Posted by: Adam Deane | 12/01/2012

CEP: Complex Event Processing

CEPMost BPM implementations are still very basic process solutions, and most organisations have not yet reached the level of BPM maturity that we would like them to be at.

BPM projects rarely grow larger that a couple of business processes that provide a solution for a specific business pain.
BPM as a business process management platform across the enterprise has still not been widely adopted.

Most customer BPM requirements remain very basic.
The functionality provided by BPM software vendors in the market is more than enough for most customers (in fact some customer implementations require you to dumb down the solution, as not to scare the end users with over-sophistication)

It takes time for an organisation to get to the level of BPM maturity that enables you to bring in the bigger guns.

Complex Event Processing (CEP) is about identifying an issue caused by multiple process events, analysing its impact, and kicking off a new process to resolve the issue.

CEP identifies events and trends that require immediate attention that would otherwise go unnoticed in the structured world of BPM.
CEP uses a number of techniques: event-pattern detection, relationship detection, business rule detection, and uses real-time data to correlate against historical data.

Now, this all might sound like Case management or ACM,
but instead of enabling the end-user to dynamically route a process,
CEP enables the system to generate a subsequent process instance.

Take for example a cable TV call centre:
BPM would be used for structured processes, like customer credit approval.
ACM would be used for unstructured processes, like customer service complaints.
CEP would be used to find irregularities in the processes, like an escalation when multiple service complaints are raised from one neighbourhood.

CEP fits organisations with mature BPM programmes already up and running.
An organisation new to BPM would find it hard to see so far down the line.
CEP is currently embraced only by a couple of BPM vendors.
Unlike other areas (like ECM and ACM) that BPM has moved into, CEP is still an undiscovered territory.


  1. I’d be cautious as to what CEP does or doesn’t enable. Like with most things it depends on how you use it: Yet it’s good to see BPM losing a bit of its parish view (again).

  2. Adam – I’m glad to see you addressing CEP as part of BPM capability. The man who wrote the book on CEP is David Luckham, “The Power of Events” and he was fundamental in TIBCO’s extention of the Enterprise Services Bus (ESB). ESB technology provides the infrastructure for treating messages to/from/across systems as “events” and in reat-time providing a variety of services such as event pattern matching or CEP. The implications for BPM are significant as CEP provides enterprises far greater control of managing risk as well as customer interaction; utilizing predictive analytics to greatly reduce adverse events. I go into some detail here: Good stuff, Adam.

  3. Before rushing to embrace CEP and bringing it into the fold of BPM, I think it is important to understand how agreeable would organisations be to allowing a system to automatically trigger processes based on occurrrence of multiple events- whether directly related or seemingly related. For organisations from industries where such capabilities will mean the difference between survival (or growth) and death, it may be easily accepted, in others it maybe difficult to accept, as yet. One is reminded of the fact that even after 20-odd years of ERP becoming manistream, some companies are still hesitant to depend on the numbers churned up by their MRP planning engines and continue to rely on the systems they had been using before. In our rush to cater to ‘early adopters’ of technologies, sometimes IT folks ignore the dilemmas faced by a section of customers, preferring instead to ignore them and their concerns wholly.

  4. CEP is definitely for the mature BPM organizations. Many companies pass off the idea that you can have CEP without BPM, or even without an ESB. It is amazing what some of the S/W Companies have told us in relation to how they can make CEP work for any size firm, regardless of where they are in their BPM Maturity level. It is nice to hear this from someone else, so I know I am not crazy. You don’t just go from looking point-to-point systems to CEP overnight. I think many people don’t understand the true value in CEP, and when and where it is appropriate. Obviously the ‘Trade Floor’ can utilize it heavily, and I have seen great success in retail as well, but CEP is not for everyone. Do you agree?

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