Gaining Visibility

While I always take vendor postings with a grain of salt, David Bressler of Progress Software had a very good post entitled, “We’re Running Out of Words II.” Cut through the vendor-specific stuff, and the message is that routing all of your requests through a centralized process management hub in order to gain visibility may not be a good thing. In his example, he tells the story of a company that took some existing processes and, in order to gain visibility into the execution of the process steps, externalized the process orchestration into a BPM tool. In doing so, the performance of the overall process took a big hit.

To me, scenarios like this are indicative of one major problem: we don’t think about management capabilities. Solution development is overwhelmingly focused on getting functional capabilities out the door. Obviously, it should be, but more often than not there is no instrumentation. How can we possibly claim that a solution delivers business value over time if there is no instrumentation to provide metrics? Independent of whether external process management is involved, gateway-based interception is used versus agent-based approaches, etc. we need to begin with the generation of metrics. If you’re not generating metrics, you’re going to have poor, or even worse, no visibility.

Unfortunately, all too often, we’re only focused on problem management and resolution, and the absence of metrics only comes to light if something goes wrong and we need to diagnose the situation. To this, I come back to my earlier statement. How can we have any confidence in saying that things are working properly and providing value without metrics?

Interestingly, once you have metrics, the relationships (and potentially collisions) between the worlds of enterprise system management, business process management, web service management, business activity monitoring, and business intelligence start to come together, as I’ve discussed in the past. I’ve seen one company take metrics from a BPM tool and placing them into their data warehouse for analysis and reporting from their business intelligence system. Ultimately, I’d love to see a differentiation based upon what you do with the data, rather than on the mere ability to collect the data.

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