Business Process Management for Transportation Operations: Part 2

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

This is Part 2 of a two-part blog on the application of business process management (BPM) for transportation operations for the Smart City.  In Part 1, we identified the transportation silos in a typical city and some of the problems they cause by restricting interoperability and coordination across jurisdictional borders.  In this Part 2, we present some examples of BPM for mobility operations and some of the potential benefits and improved efficiencies.

In their publication titled “Handbook on Business Process Management”[i], Rosemann and vom Brocke summarize six core elements of BPM.  In Part 1 of this blog, we presented Schneider Electric’s five basic steps to creating the Smart City.  Table 1 below presents these two lists side by side.

Core Elements of BPM Steps to a Smart City
Strategic Alignment Setting the vision
Governance Bringing in the technology
Methods Working on the integration
Information Technology Adding innovation
People Driving collaboration

It is not coincidental that these elements of BPM align very closely to the approach outlined above for achieving a smart city, which, in effect, is about managing the business of the smart city.  Both methodologies focus on establishing a smarter way of doing things.

One of the goals of a smart city is to integrate operations across all of a city’s “silos” or verticals within the organization. A key element in achieving this goal is technology that supports a common view of city systems, from transportation to utilities to public services and security. Where relevant, this technology may involve sensors and communications, integrating systems, and supporting analytics and intelligence that create situational awareness. Many cities are well on their way to building the basics of a smart city by selecting technology and/or new processes that improve efficiency and deliver more value to their citizens.

In the transportation arena, process management basics typically include cameras, traffic sensors, dynamic messages signs, and smart traffic signal controllers – all managed from a transportation management center (TMC). Pre-determined or automatically generated traffic incident response plans add a higher level of intelligence to TMC operations. An emerging technology is the use of decision support systems that provide guidance on the selection of the most appropriate response strategy in complex situations.

At a very basic level, a well-designed decision support system (DSS) is very much like a BPM system. The DSS incorporates transportation strategies and provides expert system rules, sometimes even analytic and traffic modeling capabilities, to prove quantitative support to its recommendations. By expanding on the DSS concept toward a full-featured BPM approach, the TMC can address factors beyond transportation – to support decision making across agencies, or verticals.

Consider, for example, the number of city agencies involved with crisis management, such as that involved with the super storm, Sandy, in October, 2012. For transportation alone, there were dozens of TMCs and thousands of miles of highway and transit facilities affected. There were no pre-determined response plans for dealing with the impact of the storm. There were, however, business processes and procedures that were called upon by the managers in every one of these TMCs, as well as by the governmental agencies for all the jurisdictions impacted.

Now, imagine that these business processes are supported by a BPM system that leverages the technologies of data sharing, modeling, analytics, communication, and visualization to present a common view of the situation to all key stakeholders and decision makers. In addition, BPM can automate basic protocols and work flows, enabling decision makers to focus on the necessary ad hoc response strategies to the challenges that an unforeseen event like Hurricane Sandy presents.

The following example takes place in a typical traffic management center dealing with a vehicle crash, blocking several lanes of traffic.  The initial, basic response involves steps for emergency traffic management, but additional resources, such as fire, medical and hazardous materials responders, are soon required.  With an appropriate BPM tool at their disposal, t is not necessary for the TMC operators to know all the protocols of each agency – the system takes care of the notifications and also monitors the status of their response.   The figure below shows a simple work flow in common BPM notation.  These steps can be as complicated as needed and include conditional executions and even branching to related work flows.

BPM Flows






Figure 1.  Business Process Management Work Flow for Basic Incident Response Incorporates Collaboration Across Multiple Agencies.

Business Process Management is both a policy tool and an information technology system. It does not require replacement of existing legacy systems; instead, it enables process and work flow among those systems. BPM supports a city’s business operations by enabling holistic management and the optimal use of city resources. BPM assures that everyone has consistent and complete information, so that key decision makers can approve, disapprove, revise or delegate key decisions and actions.


[i] vom Brocke, J.HKVJH & Rosemann, M. (2010), Handbook on Business Process Management: Strategic Alignment, Governance, People and Culture (International Handbooks on Information Systems) (Vol. 1). Berlin: Springer


Tags: , , , ,