BPM and Operational Intelligence

I am intrigued by a new development in computing that seems to be getting more traction. Operational Intelligence (OI). What is it? Well, we have all heard of Business Intelligence (BI); collect & analyze your data for an epiphany into market behavior. Operational Intelligence (OI) seeks to do the same thing but with Events instead of Data. The key concept in OI is the concept of Complex Event Processing or CEP. At its most basic, CEP involves the correlation of separate events; a more complete definition is anything that will help you make sense of the event cloud that represents the operations of your business (event correlation being one such way).

Operational Intelligence Simplified

The human brain does CEP all the time. Consider that we are busy doing something else with the TV running in the background. We catch two scenes a short time interval apart but can still put context around what is being shown.

Most luxury cars have a CEP that is hooked to a wide array of sensors that will warn you of an impending problem and potentially its solution or give you maintenance advice or even internally tune itself better for efficiency or performance. Formula 1 cars have a more sophisticated implementation of the same concept, i.e. a more sophisticated CEP, a wider range of sensors. When applied to the business world, I consider this to be a natural evolution of and an additional feature to BPM implementations.

Everything that a company does is a business process. Whether it is the implementation of some algorithm, an integration service that carts data from application to another or the entire Order to Cash process of a multinational company that involves the collaboration of humans and computer systems and spans accounting, legal, regulatory and cultural boundaries. The only difference between each of these is that of granularity.

Thus we seek to define and measure these processes so that we may ultimately be able to evolve them. Combine BPM with OI and the process can potentially evolve itself!

The start and end of every activity within a business process represents an event that is fed to an OI system. The nth activity in this sequence could very well be dynamic based on input from the OI system. Or we could use OI to adjust our business process variables and thus guide the path the process takes to optimize for performance (time to complete) or cost.

I’d love feedback on some real world examples from business of the applicability of Operational Intelligence (OI). Either of its use or potential for use. This is obviously an emerging market. My next blog will focus on the vendor solutions out there that help tread the OI path.

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