BPM in 2011: IBM Says ‘Visibility’ is Key to BPM Agility, Automation and Self-Service

Thanks to BPM, financial institutions worldwide have a new tool to ensure their business processes can effectively deal with changing markets and stricter regulations. IDN explores how  IT architects are providing business users with self-service automation and visibility in a conversation with IBM BPM vice president Phil Gilbert. 

Tags: business process management, IBM, BPMN, Process Center,

ibm_bpm_chartThanks to BPM, financial institutions worldwide have a new tool to ensure their business processes can effectively deal with changing markets and stricter regulations. IDN explores how  IT architects are providing business users with self-service automation and visibility in a conversation with IBM BPM vice president Phil Gilbert. 

 

Homeloans Management Limited (HML), one of the largest home loan companies in the UK, is using IBM software to improve business processes across its credit management, call center and customer mortgage departments.  HML is improving customer service and regulatory compliance thanks to an easier ability to discover, document, automate their processes, and implement more frequent and cost-effective process improvements. 

 

After just two or three days, HML business users started using the Process Designers instead of whiteboards to build forms for each form in their processes, and they ran just as they were built, Gilbert told IDN. 

 

The key to this WYSIWYG output for BPM process is IBM’s use of BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) under the covers. The designer creates a BPMN map, which can add a lot more metadata to the process models. The engines, in turn, always run the model as created, so there is never an IT guy in the middle that has to translate a whiteboard or Visio [map],” Gilbert said. IBM also provides a “playback” feature where users can preview how the process will work end-to-end.

 

Prior to the project, HML lacked visibility into customer accounts and an efficient account management system, which led to customer dissatisfaction. HML’s new system provides “guides” to call center staff, which improve customer service and prevent redundant customer contacts.

 

“There was a huge lack of control around how we manage these accounts that resulted in the wrong actions taking place,” said Niki Quick, HML’s BPM Manager. Meanwhile, the UK’s Financial Services Authority [a financial services regulator] tightened controls, which added another layer of requirements, she added. “We chose IBM’s BPM solution to allow us to fully automate the system and control – regulatory-wise – the processes and strategies within the credit management area,” Quick said. 

 

“We start organizing around not just data objects, but around the [process] model that data flows through. This was a big breakthrough."

Phil Gilbert
BPM vice president
IBM

“Key business functions that took months can now be processed in a matter of minutes to the delight of employees, customers and regulators,” IBM’s Gilbert added.

 

How BPM Process Visibility Drives
Agility, Automation, Self-Service for Users
“A case like HML illustrates the point that BPM is not about only automation. It is about visibility,” Gilbert said. “Business agility requires more than technologies that can change processes.”

 

In specific, Gilbert explained agility requires two (2) other important ingredients: 

 

  1. Documented transparency into the business processes, so all stakeholders can understand how they work and what data they require; and
  2. An “adaptive” business culture, one that empowers less technical employees to safely and efficiently make changes without the need to ask IT – and ensures these non-technical users won’t shoot themselves in the foot

 

Gilbert connects the dots between visibility and agility by drilling down into the HML use case:


HML was able to show the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) that the processes they run fit FSA regulators’ requirements. In turn, FSA can give HML some leeway to implement changes. “The [business process] visibility was the main driver of agility for HML because the firm could show FSA that all their processes were auditable and reviewable – not just in the big picture but even across individual transactions,” Gilbert told IDN.

 

The power of visibility into processes is also borne out within other industries with high amounts of regulations, Gilbert added. In the telco sector, for example, Gilbert said an IBM BPM project helped a telco firm reverse a fine because it was able to provide regulators a reviewable audit trail along with end-to-end visibility of all processes.  

 

A key to balancing enforcement of crucial corporate-wide process governance and process agility is found under the covers of IBM’s integrations of its WebSphere and Lombardi BPM technologies, specifically the value of having a strong and well-articulated process model, according to Gilbert. 

 

“We start organizing around not just data objects, but around the [process] model that data flows through,” he said. “This was a big breakthrough.” It was made possible by IBM’s Process Designer, which includes design time technologies and a repository.

 

IBM’s Process Designer works together with IBM’s Business Process Business Process Manager 7.5 (BPM 7.5) to build a model that is directly executable by the BPM engine. “This automatic integration means business users cannot design a business process that the engine cannot execute,” Gilbert said.  

 

Other key BPM components that drive BPM solutions include Process Center and Process Data Warehouse.

 

IBM’s Process Center is a metadata-driven repository for all design time assets, which also supports crucial versioning and dependency management – both of which are key to efficient and correct reuse of assets. “Reuse is very hard when you version web services and service interfaces because changes can disrupt or create downstream dependencies,” Gilbert said. “In Process Center, we manage all that 100%, so users can make changes and retain governance.”

 

IBM’s Process Data Warehouse provides a business data warehouse that catalogues and chronicles all the interactions of any process. This means business data is retained at every point of traversal, Gilbert said. The Process Data Warehouse also provides a user interface (called the Optimizer) that provides users visualizations and process diagrams of these interactions, he added.

 

Gilbert said these components driving IBM’s BPM approach provide users a tremendous amount of granular visibility into their processes, and even transaction-by-transaction results of those processes and process models, as needed. “A user can now say, ‘Show me every exception path that has been traversed by more than 10% in the last two weeks.’ We present that output, and that helps users better understand their traffic flows, the data and the processes,” he told IDN. 

 

Users can also track processes or data interactions between any two points, allowing users to explore the effectiveness of processes or even assure full compliance with policies and regulations.

 

For IBM’s BPM offerings, this emphasis on connecting visibility and agility will continue this fall and into 2012, Gilbert told IDN, as IBM will roll out BPM upgrades that will focus on empowering non-technical people to make BPM changes without derailing governance and compliance functions. “We’ll be able to query systems as part of a process to understand the impact on SLA compliance across multiple external systems and partners.” he added.




back

Share
Go