Survey Says: BPM Goes Mainstream

BPM has long had an obscure relationship to BI

Business performance management (BPM) has long had an oblique relationship to BI—is BPM a subset of BI, is BI a subset of BPM, or is it something else entirely? In spite of its confusing pedigree, the technology is going mainstream.

Last month, for example, BI giant (and BPM proponent) Cognos Inc. situated BI squarely in the context of performance management, suggesting that BI as it’s typically been practiced is but a piece of a “holistic” approach to performance management. Cognos, not surprisingly, suggested that its scorecarding and planning tools comprise the other pieces of a holistic BPM solution. In May, Microsoft touted its first-ever dedicated BPM offering, code-named Maestro.

This month, OLAP specialist Applix, Inc. published the results of a survey that identifies a surge in the use of BPM tools among executives. According to Applix—whose TM1 OLAP engine and analytic platform is often tapped as a tool for financial planning—almost three-quarters of survey respondents cited “management reporting” as one of the ways in which they use TM1. That makes management reporting the second most popular TM1 application, behind TM1’s bread-and-butter front-budgeting and planning niche.

Applix says this dovetails nicely with the results of its annual customer survey, which found that BI and BPM applications are gaining ground outside of finance.

It’s also consistent with research from professional services firm Knightsbridge Solutions, which announced survey results in which almost two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents cited actionable and/or operational business intelligence as their first or second most-relevant issues for 2005. On a related note, Knightsbridge says that more than half of survey respondents cited data quality as their next most relevant issue, with 54 percent naming data-quality issues as either their first or second most-relevant concern.

In a certain sense, then, executives seem to be embracing BI in the form of BPM. “Executives are embracing BPM as a path to success in far greater numbers,” said Dave Menninger, vice president of worldwide marketing and product management with Applix, in a statement. “Initially, adoption outside Finance was slow and limited to 'best practices' customers, but as more executives struggle to incorporate into their decision making all the factors that impact their business, we're seeing a rapid rise in the use of BPM for management reporting.”

Take the results of the Applix survey, for example, which mostly concerned the company’s own TM1 customer base. Applix claims that nearly half (40 percent) of respondents use their TM1-based applications to support core business processes or operational analytics.

While Applix concedes that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 hasn’t proven to be quite the market force predicted by many industry watchers, the company’s customers are increasingly tapping TM1 for statutory reporting. All told, officials say, more than a quarter use TM1 for this purpose.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.