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Every good business has made a significant investment in its business intelligence. It has a snapshot of its pipelines, personnel costs,  R&D, revenue…. That’s the leg the company needs to stand on.

Q. But what if the company had two legs? 
A. That company could run.

The problem is that standing on one leg, staying still, is so much easier than running, because the later involves movement and dynamics, not to mention the complex choreography of muscles pulling in different directions. For a company to achieve the equivalent, it’s not enough for a company to have a snapshot of where it is now, the company has to have knowledge of itself which reflects the dynamics.. typically called the business processes.

Small startups have this knowledge. The employees know each other, know how they work with each other and can nimbly shift to adjust the processes to suit the change in direction or climate that the company needs to deal with. Working in a large company myself I’m acutely aware of this. It conjures up images of small mammals darting through the legs of large dinosaurs. There’s nothing wrong with being a big dinosaur; they were around longer than mankind itself. But even the dinosaurs’ dynasty came to an end, and the time is definitely nigh for more big businesses to run nimbly. Luckily SAP software has brilliant track record of helping large companies run by helping them configure their processes to be dynamic. But a new age is dawning to take this to the next level.

Welcome to the new age of Big Data.

Biology comes to the rescue when it comes to describing this new age – in particular the central organ, the brain.

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The way most human brains work.

Human beings work pretty well with a brain divided into two halves. One for creative aspects and one for the more immediate daily chores.

I use the brain analogy not just because this is so closely tied to intelligence… enterprise intelligence, business intelligence and empowerment in a competitive world. But also because the power of the human brain is quantum leap over the brain of a simpler creature (say, slug) which does have brain to remember, but not enough brain to change its behavior according to what it knows – judgment.

The technological leap that is taking place now, is with in-memory databases, HANA, the transition from traditional database structure that allows a company to store and retrieve it’s data, to a network of data that allows deep, complex and fuzzy inquiries in real-time. Fuzzy and fast, that’s one big step forward in terms of “intelligence”. It allows complex and deep analysis, suppositions in real time, and even predictions. This is a far cry from the simple and logical analysis of the companies data is enabled through business warehouses or business information systems. This suddenly enables dynamics to be visualized, predicted and validated.

In other words the age of process intelligence has just started.

You see symptoms of this transition to in-memory all around you. The auto-suggest provided by search engines before you have even completed typing in the search string; The news portals springing out of social networks. These are all symptoms of the dramatic capabilities in monitoring and predicting that come out of these in-memory databases. The business world is no different.

Where does HANA come into the picture?

Just as in the 1980’s computer games transitioned from pushing pixels around the screen, to relying on graphic processors to render the complete screen,  HANA allows a similar revolution to take place for business processes. So instead of focusing on a process engine pushing individual documents (think pixels) around the enterprise, you can start to focus on the process currents swirling around in the enterprise. Once you can “see” these process currents, you can start to predict and influence these currents – even at the personal level. The pattern emerging is very similar to the history of weather forecasting, where the mid-20th century predictions based on a series of point and historical measurements transitioned to a new level of effectivity once the computers could start to apply fluid mechanics to predict flows rather than simply static data changes. Once weather computation adds the abstract visualization of flows (backed up by measurements) the predictions could achieve a whole new level of reliability. Just as air currents work to reinforce or balance-out each other so is the case with business processes both within and acting on an enterprise.

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Once you have the computing power to interpret big data – you can extrapolate based on abstract models, and predict with precision.

This is where SAP Operational Process Intelligence built on HANA  plays an important role. You can think of it as the right hand side of the brain, complimenting the left hand side of the Enterprise brain (the data warehouse or business intelligence). Visualizing, predicting and influencing both the Process and the Data aspects is a huge break-through. Processes are messy and abstract (time, people, and directions) and prior to in-memory have been very difficult to capture in terms of visibility. That’s why I equate the process intelligence to the right hand side of the brain.

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How my brain copes with data and processes – #SAPOPINT

There are two business roles who are particularly well catered for by SAP Operational Process Intelligence.

The Solution Expert

The solution expert is responsible for mapping out the abstract process flows that are of significance to the enterprise. These may be a simplified but direct view of the customized processes (SAP customizing made rendered visible by Process Observer) and automated business processes (SAP Business Workflow and SAP NetWeaver BPM initially) running within the company. Or alternatively these abstract process models are based on the state transitions in the underlying data if this is felt to be more significant. Or a combination of the these. Either way, the Solution Expert designs these abstract processes in HANA studio, graphically, and where needed importing directly the graphical process definitions from the companies modeled processes and mapping these to the abstract model. Not only does this import of process definitions simplify creating the initial abstract model, but it also helps the two stay up-to-date with each other.

This is done in a non-disruptive manner so that the abstract process layer can be added or adjusted without touching the customizing or modeled workflows.

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Creating abstract process models from the execution processes as they are modeled in all their complexity – Piece of cake.

In seconds, the solution expert can add the real process model from an existing system and use this as the basis for building the dashboards that  process intelligence can digest. This short-cuts the traditional method by weeks and months of development work, not even counting the time traditionally needed to keep the two models (process versus process intelligence) in synch.

Now the solution expert can generate the dashboards needed to render the information to feed the left hand side of the brain so that decisions can be made in a cool logical way, levering on the predictive and business insight that HANA delivers.

The Process Operators and Process Owners

The resulting abstract processes generate the dashboards, monitors and controls that the team responsible for the smooth running of the processes need. This way they can react to simple events or storms within the processes using a user interface that it is independent of the underlying technology that automates the process. The complex views become a simplified level of abstraction that the process operators and owners can digest. Even to the extent of HANA generating simplified measurements and alerts (think of the tornado warning) out of the complex abstract models, based on the real-time gigabytes of ERP process data.

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Simplifying the complex process to generate data dashboards that are a doddle to use – and lightning fast.

And because the solution expert has modeled the processes in HANA, the operators do not need to be concerned with system boundaries, or out-of-date information, and also have the prediction capabilities built into HANA, along with fuzzy logic and fuzzy searches for instances. Business logic is also there in HANA, so handling traditionally messy information such as value (think of all those currency conversions) is handled directly in the database, without putting load on the dashboard definitions.

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Forecasting – will the process finish on time to avoid disruption? Inbuilt HANA capabilities come to the rescue.

So that is what SAP Operational Process Intelligence built on HANA is about. A means to activate the enterprise’s right-hand lobe, visualize and predict and influence based on process “currents” without the artificial handicap of system boundaries. It’s a revolutionary but non-disruptive technology, that levers on your existing investment in SAP Business Suite (Process Observer) and/or SAP Business Workflow and/or SAP NetWeaver BPM.

Does your company care about its business processes? Are you interesting in a test-drive of how this works in practice using a trial instance in the cloud set up for you by SAP experts?

Follow this link to learn how.  Or contact me directly.

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2 Comments

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  1. K S

    wow! we can even use it for measuring terrain heights in flights, to identify safe heights.

    Thankyou,

    KS

    (0) 

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