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Monday, January 11, 2010

Why businesses must evolve their business processes to be highly responsive, dynamic and predictive – or they will cease to be competitive

Posted by John Bates

Today Progress Software announced the acquisition of Savvion http://web.progress.com/inthenews/progress-software-co-01112010.html. I believe this heralds the beginning of a very exciting phase for Progress Software. Now Progress has become a leader in Business Process Management (BPM). But more than that, combined with our other solutions, Progress is now uniquely able to empower businesses to be operationally responsive – through responsive, dynamic and predictive business processes. And this is critical to keep modern businesses competitive.

You might wonder about the journey Progress went through to realize what the market needed. It was all about understanding the emerging needs of our customers and where they needed their businesses to go. The part of my job I enjoy the most is spending time with customers and understanding what pain points they have - with the ultimate goal of working with them to address the pain and making them highly competitive.

Over the last couple of years I have been hearing more and more from customers about the need to be operationally responsive. For example, many customers have expressed their desire to proactively – and often in real-time - address the needs of their customers and respond to the behavior of their competitors. The goals are to win new business, increase customer satisfaction and triumph over their competitors. These findings hold true whether the customer be in banking, insurance, communications, travel, transport, logistics, energy, gaming or many other industries. It could be British Airways ensuring their high value customers are looked after first in the event of a flight delay, or wireless carrier 3Italia pushing real-time offers to their customers based on their profile, activity and location, or maritime logistics provider Royal Dirkzwager dynamically adjusting the course and speed of a container ship to optimize fuel usage, based on weather conditions and port berth availability.

Operational responsiveness is thus about being highly responsive to opportunities and threats – and even anticipating such scenarios. Market research supports what I’ve been hearing, such as the recent survey by Vanson Bourne http://web.progress.com/en/inthenews/companies-stuck-in-o-10062009.html – suggesting Operational Responsiveness has moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have.

There are a number of business facing solutions that have shown great promise in addressing operational responsiveness. One of those is Business Transaction Assurance (BTA). This enables businesses to discover their business processes and gain visibility on the effectiveness of these business processes – even if they are built in a wide variety of heterogeneous technologies and work across legacy applications. BTA non-disruptively discovers business processes – without any modification to existing applications – and monitors to ensure processes run to completion. BTA also discovers bottlenecks and hotspots in the processes – enabling businesses to understand just how efficiently they run.

Another important solution is Business or Complex Event Processing (BEP or CEP). This enables business users to model the detection of and reaction to patterns indicating business opportunities and threats in real-time. Examples could be an opportunity to up-sell to a customer on the web-site now (opportunity) or risk exceeding a key level (threat).

And then of course there’s Business Process Management (BPM). This enables business users to model and execute a business process flow. BPM is also widely used for Business Process Improvement (BPI) – the re-engineering of (parts of) existing processes to improve their effectiveness.

The really cool thing we realized in talking with our customers is what happens when you use BTA, BEP/CEP and BPM together. Suddenly businesses are empowered to discover how effective they run, to detect opportunities and threats dynamically and to invoke business processes in response. The business becomes dynamic and responsive. Business users can take control and model the behavior they want their business to exhibit under certain circumstances, and through dashboards they can track the effectiveness of the business. Over time, the areas of the business processes that should be improved can also be detected.

Progress already has leading products in BTA and BEP/CEP with Actional and Apama. Progress chose Savvion to complete the story for a number of reasons. Savvion has a history of innovation and is a leading pure-play BPM provider. But Savvion also has a very rich platform, which includes not just BPM modeling and execution, but also an event engine, a business rules engine, a document management system and an analytics engine. The fact that Savvion enables business processes that respond to events means it immediately works well with Actional and Apama. And with high performance, scalability and availability, Savvion fits perfectly into Progress – where we pride ourselves that all of our products exhibit these characteristics.

In summary, Progress is now a best-of-breed BPM vendor – and not just at the departmental level – but at the enterprise level. But we’re also more than that. Our goal is to enable operational responsiveness and ensure our customers gain competitive advantage through the power of responsive, dynamic and predictive business processes.

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