Since time immemorial, businesses have been process-driven. Over time many of the original manual processes have been streamlined and automated using software solutions. Now using business intelligence solutions these processes are readily monitored and optimised.
Christo Bredenkamp, account manager, Synergy Computing
Everything from the marketing which seeks to gain the interest of customers, to the sales activity, to the billing and reconciliation functions necessary to collect funds are processes that are executed in a specific manner in order to ensure company success. Even the management of the people who work for the company is controlled by processes - processes for staff hire, processes for remuneration and leave, and processes for employment termination.
It is only in fairly recent times - and along with the technology boom which sought to increase efficiency through process automation and also process re-engineering.
With this as the backdrop, the concept of business process management, or BPM, becomes one that is considerably easier to understand. Businesses are process driven, and it makes sense to ensure that these processes are managed for optimal efficiency and value-creation for the business.
Automating key business processes not only has the benefit of a function that is executed more rapidly - for example, automating invoice generation can ensure that revenue ultimately reaches the coffers faster. It also opens the door for analysis and the application of business intelligence initiatives, both to the processes themselves and to the company as a whole.
Broadly speaking, business intelligence is a field geared to give companies a greater understanding of their own performance through the analysis of their business drivers, including processes. Gaining that intelligence depends on the availability of data from many different sources - customer information, competitor information, market information - and also process information. In order to deliver reliable results, the raw data that is searched for correlations, analysed for patterns and interrogated to identify future trends has to be 'clean'; it's the 'GIGO' situation, or garbage in [equals] garbage out.
Coming back to business processes. It has long been advocated by process specialists that a poor process should not simply be automated (best expressed as 'Do not pave the cowpaths'); rather, processes should be examined for inefficiency and optimised to best suit the business.
A process focused business intelligence solution can provide great insight into the business processes, highlighting problems and providing ongoing monitoring of the effectiveness of processes, as the business changes, thereby enable better BPM.