Monday, March 8, 2010

The Relevance of Simulation in Today’s BPM World

The way most BPM solutions approach improving any process is by first understanding the process, then analyzing it; and this is generally followed by process simulation which allows the business to visualize possible effects of the change/s. This is followed by the process improvement stage and finally, the automation of the process in question. The question being, can BPM solutions do without the simulation stage?

Well, we do know that the BPM sphere has seen rapid growth since its inception, and changing trends are now becoming increasingly commonplace. Processes are definitely more automated now as compared to a couple of years ago, and the focus of such solutions is becoming more and more client based. However, with the focus shifting on the needs of individual clients, providing relevant solutions does raise the expense factor to a certain extent.

The Traditional View of Simulation in BPM:

A number of people still see simulation as an integral part of BPM solutions. The rationale is that since you have a BPM model in place, you have access to data that indicates exactly what happens within the given process, and this gives you the data for your simulation model. But for a complete understanding of this aspect, taking a step backward offers more insight.

The Process Analysis Stage:

Since this is the stage that precedes the simulation stage, let’s see how it fits into the scheme of things starting from here. Analyzing and optimizing a process is usually overlooked by the process leader and it is this role that looks to identify any problems as well as make any suggestions. This is done after having gone through the entire process, its performance, as well as all associated data; and the aim is to better the overall process performance.

Also, since a majority of the businesses looking at BPM solutions aren’t in a position to get more manpower, BPM solutions tend to offer tools that allow businesses to test various alternatives.

Process Simulation:

Since there is a need to test various alternatives, many BPM solutions do incorporate simulation tools which allow businesses to compare an assortment of scenarios. These tools essentially run using statistical analysis of factors like resource utilization, queue lengths, average task completion, durations, etc. and can be an effective method to test probable situations. However, a simulation tool is generally very complex in nature, with every statistical link requiring checking. This can lead to a lot of complexity within the process instead, which is against the most widely accepted philosophy of BPM – making processes simple and transparent.

The Process Improvement Stage:

Some BPM solutions come with optimization tools which allow a business to establish the best path towards the improvement of the process. This works in addressing the simulation stage’s natural glitches; wherein, as opposed to an analyst determining the areas that can be improved upon, the tool would actually give you feasible options.

Besides, comparing simulated scenarios isn’t always beneficial to business growth. This is simply because different business managers would look to measure different metrics/components in reaching to effective conclusions.

So while I’m not writing off the role of simulation completely, I am certainly of the opinion that more cost effectual and efficient BPM solutions can be offered without the use of simulation tools.

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