Today, humans have to interpret large sets of different data to make a decision. Using gut feeling is nothing but gambling. Therefore, big data analytics is getting more and more important every year to make better decisions. However, just doing big data analytics is not enough. In many use cases, systematic and monitored human interactions are as important to get best outcomes.
Making the data “actionable” is the real challenge! Seeing the information that helps to make a decision on a composite dashboard using business intelligence (BI) and big data analytics is just the first step and where too many companies stop. An enterprise must be able to fire off the business process to execute the decision made regarding the data. That’s where the buzzword “Intelligent Business Process Management Suite (iBPMS)” comes into play.
iBPMS = BPM + Big Data / Fast Data Analytics + Social Integration
iBPMS is a term introduced by Gartner – an information technology research analyst - to indicate the evolution of the classic BPMS into the next-generation BPM, which includes integration of big data analytics, social media and mobile devices into organization’s business processes support.
Some other companies and analysts use other names, for example “Operational Business Process” or “Intelligent Business Operation (IBO)”. Many people abbreviate this topic with iBPM instead of iBPMS. However, in the end, everybody is talking about an intelligent business processes.
An intelligent business process combines big data, analytics and business process management (BPM) – including case management! This enables applications and humans to make data-driven decisions based on big data analytics. Two flavors exist: „Process starts big data analytics“ (e.g. recommendation engine) and „big data analytics starts process“ (e.g. prevention of flu epidemic).
Let’s look at a real world use case to show why realizing intelligent business processes makes a lot of sense, and how to actually build such a solution.
Use Case: Improved Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A casino wants to increase customer satisfaction. Therefore, the casino leverages big data analytics and gives customers a digital identity (including hotel preferences, gambling behavior, etc.), so that customers can get personalized offers in real time. For instance, the casino can offer a 30% coupon for a show ticket (which is not sold out yet) or a free steak tonight (which would be perishable until tomorrow anyway, besides many seats are available in the restaurant currently). Besides increasing customer satisfaction, the casino creates further benefits such as cost reduction or increased revenue. For instance, a customer visiting a show or eating a steak will also spend money for drinks.
Products to Implement an Intelligent Business Process
It does not matter if you use Salesforce CRM or any other product for your customer management. Also, many different BPM and integration tools are available on the market: TIBCO, IBM, Oracle, Software AG, to name a few leaders…
The following implementation uses different TIBCO products to implement the use case. Even if you have never seen these products before, you will understand easily how these tools work together to realize an intelligent business process.
All these products are loosely coupled, but highly integrated. Each TIBCO product has a specific task to solve. Nevertheless, they connect to each other very well via specific adapters (e.g. the Tibbr plugin of BusinessWorks) or standards for interoperability such as SOAP / REST Web Services or JMS messaging.
Let’s discuss the steps that are necessary to realize the described use case.
Step 1: Integration of Siebel CRM, SAP ERP and CICS Mainframe with TIBCO BusinessWorks ESB
The first step is integration of different systems and interfaces. Complex transformations have to be realized to format and process all required information correctly. TIBCO Business Works is used as integration platform (ESB).
- Integrate customer data from Siebel CRM.
- Integrate casino data from SAP ERP.
- Integrate payment information from CICS mainframe.
- Process incoming gambling information from slot machines via EDI.
- Push transformed streaming events in real time to output connector.
Depending on the use case, you can integrate any other technology, e.g. Hadoop or a Data Warehouse (DWH) such as Teradata or HP Vertica.
Step 2: Real Time Streaming Analytics with TIBCO StreamBase
The pre-processed data is pushed into a stream processing engine for doing real time streaming analytics. TIBCO StreamBase is a mature product with awesome tooling for these tasks.
- Filter and analyze all kinds of events.
- Correlate relevant events.
- If possible, act in real time automatically.
- Otherwise, start a business process for human interaction.
For example, you correlate events such as “customer lost a lot of money gambling”, “complaint via Twitter”, “good weather” and “seats available at pool bar” to send a 50% coupon for a cocktail at the pool bar. If no free seats are available, a human has to make a decision how to improve customer satisfaction. If a customer complains about his current situation another more complex business process has to be initiated using case management features of the BPM tool.
Step 3: Automatic Reaction or Human Interaction with TIBCO ActiveMatrix BPM
If a task cannot be automated completely, a business process instance is started to react appropriately to an event. This can be a relative simple process with human interaction and automated steps, or a more complex situation requiring flexible case management. TIBCO ActiveMatrix BPM is the right tool for this job. The current release already includes several case management features!
- Do something to make customer happy again, e.g. check if the steak restaurant has a lot of steaks in stock. Call customer on his mobile phone and offer a steak coupon.
- Send steak coupon via SMS or email.
- Or escalate to your manager if customer does not appreciate the offer. Case management features can be used here to enable humans to act in a more flexible way to unexpected events.
Step 4: Work Distribution to Mobile Apps with TIBCO Tibbr (Social Enterprise Platform)
TIBCO Tibbr is a social enterprise platform similar to Facebook, but for Enterprises; including several additional and advanced features such as security, customization or integration with other TIBCO and non-TIBCO products and applications. Tibbr’s process notifications are used for work distribution to occasional users. These can interact via their iPhone respectively Android smartphone apps or other mobile clients.
In the above example, the manager would receive a push message about the escalation on his iPhone while walking around in the casino. He can react immediately by sending a Tibbr message to a colleague or starting another business process.
Step 5: TIBCO BPM Analytics – A Picture is Worth a Thousand Processes
After the implementation is deployed and running, you can investigate and improve your processes by using explorative data analytics. TIBCO BPM Analytics provides end-to-end process visibility including self-service, interactive, drag and drop reports for business users. TIBCO Spotfire - a Business Intelligence tool for explorative data analytics - is integrated into TIBCO ActiveMatrix BPM (and many other TIBCO products) for that reason.
The Realization of Intelligent Business Processes (iBPMS) is no Rocket Science
The above sections showed an implementation of an intelligent business process using iBPMS tooling. A BPM solution is not the only thing you need to realize intelligent business processes. You need to integrate different enterprise applications and big data / fast data analytics. Integration and separation of concerns is key for success of such a project. Integration of social enterprise platforms becomes prevalent for supporting occasional users. iBPMS sounds like a very complex topic first. However, it is easy to implement iBPMS if you can use loosely coupled, but integrated tooling that can solve your requirements.
Kai Wähner works as Technical Lead at TIBCO. All opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent his employer. Kai’s main area of expertise lies within the fields of Application Integration, Big Data, SOA, BPM, Cloud Computing, Java EE and Enterprise Architecture Management. He is speaker at international IT conferences such as JavaOne, ApacheCon or OOP, writes articles for professional journals, and shares his experiences with new technologies on his blog. Contact: LinkedIn, @KaiWaehner or firstname.lastname@example.org.