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The afternoon started with several simultaneous sessions by Gartner analysts, and I sat in on Bill Gassman talking about Measuring Processes in Real Time, or as he put it later, learning to live in real time.

There's no doubt that process visibility is a key benefit gained from BPM, and that visibility usually occurs through the integration of business intelligence (BI) or business activity monitoring (BAM) tools to assist in process monitoring. The goal of BAM is to monitor key objectives, anticipate operations risks, and reduce latency between events and actions, and there's a number of different channels for funneling this information back to those who need to know, such as business intelligence systems for predictive modelling and historical reports, real-time dashboards, and alerts.

So what's the difference between BI and BAM? According to Gassman, BI is used for insight and planning, and is based on historical -- rather than real-time -- data. BAM is event driven, and issues alerts when events occur. Personally, I think that there's a spectrum between his definitions of BI and BAM, and it's not clear to me that it's a useful distinction; in many cases, data is trickle-fed from operational systems to BI systems so that the data is near-real-time, allowing dashboards to be driven directly from the BI system. True, traditional BI tools will typically see update intervals more like 15 minutes than the near-real-time event alerts that you'll find in BAM, but that's not a problem in some cases.

Gassman discussed the different real-time analytic techniques that are widely used today: process monitoring, logistics optimization (often based on optimizing delivery times while minimizing penalties), situational awareness, pattern matching (complex event processing, or CEP), track and trace (typically used for B2B processes), and comparison between predictions and reality.

Gartner found in a survey 18 months ago that half of their customers surveyed don't use BAM, and claim that they don't use it because they don't really know about it. Considering that BI had long been a technology that can be cost-justified in an extremely short time-frame, and BAM follows the same ROI patterns, I find this surprising (and I had the feeling that they were a bit surprised, too), although I have had large customers who fall into the same category.

Looking at it from a BPM standpoint, automating a process without having appropriate monitoring is risky business: there's a business value to awareness of what's happening in your processes, so that problems are detected early, or possibly before they even occur. There's a natural synergy between BPM and BAM: BPM generates a mound of process instance data, often in an event-driven manner, that just begs to be analyzed, aggregated, sliced and diced.

Gassman discussed some best practices for BAM/BPM synergy before moving on to his definition of the four generations of BAM architecture: isolated silos, standalone, integrated, and composite. We're still seeing lots of 1st and 2nd generation BAM tools, the 3rd generation has just started happening, and the 4th generation is still at least a year away. He points out that most BPM vendors are adding BAM, but are using a 1st generation BAM system that's an isolated silo. He sees the potential to move through 5 different styles of BAM automation, that is, how the analysis from the BAM tool feeds back to change the business process. The potential benefits are great as you move from the simple BAM dashboards up through adaptive rules that choose a path based on goals, but the risks increase as well.

BAM is coming from a number of different types of vendors, in spite of the small size of the market, and there will definitely be some convergence and shakeouts in this market. An example of a trend that I think will continue is the recent acquisition of BAM vendor Celequest, used by some BPM vendors as their embedded BAM, by Cognos, a BI vendor. When you're using BPM, you're also going to have to face the question of whether to use a BPM vendor's embedded BAM, or look for a more fully-functional standalone BAM tool. Gassman showed a spider graph of how BPM/BAM matches up against BI on 8 different dimensions, which indicates that you may want to look for a separate product if you need more analytical capability or need to monitor events outside of the process model.

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Sandy Kemsley’s blog on business process management on eBizQ reports on a Presentation given by Gartner Analyst Bill Gassman hilighting the difference between BI and BAM. She comments that Read More

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