Making Big Data Useful with BPM

Nothing can stop the deluge of data, so IT must be savvy and implement solutions that target critical business processes and have the technology to successfully parse and engage with meaningful data sets to stay competitive.

By Miguel Valdés Faura

The growth of big data continues to accelerate. In fact, some analysts expect the amount of digital information to explode to 2.7 trillion gigabytes in 2012. It is clear that businesses have become inundated with so much information that it's hard to make sense of all of it. Business intelligence and advanced analytics promised a solution that would make it easier for businesses to parse the data and present the most salient data points from company databases.

Does this mean we've come closer to knowing how to use this data? Not necessarily. Simply having access to data and pretty graphs doesn't mean that the business is now more competitive. What enterprises need is a process that helps activate the data in an intuitive and easy way.

Enter business process management (BPM) solutions, which make a process explicit and draws or represents it in a model -- a flow chart, for example. In the field of BPM, there are standards with specific symbols used to model business processes, including ways to distinguish between steps, tasks, or activities performed by people and those that are automated.

Let's take a look at how BPM can help activate the data accumulated from a Web analytics solution.

At their core, Web analytics tools measure, collect, analyze, and report on Internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage. In addition to being used as a tool for measuring Web traffic, Web analytics can also be used for business and market research and to assess and improve the effectiveness of a Web site. Web analytics applications can help companies measure the results of traditional print advertising campaigns. For example, by helping to estimate how traffic to a Web site changes after the launch of a new advertising campaign. Web analytics can also provide information about the number of visitors to a Web site, the number of page views. It can also be useful in market research by gauging traffic and popularity trends online.

The rise in Web analytics use has partly been driven by the consumerization of IT. With the advent of Facebook and LinkedIn and their massive treasure trove of useful consumer and business data, companies realized that this valuable user data and relationships could be mined by implementing Web analytics solutions.

Process improvement is based on the idea that in order to improve something, first one needs to understand the current situation, then look at where and how the process might be improved -- streamlined, performed more quickly, automated, and so on. Continuous improvement, total quality management, Six Sigma, Lean, Kaizen -- all use some type of process definition, analysis, change, and evaluation of results with the ultimate goals of both reducing costs and increasing quality.

In executable BPM, the process can be drawn or designed graphically with the BPM software, then executed or run as one might run a software application. For example, business leaders can diagram a business process in which a member of the sales team is directly notified of a user's online activity if it meets certain characteristics, such as downloading a white paper or checking the "Contact Us" page. With BPM, an automatic customer tracking profile can be set up in the company's CRM system to begin a history log of interaction with the customer with the end goal of ultimately closing a lead based on customer behavior assessed by Web analytics platforms.

Implementing BPM solutions together with business intelligence solutions and big data tooling and techniques makes Web analytics more powerful when dealing with big volumes of data. By abstracting the business logic layer and setting up automatic processes, businesses can eliminate the need for technical code re-writes and redundancies within business processes.

Usually the biggest measurable benefits from implementing BPM solutions are labor cost savings and speed. The latter is harder to quantify in dollars because savings are often indirect. In lending, insurance claims and underwriting, telecommunications provisioning, and similar high-volume, labor-intensive processes, BPM yields huge labor cost savings between 30 and 50 percent and even greater cycle-time savings. For example, consumer loan turnaround can be reduced from 2 weeks to 2 hours. The savings in time and cost when working with processes related to big data can be even higher because businesses deal with exponentially more data than in the processes where BPM has traditionally been used.

The amount of data we're dealing with today is going to continue exploding at an exponential rate. Although nothing can be done to stop the deluge of data, businesses have to become savvy and implement solutions that will target critical business processes and have the technology in place to successfully parse and engage with meaningful data sets to stay competitive.

Miguel Valdés Faura is the CEO and co-founder of BonitaSoft, a global provider of business process management (BPM) software that provides commercial services and support to more than 350 customers. BonitaSoft has offices in France, the United States, and China, and recently recorded their 1,000,000th download of Bonita Open Solution. Follow Miguel on Twitter @MiguelValdes.