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Organizations of every stripe are awakening to the value of business process management (BPM) as a powerful methodology by which to run their operations. And well they should: at heart, business is nothing more than a collection of processes, so optimizing how those processes are conducted is a no-brainer for improving performance. But what's clear as a management ethos becomes cloudy for the CIOs tasked with identifying and deploying the underlying BPM system technology. While there are too many issues to give a comprehensive assessment in this article, there is one bedrock principle that must be understood: in order to drive real and measurable process improvement, the BPM suite you choose must include native real-time analytical capabilities.

By integrating analytics with other process components, a BPM suite can combine its sophisticated tool set with actionable data to help business managers streamline and optimize business processes, and identify and compensate for existing processes inefficiencies. With real-time capability, analytics can actually drive process flow. Analytics can be used to automatically initiate performance-based events and dynamically manage the flow of enterprise processes. This means, for example, automatically kicking off new processes when inventory decreases below set thresholds, or automatically escalating and reprioritizing tasks if their completion time exceeds the historical average for that work item. This fusion of process and real-time intelligence drives a continuous cycle of enterprise process improvement, creating a platform for interpreting and adapting processes to meet the challenges of constantly evolving business environments.

Real-time data feedback to business users enforces organizational accountability and data integrity while guiding process optimization - and it requires a combination of both business and process data. It also requires a single platform for supporting business activity monitoring (BAM) capabilities for monitoring events that occur in the process suite and in external applications, and aggregating associated data into centralized reports. It is helpful if the BPM suite comes "out of the box" with sets of preconfigured reports for capturing common business activity data and translating the results into actionable business information, but it is essential that the BPM solution can capture organization-specific information through customized reports that can be created by business-level users.

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