I met up with the NetWeaver BPM product management team and sat in on a session given by Alan Rickayzen of SAP and their customer King Tantivejkul of Colgate-Palmolive on putting intelligence into processes. This wasn’t about process automation — it was assumed that you have some sort of process automation in some system already, which constitutes the instrumentation on the processes — but rather taking all of the process events from a heterogeneous collection of systems and analyzing them in the aggregate in order to drive and support decision-making.
Colgate brings funnels all of their data from their global operations through a master data hub to their SAP back-end, including financials, materials, customer and reference data. SAP’s business suite ERP software is great for crunching data, but not so great at visualizing it — Colgate is using some hard-coded monthly reports that showed some metrics, but little about the process itself — so Colgate signed up for the operational process intelligence (OPINT) ramp-up (first customer release) to help them identify potential issues and bottlenecks in the process. They don’t have anything to show yet, but seem pretty excited about what they can get out of it.
OPINT, built on HANA, provides a more responsive and flexible view of process metrics. Without writing any Java or ABAP code, you can put together a dashboard that shows metrics from multiple systems, since HANA is acting as a process event warehouse for Business Workflow and NetWeaver BPM process events as well as custom processes made visible via Process Observer. In the future, they’ll be adding in other data sources, so you can pull in process models and event data from other systems. The HANA studio design environment allows these processes to be imported from the back-end systems and represents them as BPMN; events in these processes can then be mapped to different phases of a business scenario in order to generate the dashboard.
Predictive analytics are built in, as you might expect given the capabilities of HANA, allow for forecasting of missing specific KPIs and milestones. As we saw at IBM Impact a couple of weeks ago, predictive process analytics are becoming big for high-value process instances: it’s not enough to know if you’re meeting a specific KPI right now, you need to know how the process is going to roll out through its entire lifecycle.
The dashboard widgets that we saw in a short video clip look completely adequate: different data visualizations, colors to denote states, KPIs and drilldowns. No big UI innovations, but the real gold here is in the HANA analytics going on behind the scenes, and the ease with which a solution developer can create a dashboard view of the HANA data. Furthermore, this runs completely on HANA: HANA is the database, the analytics engine and the app server, making it a bit easier to deploy than some other analytics solutions. This is big data applied to process, and it’s fair to say that this combination is going to be significant for the future of BPM.