The term Business Process Monitoring is widely used inside and outside SAP and basically everybody has a different understanding or notion about Business Process Monitoring. This is not really surprising as monitoring capabilities have to serve different target groups and different purposes. There cannot be the one Business Process Monitoring tool that serves all. Or if there were one, you can be sure that (like all other tools that try to serve each and every purpose) this tool would provide everything in a mediocre manner but nothing in an excellent quality.
This is the reason why SAP decided to follow a different path and provides different Business Process Monitoring tools which can clearly focus on specific target groups and/or specific purposes. Before we look deeper into those tools we want to clarify another terminology first. In public discussions you also hear the term Business Process Optimization (in a broader sense) a lot where again everybody has a different understanding what optimization really means. SAP actually split this term into three different pieces: Business Process Stabilization, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Optimization (in a narrower sense). This split may look somewhat artificial at first sight but helps to understand why different Business Process Monitoring tools are provided and which tool should be used for which purposes.
Business Process Stabilization:
Your current business process is operated at a certain level and then an exception occurs. This exception could be for example a failure in an interface communication or a failure during the background processing, so that certain business documents are not created or updated. The output level of your business process drops to a lower level. Business Process Stabilization means now either to avoid the process exception in the first place, or if the exception occurred, to resolve the problem as fast as possible in order to bring the process output back to the expected level.
Business Process Improvement:
Your business process is operated without exceptions or with a minimum of exceptions as described above. By looking at the output level of the process you identify that the process does not achieve 100% of what was initially planned to achieve when the business process was designed and implemented. This may be related to inefficiencies caused by end users who do not use the SAP system as intended. Or this may be caused by configuration issues within the process or old open business documents are not properly closed and removed from the system. Business Process Improvement means here that the current output level is increased in the future, ideally up to the optimum that can be achieved with the initial process design.
Business Process Optimization:
Your business process is operated stable and all improvements as mentioned above have been realized, i.e. the output level of the process is 100% according to plan. But by comparing different business KPIs or process cycle times of your process with industry benchmarks or competitors you find out that your process is still not good enough or you are missing the competitive edge. Your process needs some further process innovation or the process needs to be re-engineered in order to set the bar for the process output level even higher than the current 100%. The current process design has to be changed or new composite applications have to be introduced. This is Business Process Optimization (in a narrower sense).
So the logical flow is as follows. A customer implements SAP software, for a high amount of money, with the plan to standardize and improve his current business processes. He expects a certain Return On Investment (ROI) within a certain time frame. This initial plan can only be fulfilled if the newly implemented business processes are running smooth and stable, i.e. errors in interfaces and background processing should be minimized and functional errors should be avoided. In this sense the Business Process Stabilization phase protects the initial investment made by the customer. In order to achieve the ROI as fast as possible the business processes should be operated at 100% output level. Here the Business Process Improvement phase should help to ensure that the business processes are actually operated at an optimum according to plan. If it is then encountered by the customer that the business processes should be operated at an even higher output level or even more efficient, then additional investment is required in order to re-engineer or innovate the existing processes in a Business Process Optimization phase.
From a target group perspective one can generally say that Business Process Stabilization is mainly the task for the IT department while the Business Process Optimization is clearly the task for the business department. The Business Process Improvement is the grey zone where both departments have to collaborate although more responsibility for this is normally found with the business department.
Different SAP tools:
From an SAP tool perspective the two phases Business Process Stabilization and Improvement are perfectly supported by Business Process Monitoring in SAP Solution Manager. Here the focus lies on traditional Best Practice processes that are mainly based on transaction codes and ABAP reports. Business Process Monitoring in SAP Solution Manager provides on the one hand more technical monitoring capabilities for background jobs (single jobs as well as BW Process Chains), for all common SAP interface technologies (IDoc, tRFC, qRFC, BDoc, Batich Input, flat file, SAP PI), ABAP dumps, update errors et.al. On the other hand around 300 pre-configured application specific key figures are provided out of the box which cover currently SAP ERP, SAP CRM, SAP SRM, SAP APO as well as industry specifics for SAP Apparel and Footwear, SAP for Automotive, SAP for Banking, SAP for Retail and SAP for Utilities.
Besides these Best Practice processes more and more customers implement specific process flavors (Own Practices) which give them a competitive edge. These are often enhancements or innovations to existing Best Practice processes, e.g. introducing mobile devices into a traditional Order to Cash process so that sales agents can enter their respective sales orders via mobile device instead of using backend transaction VA01. These innovations are usually realized via SAP NetWeaver BPM together with web service or enterprise service technology. For those processes, SAP NetWeaver BPM provides the capabilities to model, execute and also monitor those processes with all its process instances and exceptions.
If you are looking at process efficiency analyzes from a business perspective with dedicated Process Performance Indicators (PPI) then you can use SAP Process Performance Management By IDS Scheer. This tool is provided by SAP’s partner IDS Scheer and should help to identify where process re-engineering is appropriate in order to optimize your business processes and reach even higher process efficiencies or higher output levels than initially planned.