Process Intelligence And Real-Time Visibility At Electrolux With SoftwareAG

Jean Lastowka of Electrolux and Dave Brooks of SoftwareAG presented at Gartner BPM 2013 on process intelligence and visibility; apparently, SoftwareAG chose to include a white paper that I wrote for them in the conference handouts (which I neglected to keep), so if you’re here, check out the package.

Electrolux makes home and professional appliances — best known in North America for vacuum cleaners, but they have a much broader repertoire — and were looking to do some internal alignment in order to serve customers better. To meet this goal, they established their BPM practice a week before last year’s Gartner BPM conference, established a BPM framework, did collaborative process modeling and launched a new ERP system for their new end-customer distribution channel over the next five months, then brought on SoftwareAG’s iKnow product for process visibility in October, and launched it to their business community in November.

Their BPM efforts were initially around end-to-end process mapping of the new processes in ARIS, allowing business and IT to have a shared knowledge of the processes; they are not using a BPMS to automate processes, but the processes are encapsulated in the ERP system implementation and procedural knowledge. Unfortunately, with these new processes and a new ERP system, people were still trying to manage the processes in the old ways (including Excel), causing a lot of customer dissatisfaction. iKnow allowed them to take their process models, connect up event feeds (I assume) from the ERP system (and presumably other systems), and show real-time order tracking and KPIs overlaid on the process model. This allows for predictive analytics, providing advance warning of potential lead time failures based on inventory levels, for example, and allowed them to track order trends and provide a single view of on-hand and in-transit inventory. Best of all, the visualizations — inventory displayed on a geographic map, for example, as well as real-time alerts based on KPIs — allowed the business to more easily consume the data than in the textual format that they had previously received.

This was a good example of what BPM looks like without a BPMS automation project: collaborative process modeling, processes implemented in some other system (an ERP system, in this case), then metrics and KPIs gathered and displayed relative to the process model in a dashboard, with items requiring action flagged and pushed to the appropriate people. Bracketing the ERP system with process modeling and monitoring transforms it into a process-centric BPM initiative that drives process improvement and provides actionable information.

There are a couple of vendors in this part of the BPM technology business, providing tooling to allow you to see the processes that are running in your other (non-BPMS) systems in real-time. For many organizations, this is the only option since they have core ERP, CRM and legacy systems that run their business, but that don’t provide good visualizations nor explicit process models. Process visibility is the first step to process excellence.

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