Nowadays, there are two topics that I’m very passionate about. The first is the fact that spring is finally here and it’s time to dust off my clubs to take in my few first few rounds of golf. The second topic that I’m currently passionate about is the research I’ve been doing around the connection between big data and big process.

While most enterprise architects are familiar with the promise — and, unfortunately, the hype — of big data, very few are familiar with the newer concept of “big process.” Forrester first coined this term back in August of 2011 to describe the shift we see in organizations moving from siloed approaches to BPM and process improvement to more holistic approaches that stitch all the pieces together to drive business transformation.

Our working definition for big process is:

“Methods and techniques that provide a more holistic approach to process improvement and process transformation initiatives.”

As we pushed deeper into our big process research, we found that the relationship between big data and big process is crucial to driving real business value and improved business outcomes. Specifically, we found that the connection between big data and big process revolved around the “Four Cs” of:

  • Customers. You’d have to be hiding under a rock not to see that improving the customer experience is a top priority for business and IT executives. However, in order to improve the customer experience, business and IT leaders must first mine oceans of operational data to pinpoint exactly what must be done to improve the customer experience and underlying business processes.
  • Chaos. Enterprise architects and business process professionals need to come to terms with the fact that today’s business processes are not as neat, tidy, and structured as we’d been led to believe in the 20th century. Today’s business processes are chaotic and require an  understanding of the relationships between process and data in order to be able to drive better business outcomes.
  • Context. This term is quickly becoming the most overused buzzword within IT and business circles. However overused or misused, enterprise architects and business process pros must begin to build business and technology architectures that glean and intuit deeper meaning across the relationship of business events, operational data, and operational performance.
  • Cloud. In our research, we found many companies looking to push core business processes into hybrid on-premises/off-premises configurations. This means that some parts of a particular value stream might live in the cloud, while other parts of the value stream might live on internal infrastructure. While this is not a new concept, we found that most companies exploring these hybrid configurations overlooked the need to maintain data relationships across a fragmented and splintered value stream.

As companies begin to ramp up their big data initiatives, we’re finding that leading enterprise architects also see the need to bring in the big process perspective. And even for organizations that might not be focused on big data quite yet, there is still the need to begin thinking from a big process perspective to better understand the relationships and impacts between operational data and business process performance.

What do you think? How important is it to your organization to make the connection between the data that lives across different packaged applications and systems to the broader end-to-end business process? How important is it to reconcile process improvement efforts with data improvement and business intelligence initiatives?

We will explore specific strategies and emerging best practices for connecting big data and big process initiatives during my Emerging Technologies session at Forrester’s upcoming Enterprise Architecture Forums in Las Vegas and Paris. Hope to see you there!