Much talk has been made of what breakthroughs SAP HANA can provide to the world of business in terms of doing things that could not be done before. I believe that SAP Operational Process Intelligence powered by SAP HANA (OpInt for short) is just such a product. In this blog I will explain why I think OpInt is such a product and how it can compliment SAP Business Process Management (BPM) and SAP Business Workflow in moving towards being a Process Centric Organisation. I also took part in a Mentor Monday webinar on the 22nd July you can see the recording here.
Firstly I will cover the “what is it part” and then I will talk about why SAP HANA is key to making it a reality.
What is SAPOPInt and how is it different from SAP BPM
Where BPM (and workflow) create a process on top of and between existing systems, OpInt takes the approach of listening to Business Events and reporting upon what is happening, comparing these events to a model of how the events should behave and reporting back when the events do not follow the expected pattern. So for example in a wholesale business you might expect less than 5 minutes between a sales order being created and the delivery being created. In OpInt you would create a model to listen to these two Business Events and calculate if the model is being followed. OpInt also predict when thinks will happen based on history.
Now take this to a larger scale and imagine the entire end to end Order to Cash process for a global organisation, not all of the process will be running in one system and not all the regions in the organization will have the same Service Level Agreement.
Not this is obviously going to include 1000’s and 1000’s of events that need to be stored, matched, predicted and reported. If this can’t be done in Real-Time then we can’t intervene to fix things when they go off track – we need to close the door BEFORE the horse bolts. This is why HANA is critical to the success of OpInt and why SAP have written OpInt to run directly in the HANA XS engine.
See the wood for the trees ! – How does it work.
The first thing we need is something that is capable of turning technical events into business events. For SAP BPM and SAP Business Workflow, this is a relatively simple task, as events are at the heart of these systems and OpInt comes with built in parsers to import BPMN and Business workflow definitions, after which you can pick the steps that you are interested in together with data from the process context. For Business Suite systems we need to use a transaction called Process Observer (on the Business Suite ABAP stack) to create a “Process facade” on top of the suite technical events (or events we have configured). These Process facades can also be imported into OpInt. The final part of the puzzle is how to get events from non-SAP systems (yes they do exist). This is where the Sybase Event Streaming Platform (aka Event Insight) comes into the picture. This technology allows “listening agents” to be deployed next to the 3rd part systems to pick up interesting technical events and correlate these events into business events that can then be feed to OpInt. In this way OpInt can get an end to end view of the Big process we are interested in.
Missing Link – Order from Chaos
This means that we now have a tool that can provide the best of both worlds for process centric organisations.
We can either use BPM where we want the system to control how the process works.
We can use OpInt where no formal process exists, but we can observe events and figure out if things are working according to plan.
For those area that constantly fail to follow the model, we can use BPM to bring order to this chaos.