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Getting Big Value from Big Processes

SAP Operational Process Intelligence Powered by SAP HANA Helps Businesses Achieve Operational Excellence and Agility

by Peter McNulty and Dr. Harsh Jegadeesan | SAPinsider, Volume 15, Issue 1

January 1, 2014

End-to-end business processes that deliver value to customers share all the defining properties of big data, such as volume, variety, velocity, and veracity.  These end-to-end business processes help provide context, a value-driver for organizations that can leverage this contextualized data. This article takes an in-depth look at SAP Operational Process Intelligence built on SAP HANA, which acts as a decision support system for line-of-business users by providing them with end-to-end process visibility, insights on phases and milestones of the big process, and real-time metrics and KPIs. The leading artifact in SAP Operational Process Intelligence is the business scenario, which represents the end-to-end business process value chain.

 

For enterprises around the world, the backbone of daily operations is the end-to-end processes that bring strategy to life, generate business value, and determine customer success. These processes, which we call “big processes,” are business scenarios focused on delivering value to customers. They possess all the defining properties of big data — such as volume, variety, velocity, and veracity — and represent another important dimension: value.

Companies can only meaningfully leverage big data if it is contextualized, and the big processes that represent the end-to-end value chain provide that context. From a technical perspective, big processes comprise and automate several functional areas that often span multiple on-premise and cloud-based applications and systems. It is common for businesses to employ process automation middleware technologies to provide seamless connectivity for process execution across these disparate systems. From an organizational perspective, big processes involve many people that typically cross structural and global boundaries.

Modern business operations generate massive volumes of data — both operational data from multiple business systems and streaming data from sources such as clickstreams, machine data, sensors, and scanners. This data needs to be contextualized around big processes to make the information actionable for line-of-business (LoB) users. These users then can tap into this contextualized process information in real time, collaborate effectively with colleagues, and make the right decisions to reach business milestones and goals. Improving the quality and timeliness of operational decisions leads toward more effective business operations and superior outcomes. A single poor operational decision may have negligible business consequences, but the culmination of hundreds of sub-optimal daily operational decisions can have a profound negative impact on the bottom line. Forward-thinking companies are realizing a competitive advantage by empowering their frontline staff through intelligent business operations, thereby enabling them to understand, anticipate, and act ahead of the competition.

Big processes are everywhere. We see them in industries like telecom (customer onboarding), logistics (shipment tracking), and retail (assortment and replenishment management). We also see core processes —  such as order to cash, procure to pay, and plan to inventory — that are adapted to specific industry solutions as examples of big processes. One inherent characteristic of a big process is the unavoidable complexity of managing the underlying heterogeneous process architectures. No single process, application, or system controls and coordinates all the activities encompassed in the big process. IT has technical monitoring and diagnostic tools to ensure that the big processes’ components such as systems, applications, networks, and databases adhere to technical service-level agreements (SLAs). But these tools offer a relatively narrow view and are difficult to correlate to higher-level processes. Lacking are the real-time analytics that give LoB workers immediate awareness of what’s happening across the enterprise. This long-standing problem forces staff to operate in a costly reactive mode. SAP Operational Process Intelligence powered by SAP HANA overcomes this challenge to allow for intelligent business operations.

Inside the Solution Architecture

SAP Operational Process Intelligence is built natively on SAP HANA, and acts as a decision support system for LoB users by providing them end-to-end process visibility, insights on phases and milestones of the big process, real-time metrics, and key performance indicators (KPIs). The leading artifact in SAP Operational Process Intelligence is the business scenario, which represents the end-to-end business process value chain.

Search, Assemble, and Configure the End-to-End Process

A solution expert configures the business scenario during the design time by using an add-on for SAP HANA Studio. This add-on uses a business process model and notation (BPMN) 2.0-based editor to enable a solution architect to search, discover, and assemble process fragments to build the scenario into an end-to-end flow from the discovered process fragments from the participating SAP and non-SAP systems.

SAP Operational Process Intelligence provides out-of-the box support to discover running processes from SAP Business Workflow, SAP Business Suite transactions via process observer models, SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management, and message flows (also called mediated message exchanges) from SAP NetWeaver Process Integration. Non-SAP process events and data can be incorporated into the scenario using either an observed process (an observation model for a process modeled with standard BPMN 2.0 notation) or event-enabled DataStore objects. These third-party process events need to be based on the open standard Business Process Analytics Format (BPAF) process event format.

Define Phases, Milestones, and Key Process Indicators

The business scenario introduces the concepts of phases and milestones that serve to simplify the technical process view and offer a more meaningful value-stream view for the LoB users. The phases and milestones are configured based on process events that are emitted from the end-to-end flow. Significant business events typically occur when a process instance crosses functional areas or systems, making them ideal candidates to delineate the start and end events for phases. The solution expert will then define the key metrics and process indicators for the scenario such as cycle times and durations to help the LoB users achieve specific business goals and SLAs.

