Most corporations have a constant need to collect / analyze as much information (irregardless of its origin) as possible. Indeed, the goal is to find patterns that are lurking in the data in order to make better decisions. The quality of a particular decision is often of critical importance to achieve a competitive advantage over others in the marketplace.
SAP’s Business Intelligence Product Suite is one avenue for individuals to acquire and analyze the information that exists in the corporate setting. This blog doesn’t intend to go into great detail about BI but rather suggests how to better utilize its standard functionality. Recently, the combination of BI and Visual Composer has created the foundation for the emergence of BI-related Composite Applications (xApps) that are usually described as xApps Analytics. These new applications greatly simplify the ability to create dashboards to supply decision-makers with this critical information.
In this focus on relevant information for analytics, one area – in my opinion- has been unfortunately been neglected – the area of process-related metrics. Every organization is founded on processes – it doesn’t mater if they are HR-related processes or ones dealing with financial transactions. In the SAP environment, there are two products that deal with processes:
- Process Integrator (PI) – formally XI
- Guided Procedures (GP)
Note: A comparison between the two products is present in other literature present on SDN and is thus irrelevant for this blog.
What is critical to understand is these two products with their associated processes do not exist in isolation from other aspects of organizational information needs. The performance of an organization’s processes is critical to examine in the context of other information. By “performance”, I mean quality metrics that measure the efficiency of particular processes – for example, how fast individual process steps perform or the number of errors of individual process steps. I have written a Guided Procedures Explorations: Process Runtime Dashboard that deal with such issues in the context of GP.
One example of this the importance of combining these two information sources might be illustrated by the following scenario where an examination of decreasing sales figures for a particular customer doesn’t provide all the necessary answers. Mr. Smith, a manager responsible for various customers, examines the sales information for one of his customers – Acme Widgets. He sees that there has been a steady sales decline over the last year. He can view information from his CRM system to get details about the company. He can view financial information from his FI back-end. Based on these information sources, he still has no idea about the real reasons behind the sales decline.
What is often missing is the information regarding the processes in which his company interacts with Acme Widgets. There can be a variety of processes involved and the involvement of his customer can be different based on the process. For example, Acme Widget may buy goods from Mr. Smith’s organization as well as bid on contracts in its procurement system. Mr. Smith should be able to drill down to see this process-related data. Process-related metrics provide a new perspective on his company’s relationship with Acme Widgets.
To perform this task, there are two possibilities that I would like to discuss – both involve the use of BI.
In the first scenario, process-related metrics are fed into BI via web services or other means. This scenario is based on the fact that BI is able to merge data from various data sources to create a cohesive data warehouse that can be mined via normal BI means.
This use of BI is the most powerful in that all various contexts could be explored as well as the use of all available BI tools would be possible.
The second scenario involves the use of Visual Composer to combine the two sources of information. The scenario uses web-services from GP or PI in combination with Visual Composer’s out-of-the-box BI Analytics functionality and requires a designer / BPX to create dashboards that combined both information sources in one unified view.
The advantage would be that changes in design / layout could be performed relatively quickly and easily. Disadvantages are linked to the fact that the association between data from the different sources is rather trivial and based primarily on VC-based events.
I am not a BI expert but I do understand the importance of having well-rounded / complete data on which to base decisions. Currently, my ideas of integrating this type of information into BI are rather conceptual. I can imagine, however, BI-plug-ins that enable direct access from BI into the BPM hearts of GP and PI. Thus, this data extraction could be available out-of-box instead of based on custom web-services or superficial VC-based interaction.