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Operational Process Intelligence: Aligning Processes with Information

Over the years, I have been regularly giving a talk on the value of aligning organizational goals with IT infrastructure change, focusing on how business processes and the data for information systems can be used to do that. In my talk I highlight how modeling the processes and the information together, as separate models in lock step, ultimately leads to heightened agility and greater productivity across the enterprise.  Today, I am helping folks in SAP’s Operational Process Intelligence team on a use case for a major shipping company trying to increase their package tracking granularity, and am reminded of this topic, and how it is directly relevant to any enterprise looking for faster, better informed decision making supported by proactive, real-time alerts and interactive dashboards on any device.


So where do the business process models and the data models come together? Data is housed in business process models, often times implicitly, but more and more frequently explicitly identified.  We can map that process representation of data directly to our enterprise conceptual models, which in turn is linked to the logical and physical data models representing our run time systems.  Business process models are also transformed into process orchestration models which can be linked to those physical data models, keeping everything aligned from concept to implementation.


Wow, that was a lot of big words.  What does that really mean?  Well, there are fundamentally three reasons why you should care about this:  First, any technology change that enables business transformation, like in-memory and real-time computing, cloud architectures or mobility, requires us to understand how our processes manipulate information so that we can plan, design and execute operational systems change in an easier way.  Second, as organizations look to improve efficiency or conform to new regulations, we are always changing the way we run, and being able to measure the impact of business process changes on information means we can ensure business continuity is not disturbed and IT systems can be quickly aligned with changing business needs.  And finally, as we seek operational process intelligence through leveraging our business information in more impactful ways, we need that single, centralized view of data, both at rest and in motion, in order to be more successful.


Back to the shipping company:  what they need to do is not just know when a package is in transit, at a facility, or out for delivery; they need to know exactly where it is in transit to be able to provide up to the minute delivery estimates to each recipient or make real-time changes to delivery plans to meet critical client commitments.  To do that, we need several changes to the way they run their business: 


  • We need to change the way they catalog the packages when they are out for delivery.
  • We need to tie the package/truck pairing to a GPS data stream to know where the vehicle making the delivery is at every point in time. 
  • We need to know the planned route, and update the route plan in real time for changes made by the driver for detours or delays caused by traffic, construction, or other unexpected external influence. 
  • Finally, we need to tie that to a reporting system that can be used to inform customers within a small window when their expected delivery time will be, and alert those customers when changes to that expected time happen as the driver progresses through their route.


This is a classic case for a case for modeling and architecture.  What do we need to change in the business processes to take these new steps and actions  into account?  What new information do we need, and what existing information will need to be changed?  This is where process and data alignment becomes so beneficial.  If we know each information asset that is used by each process step in the shipping company’s current business operational models today, we can very quickly answer those critical questions.  And, from there, we can define new processes and new information with confidence that we won’t create conflicting actions or misleading data assets.  By further aligning business processes with process orchestration implementations and physical database systems, we can streamline the execution of operational changes to that shipping company’s IT systems giving them thier operational process intelligence as rapidly as possible.


And SAP has the technology for this today.  Using SAP’s PowerDesigner, and unique Link and Sync technology, we can integrate data models with process models.  PowerDesigner can then generate models into NetWeaver BPM (using BPMN exchange) and into the SAP HANA Platform, for round-trip development.  By linking information architecture with business processes, we can reach decision consensus faster, automate communication between all disciplines involved in any business change and transformation, as well as reduce the associated risk, time and cost.

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      Author's profile photo dirk jaeckel
      dirk jaeckel

      David !

      this sounds wonderful.....

      ... in theory, but SAP needs to get their homework done and make PD a 95% bugfree tool.

      I´m working with PD on a daily basis mainly for ModelDriven Development and there is no day where i dont find a new bug! And some of them are so massiv that you ask yourself if ever someone from the Delevloperteam has tested this functionalty. And even when you report bugs it takes ages until they are fixed, some never, or you got closed your incident as fixed, you retest and find out that there has nothing be done.

      I need about 40% of my working time to correct/enhance scripts PD is not able to generate properly, thats a model driven nightmare.



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hello Dirk,

      Thank you for your comment. I can assure you quality is a top priority for
      SAP PowerDesigner, and we have a long history of high responsiveness to issues
      reported into support. We are committed to continuous improvement and

      As I am sure you understand, the ability to make perfect code from a model
      is a very complex and challenging task, and only one of the many benefits of
      architecture modeling with a product like SAP PowerDesigner.

      The focus of my blog above is more on the value of connecting viewpoints and
      perspectives together for better communication and collaboration between business
      and IT stakeholders, to use that communication to increase agility and reduce
      risk when necessary changes are being made throughout the enterprise. I agree
      that the connection to code generation is a natural one from this, and one SAP
      PowerDesigner is supporting.

      Please feel free to share with me directly ( any
      cases you have so that I may alert development to your concerns, and please let
      us know when you do find issues so we can address them promptly.

      We are proud of our leadership position in the marketplace, and the value we
      bring to the enterprise. I look forward to addressing your concerns.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I'm with Dirk here.  I've been a 15 year user with a background in BPM/Business Process Engineering.  There are tons' of tools out there that fit in the BPM related space and moving from process to code is a (too) big step for practical use.  Most organizations will never get there.  But they will write code.

      Stick to what PD is best at, fix the bugs, and make it current.  I'm a diehard user, but for .Net and SQL Server, more and more PD becomes a tool I use more for documentation and less for engineering.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hello Randy,

      You are right to call out the path from a business documenting a process to complex systems development is a large gap. We are finding many organizations are moving away from the notion that a business can create a drawing of something, and then IT can automatically implement that in a system or application.

      What we are working towards is something much more defined. A well-documented business process can be transformed into a technical business process, which can be refined in a tool like SAP PowerDesigner, using the BPMN notation.  We have many organizations worldwide that are able to take that BPMN definition and take it to a development tool for a process orchestration engine like SAP NetWeaver/BPM. This is a well-defined domain, and quite different from defining a workflow that then becomes a .NET or java application.

      The organizations we have successfully helped to improve have found that the best benefit they realized from SAP PowerDesigner was the ability to integrate viewpoints and perspectives into a single architecture repository, making it easier to understand the impact of change, to develop a roadmap that had the least impact to business continuity, and to drive better decision consensus among multiple stakeholders.

      Most organizations we are working with are dealing with complex systems, multiple business units that need to collaborate, and suffering from information problems that are not related to operational systems performance and optimization, but rather the lack of visibility to what information is there, what is the quality and reliability of that information, and how it relates to current and future state business needs.

      Being able to have tight integration with development time and run time metadata is of course an important part of this architecture perspective, and as such we are completely committed to continuous improvement in reverse engineering and code generation from SAP PowerDesigner, however the bigger picture is also important to our customers that need an architecture approach to manage business transformation.

      Please feel free to reach me directly ( if you have specific issues you would like to call to my attention. I look forward to helping you conitnue to be successful with SAP PowerDesigner.