The fact is that more than a few corners of the marketplace know very little about the difference between BPM (business process management) and what’s typically called CEP (complex event processing). These two concepts are very different and understanding those differences in today’s business climate will mean success or failure for many organizations.
Complex event processing
Starting with the lesser known of the two, CEP technology gives an organization the ability to know the discreet things that happen (and don’t happen) in both their customer’s environment and their own. These events happen in isolation or in combination and need to be identified, monitored and correlated as part of making the best decisions. The techniques and tools of CEP include analytics (for determining what’s important to know), listening software (to collect data from multiple sources of information), pattern matching software (to spot those events that have meaning) and a rules engine (to execute when events correlate and require action).
CEP technology is the ever-watchful eye of an organization that can track a constantly changing world to spot opportunity and risk. It pulls from streams of Big Data that are flying by as well as reaching into historical records to see past events that give context to the moment.
Business process management
BPM, on the other hand, is the coordination and orchestration of process flows that determine how an organization’s assets (man or machine) work together. The goal of great BPM is to have a governed way to drive efficiency up and operating costs down while balancing automation and the output of human beings. BPM governs this complex system while providing the ability to understand, measure and improve upon work and results.
Getting BPM right is the only way to undergo transformation activities, mergers and acquisitions, and to extend an organization’s work out to partners, suppliers and distribution channels.
How CEP and BPM are similar
Confusion between the two arrives from the fact that there are components in common, like business rules and decision management. Both require visibility and situational awareness and may both include business activity monitoring. Both are model-driven in their development in their most efficient form and both have loose coupling with backend systems, like supply chain or finance applications. At a superficial level, the confusion is understandable.
How they are very different
But at a deeper level, the similarities end. First and foremost, BPM involves managing sequential activities and is especially geared toward workflows and getting things done. The decisions that are made along those workflows are tightly coupled to the intended outcomes.
CEP, on the other hand, gives an ability for an organization to aggregate nearly any event and to create automated processes from those events, not the other way around. Rules aren’t used to determine workflows, but instead are a way to classify (and reclassify) what is being discovered through an event or series of events. CEP is more situational and less coupled to an order of activities. CEP is used to react more quickly to threats and opportunities and is more flexible than BPM for this purpose.
There you have it…a definition of the difference between two of the most important technologies any organization can deploy…especially in globalized business and especially in marketplaces that change frequently.