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What is iBPM best used for, and how should it be applied?

Sometimes the term 'iBPM' is used too broadly to be functional. To get the most out of iBPM, determine how it can best be applied and implement it accordingly.

Intelligent business process management is a concept whose implementation is often curtailed by a lack of clear...

goals or even a clear definition. BPM is a software application, and so it's hard to see why anything except intelligence would be involved. The name doesn't explain what is really different in iBPM applications. To get information for your own project from use cases, categorize iBPM on the source of the "intelligence," look for use cases that support the specific incremental intelligence your company needs, consider how the other intelligence sources will likely be added and focus on problems that are common to your mainstream iBPM opportunity.

Users report that most iBPM intelligence comes from three specific sources. The first and most common is the extension of traditional BPM to mobile users to expand the overall scope of BPM applications and drive them closer to the business processes themselves. The second is the expanded use of analytics to spot trends, including analyzing the progress and success of past practices. The final, and perhaps most important in the long term, is the introduction of complex event processing (CEP) to shift the focus of analytics to real-time support of workers.

What is iBPM for collaboration?

A newer iBPM driver is the desire to support what could be called collaborative support of workers, using either a collaboration platform or a social media tool. This source of iBPM intelligence has great promise, but far less installed history is available for it, and most prior collaboration-driven attempts to modernize business practices have fallen short. You'll need to be very cautious in selecting use cases for this form of iBPM.

Material on iBPM often aggregates all these drivers into a single goal set, but most organizations will have a difficult time managing a project that crosses all these intelligence sources. That's why it's best to decide which specific "intelligence" aspect is the most useful for you. That will involve identifying the specific class of workers whose activity is your primary target, then deciding which changes will best suit those workers. In most cases, the answer will fall into one of the four specific intelligence sources identified above. Considering more than two at a time can potentially lead you into trouble.

What is iBPM for mobile?

What is the impact of mobile on BPM?

If your primary pathway to iBPM is mobility support and broadening of the information base available to workers, look for use cases in mobility and mobile backend as a service. You can apply the lessons of these use cases even to your existing BPM strategy. And if you either need or want a new approach to BPM, you can look for BPM solutions that best fit with your mobile approach.

The mobility model of iBPM is important in a general sense because it illustrates that all iBPM has to tie back to the worker for the intelligence to be meaningful. In nearly all cases, you can expect that an iBPM project will involve some front-end changes to deliver the data in a useful form. Because mobile devices are now dominating planning for worker empowerment, many companies will want to fit all other iBPM drivers into a mobile context, even where the information is to be delivered to traditional computers.

What is iBPM for process improvement?

Where your goals are more generally to improve decision making and planning in particular, your iBPM approach should be focused on use cases for analytics and big data. It's essential to look for use cases that embody both the collection of the core data and ones involving analysis, but the latter is critical because it's the only way to connect the process to actual worker behavior and productivity.

If you understand what drives your own BPM changes and address the real drivers, you can gain control of a BPM revolution and guide it to your benefit.

The largest mistake businesses make in analytics-driven iBPM assessment is lack of specificity in the manner of use for the data. Knowledge is not power for most workers, it's just a source of additional confusion and distraction. Workers need specific information to support specific goals, and the use cases for analytics-driven iBPM should focus first on the goal, then the needed information, and last on the collection.

Analytics best provides support for planning-level activities. If the goal for iBPM is to augment worker activity through analysis of events in real time, then it's a CEP mission. More than any other type of iBPM, CEP-driven iBPM has to focus on the driving CEP process needs and implementation. Unlike other iBPM models that typically leverage existing information in some way, CEP-driven iBPM often requires the generation of real-time events from business activities not currently considered events at all. It's best to find a key example of a new event source, and a use case that traces that source to an improvement in worker productivity.

What is iBPM for social media

The social-media flavor of iBPM is an evolution of a prior initiative to introduce collaboration directly to business processes through unified communications and collaboration. Like mobility-driven iBPM, social-media iBPM is less about changing BPM than about augmenting it with a kind of front-end process. And this time, it is based on social media and collaboration.

The biggest issue to address in selecting and processing a social-media iBPM use case is recognizing that collaboration is helpful only in certain situations. In other contexts, it's another source of distraction and it can tie up more people than before, lowering productivity overall. Look for social-media iBPM use cases that identify current situations where workers need collaborative assistance rather than on speculative uses of the capability.

Soft definitions never help IT planning, and intelligent is hardly a useful term in expressing the evolution of BPM. If you understand what drives your own BPM changes and address the real drivers, you can gain control of a BPM revolution and guide it to your benefit.

Next Steps

How can BPM tools for CEP?

How a BPM strategy fits into a legacy modernization effort

Discover why building microservices for BPM may be the next craze

This was last published in July 2016

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