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Jon Reed recently recorded a podcast with me and Vijay Vijayasankar – Podcast: SAP BI Thorny Questions – Eve of SAPPHIRE NOW Edition. Jon and I met at the SAP BI 4.0 launch (blogged here) and Vijay and I had a blog exchange on rules some time ago – his BPM/BRM on an empty stomach and my Business rules on a full stomach. Jon does a great job summarizing the podcast, and the questions, in his post so I won’t repeat it.

My questions in the podcast are driven by my experience working with clients and their experience with Business Process, Business Rules and Business Intelligence. These three  “B’s” drive much of today’s IT investment. They are typically considered  separate domains and separate sets of technologies. This means that each B has its own  center of excellence, its own methodology, its own experts. But this  Balkanization pushes apart technologies that can and should be used  together.

Using these technologies separately results in over-complex processes  that meander through fields of rules and over oceans of data. Changing  them from IT line items to a source of business transformation requires  an organizing principle and a business-centric perspective – a focus on  business decisions. Business decisions play a crucial role in business  processes, driving straight-through processing and simplifying workflow.  Business decisions focus and organize business rules, effectively  applying them to concrete business problems. Understanding the business  decisions being made ensures the right business intelligence is  collected and analyzed.

Decision Management – the discovery, automation and continuous  improvement of decisions – ties these technologies and approaches  together into a coherent framework. The separate lives of business  processes, business rules and business intelligence can be transformed  by the power of decisions. The power of Decision Management  is simpler  processes, smarter systems and an agile business.

I want to see an integrated set of technologies from SAP – I want to be able to tie business processes (whether in Netweaver or the Business Suite) to decisions that are implemented with business rules and predictive analytics. SAP’s Netweaver BRM and BRFplus ABAP rule engines are both strong products but they are not to my knowledge integrated with the semantic layer from SAP BI nor does the SAP BI stack produce the kind of embeddable predictive analytics that these decisions will require (I am giving a webinar on this – From Business Intelligence to Predictive Analytics – on June 7 2011). If, for instance, the SAP semantic layer was shared between reporting, dashboards, business rules and predictive analytics we could develop effective decision making applications more rapidly and more accurately. If we could take the data in the Business Suite and use it to drive predictive analytics that we could embed in rules-based decisions, we could more easily build the kind of smarter enterprise applications I discussed in this webinar.

SAP has all, or most, of the pieces. It’s time to tie them together to deliver Decision Management Systems. I am helping clients do this today but it would sure be nice if SAP would do it for us.

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