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If there’s one phrase that sums up what’s needed for next-generation business processes, it’s “real-time intelligence.” And that’s just what’s driving an emerging approach that Gartner Inc. calls “intelligent business operations” (IBO).

Janelle B. Hill, a Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, defines IBO as “a style of work in which real-time analytic and decision-management technologies are integrated into the transaction-execution and bookkeeping operational activities that run a business.” Traditionally, analytical and transactional activities have been handled separately; integrating them provides end users with up-to-the-moment data that can help them make faster, better decisions in a variety of areas.

Analysts say the approach reflects the need for BPM to go beyond simply focusing on improving efficiency, productivity and cost savings toward improving performance in terms of becoming more responsive to changing customer needs and market demands. Other factors include increased interest in “big data,” in-memory analytics and automated decisions.

Not surprisingly, IBO is also driving demand for next-generation BPM technology, which Gartner has dubbed “intelligent business process management suites,” or iBPMSs. In fact, interest in such suites is higher than Gartner researchers expected when they began working on the just-released Gartner Magic Quadrant report on iBPMSs. “We thought about 5% of the market would need this high-end suite,” Hill says. “But we’ve seen much greater adoption than we expected. I think it’s closer to 15%.”

Manufacturers, utilities, chemical companies and the energy industry are among the iBPMS pioneers. “They look at [iBPMS] capabilities—mobility, social, analytics—and say ‘I’m going to need those capabilities in 12 months,’” Hill says. “They’re overbuying and expecting to grow.”

And she and other Gartner researchers recommend that other companies begin to think about following suit. “We believe that all organizations, not just early adopters, need to factor iBPMS into their BPM planning horizon,” they recommend in their report, which evaluates offerings from 13 vendors in the iBPMS marketplace.

What’s the difference between the current generation of BPM suitesand the emerging class of intelligent BPMSs? Traditional BPMSs consist of an integrated set of technologies “for managing the interactions among all the resources--people, software systems, information, business rules and policies--that contribute to operational process outcomes,” according to Gartner’s report. “An iBPMS has all the features of a traditional BPMS, complemented with more advanced technologies.”

Specifically, an iBPMS provides the functionality needed to support more intelligent business operations, including real-time analytics, extensive complex event processing (CEP) and business activity monitoring (BAM) technologies and enhanced mobile, social and collaborative capabilities. “This new functionality focuses on adding more machine and human intelligence in a much friendlier work environment that is characterized by role-based workspaces,” the Gartner analysts wrote.

Gartner’s report identifies 10 core components for an iBPMS:

* A process orchestration engine

* A model-driven composition environment

* Content interaction management

* Human interaction management

* Connectivity

* Active analytics (sometimes called continuous intelligence)

* On-demand analytics

* Business rules management (BRM)

* Management and administration for the suite’s technical aspects

* A process component registry/repository

While iBPMSs are--or should be--on the horizon for every business, many don’t yet have enough BPM experience to use these sophisticated technologies effectively, analysts say. For that reason, businesses with lower process-improvement maturity levels may find that a traditional BPMS suits their needs well for the time being. In fact, Gartner projects that mainstream buyers will continue investing in traditional BPMSs through 2014, while those at higher BPM maturity levels will begin moving toward iBPMSs.

Gartner’s 33-page Magic Quadrant report, released on Sept. 27, 2012, evaluates the following iBPMS vendors: Appian, Bosch Software Innovations, Cordys, DST Systems, IBM, OpenText, Oracle, Pegasystems, PMNsoft, Software AG, Tibco Software, Vitria and Whitestein.

READER FEEDBACK: Does your company have an interest in an iBPMS? If so, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Anne Stuart, ebizQ's editor from mid-2010 to mid-2013, is now senior editor for SearchCloudApplications.com at ebizQ's parent company, TechTarget. She is a veteran journalist who has written for national magazines, daily newspapers, an international news service and many Web sites. She’s specialized in covering business and technology issues for 20 years. Based in Newton, Mass., she can be reached at astuart@techtarget.com. Follow Anne on Google+ and at annestuart_TT on Twitter. For general questions about ebizQ, please e-mail editor@ebizQ.net.

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