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Editor's Note: This feature is the first in a three-part special package on dynamic BPM. This article defines dynamic BPM, addresses a few myths about the methodology and explores its various flavors. Part II looks at examples of dynamic BPM in action; Part III covers considerations for choosing a dynamic BPM platform.

No question about it: Dynamic BPM is a hot topic. In fact, it will soon be a must-have for companies that want to remain competitive, according to Gartner Inc: "By 2013, dynamic BPM will be an imperative for companies seeking process efficiencies in increasingly chaotic environments."

Why? Because, as Gartner vice president Janelle Hill puts it: "The amount and pace of change in business markets are increasing. Pressure to reduce the latency of change in business processes is driving a need for more dynamic measures. Dynamic BPM addresses these issues by focusing on enabling process changes to occur when and as needed." In fact, Gartner analysts have said, BPM is more than just another technology option-it's a requirement for transformational advantage.

Explaining what dynamic BPM does is fairly easy. In the simplest terms, it supports rapid "on the fly" process adjustments. "You can respond to emerging conditions and changing business needs, in some cases without any interruption to IT or without having IT get involved," explains Jim Sinur, a Gartner research vice president.



That capability provides business users with more control. "With dynamic BPM, at any time during the process execution, users can change the flow of the process," says Clay Richardson, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "They can also delegate and create ad hoc routing, and in essence, add rules."

But defining exactly what dynamic BPM is can get a little tricky-especially because the term covers a broad spectrum of approaches, ranging from very simple to highly complex. Here, Sinur walks us through a few key stages.

Simple decisions

"The lowest level of dynamic BPM is making the rules specific around the decision boxes," Sinur says. As an example, he cites the process for writing a life-insurance policy. "If the policy is less than $1 million, you don't want humans involved" in administering it, he says. If it's for more than $1 million, it needs review by a low-level employee. But if it's for more than $10 million, or if the potential policy-holder has double vision and heart trouble, it needs approval from someone with more seniority and expertise.

Dynamic configuration

The next level is a bit more complicated. At this level, Sinur says: "You've picked a path, and you want to dynamically swap out pieces of the process." For instance, using the insurance-policy scenario: "For a certain kind of policy, you might switch the order of the steps. For a basic term-life insurance policy, there are simply steps you skip," he says. "It's dynamic configuration."

This level also allows for backups in case of problems. Here, Sinur cites the example of obtaining a credit score from one of the three major credit-scoring systems. "If one credit service is down, you want to have a backup" that shifts the query to one of the other two, he says. "Once you pick a path, you're dynamically fixing the potholes."

'Super-dynamic BPM'


The next level, which Sinur calls "super-dynamic BPM," is even more sophisticated. He sums it up this way: "You give the process goals, and the process figures out what the model should be based on those goals." For instance, an insurance company's ultimate goal might be maintaining the best mix of whole-life and term-life policies to ensure both sufficient reserves and profitability. That mix may shift if necessary to keep the company on track toward that objective.

"You have goal-driven processes where the process map is morphing before your eyes," he says. "That's super-dynamic BPM. You're giving this process goals."

One step up is "super-super dynamic BPM." Here, Sinur says, "the goals are changing and shifting based on algorithms. You notice patterns. Maybe your competition behaves a certain way and they're more profitable. You run a predictive analysis or correlation or simulation and the goals change dynamically."

Back to the big picture

Sinur expects more and more companies to begin using some form of dynamic BPM. "We're crossing the chasm," says Sinur, referring to the technology-adoption gap, described by author Geoffrey Moore, between early enthusiasts and mainstream users. Sinur expects that smaller and midsized companies will soon recognize the approach's value as well.

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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