Supporting Intelligent Business Operations

The co-deployment of SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration and SAP Operational Process Intelligence on the SAP HANA platform is now supported with the SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration 7.4 release. This support offers many advantages. First, there is no need to replicate the SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration events, as they are instantly available (no latency) for consumption by SAP Operational Process Intelligence. Second, SAP will soon be delivering SAP HANA-based virtual data models and accelerators for SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration in the areas of message monitoring, user-defined search, and SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management (SAP NetWeaver BPM) analytics. There will also be a single end-user interface as SAP NetWeaver BPM tasks will be incorporated into Space.me. Users will also be able to invoke an SAP NetWeaver BPM process directly from Space.me, allowing them to execute a remediation process to mitigate an SLA violation. These synergistic developments deliver on SAP’s promise of insight to action.

SAP aims to support big process automation (using orchestration and in-tegration capabilities) and operational intelligence, and believes that its integrated product offering will be the platform of choice for SAP and non-SAP customers to embark on this journey of adding intelligence to their business operations and achieving operational excellence and agility.

Build and Deploy the Business Scenario

After configuring the business scenario, the solution expert can build and deploy it. SAP Operational Process Intelligence automatically generates optimized and native SAP HANA runtime artifacts such as calculation views, correlation procedures, and OData services that will be used to expose operational workspaces to LoB users.

Process life-cycle events (such as starting a transaction or completing a workflow step) and message flow events are generated during the runtime execution of the big process. However, solution experts will need to event-enable the SAP Business Suite transactional applications beforehand using a process observer model to surface the process events. SAP Operational Process Intelligence uses real-time data provisioning tools such as SAP Landscape Transformation, SAP Sybase Replication Server, and SAP Sybase ESP (a complex event platform capability) to transfer real-time process events from underlying applications in the landscape into SAP HANA. SAP Operational Process Intelligence leverages the processing speed of SAP HANA to correlate and contextualize the event streams into a semantic process context with metrics and key process indicators for the consumption by Space.me.

Space.me is an HTML5-based operational workspace for business users — process operators and owners — to track and manage their scenarios. Space.me provides business users personalized role-based access to allow them to focus on what’s important in their areas of responsibility and control. The phase view shows an aggregated overview of all the running instances of the process grouped into phases with a familiar visual color clue (red, yellow, and green) indicating the performance status relative to the predefined KPI and SLA thresholds.

This overview provides a real-time view of business operations at a glance along with the associated metrics indicating what’s working as expected as well as the potential problem areas that are in need of attention. Users can proactively subscribe to indicators to get a notification when the indicators have deviated from the defined normal operating ranges or if the process is running behind schedule. Deeper problem analysis is available by navigating to the generated analytical and performance views to explore trend information or by drilling down into the details of an outlying process instance (see Figure 1).

SAP Operational Process Intelligence enables business users to solve problems by creating collaborative tasks to remediate issues. Users can create private to-dos as personal reminders for any needed follow-up activities. They can also augment the real-time visualizations because the open solution provides OData services for easy data exploration and consumption by business intelligence client tools.

Figure 1 — An SAP Operational Process Intelligence workspace provides real-time process visibility to line-of-business users and enables faster and better-informed operational decisions

Reaching Your Destination

SAP Operational Process Intelligence was designed to be the business navigation system (like a GPS) for LoB users: guiding them to their destination (business goal) with situational awareness, knowing exactly where they are and how fast they are going, correcting for the unexpected detours, and predicting when they will reach the destination. Big processes are vital to business success, so safeguarding these processes should be a top priority.

SAP Operational Process Intelligence powered by SAP HANA delivers on intelligent business operations, allowing companies to achieve the operational excellence and agility needed to stay ahead of the competition.

For more information, see www.saphana.com/community/learn/solutions/operational-process-intelligence and http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-35420.

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Peter McNulty
Peter McNulty

Peter McNulty (peter.mcnulty@sap.com) is Director in the product management organization at SAP Labs, focusing on several business process management topic areas. He is an SAP Mentor and an SAP Point of Contact for ASUG’s Business Integration, Technology & Infrastructure (BITI) Communities. Peter holds a master’s degree in computer information science from La Salle University.


Dr. Harsh Jegadeesan, SAP
Dr. Harsh Jegadeesan

Dr. Harsh Jegadeesan (harshavardhan.jegadeesan@sap.com) is the Product Manager for SAP Operational Process Intelligence. Harsh works in the integration and orchestration area for the SAP HANA platform.



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