Published on 31-May-2009
Business Process Management (BPM)
Needing to minimize errors in IBM product and price catalogs, IBM used WebSphere Business Events and other WebSphere products to enable a real-time enterprise capable of business event processing.
Identify errors in the IBM product and price catalog before they occur and impact customer satisfaction and revenue
Real-time enterprise enabled by business event processing capable of recognizing situations as they arise, interpreting them and responding to errors in the complex process of assembling product and price catalogs
–Reducing errors in product and price catalog –Increasing revenue with correct product information –Reducing complaints and improving customer service –Focusing less time on resolving problem reports
With almost 400,000 employees and close to $100 billion in revenue, IBM stands today at the forefront of an industry that is revolutionizing the way in which enterprises, organizations and people operate and thrive.
In a company of such size, delivering products to the marketplace is a giant task, one that depends upon providing complete and up-to-date product and price information to customers and business partners. The process of creating, updating and publishing IBM product and price catalogs is complex and highly distributed across applications in the enterprise. Providing the correct data depends on the synchronization of multiple data points in the information flow. In order for the process to succeed, the right information must be provided at the right time. Otherwise, information in the catalogs is either missing or inaccurate, customers and business partners are frustrated, and revenue is lost. When something goes wrong, tracing back through the flow to determine when and where a failure occurred is complex and time-consuming.
Becoming a real-time enterprise with BEP
For this reason, it was advantageous for IBM to have a tool not only to help in problem determination efforts when problems occur, but also to help identify data errors before they impact customers.
In order to identify the patterns that may lead to catalog errors—and quickly and appropriately act upon the detection of these patterns—IBM needed to capture, evaluate and correlate multiple events from the various systems and organizations that are involved across the enterprise. The type of processing needed for this problem is called business event processing (BEP).
BEP is applicable in business scenarios where many components need to come together in real time in order for a task to be completed. A BEP framework can enable companies to become real-time enterprises, capable of recognizing situations as they arise, of anticipating and responding to threats before they occur, and of discovering and capitalizing on opportunities.
BEP detects complex patterns across many events and uses rule-processing algorithms for event correlation and abstraction. By looking at the relationships between the events, BEP systems can “connect the dots” and extract previously unavailable insights to enable faster and better operational decisions.
The anatomy of situational awareness
An event is an abstraction that represents the fact that something happened or is happening, such as a stock trade, a customer order or an address change. Event producers and event consumers in an enterprise environment consist of applications, files, databases, feeds, people, sensor data, etc. A computer application creates an event object (a computer record) to signal or report the event. A notification is a computer message (for example, an XML message) that consists of an event object.
The framework for performing BEP is called a Predictive Real-time Operational Business Intelligence Tool (PROBIT). The architecture is divided into layers of abstraction as follows:
· The external environment layer consists of all the applications and systems, including people, in the enterprise.
· The sensing and actuating layer consists of components that sense and act upon events in the external environment. Sensors detect and capture the events that happen in the environment and can also publish a notification message to the broker component in the connectivity layer. The actuator typically changes the state of the environment.
· The connectivity layer routes events from event producers to event consumers.
· The higher-level sensing layer is where we detect complex event patterns.
· The cognitive layer houses business rules and receives and deals with multiple events to detect patterns in the environment.
Building predictive business intelligence
Having decided to use BEP to meet its data quality challenges, IBM had to construct a PROBIT using the necessary architectural components. These were close at hand, since IBM itself provides the software products that are needed to deploy a BEP solution.
Business Activity Monitoring provides visibility over operational performance. IBM WebSphere® Business Monitor is a comprehensive business activity monitoring software product that provides users with a real-time, end-to-end view of business processes and operations. WebSphere Business Monitor provides customizable business dashboards that calculate and display key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics derived from business processes, business activity data and business events from a wide range of information sources.
IBM WebSphere Message Broker provides the connectivity layer—a powerful information broker that allows both business data and information, in the form of messages, to flow between disparate applications and across multiple hardware and software platforms. Rules can be applied to the data that is flowing through the message broker in order to route, store, retrieve and transform the information.
The core of the framework, or the cognitive layer, is IBM WebSphere Business Events, which serves as the event correlation engine for identifying patterns of interaction among multiple disparate events at run-time. The interaction sets, or event correlation rules, can be created with the WebSphere Business Events build-time environment. WebSphere Business Events provides a basis for full support of BEP.
Deploying a PROBIT in an SOA environment
In a service oriented architecture (SOA) environment, information services constitute most of the sensing and actuating for the event processing component. WebSphere Business Monitor can provide dashboard and monitoring functionality. Connectivity and interoperability services can be implemented using IBM ESB products such as WebSphere Message Broker or IBM WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus. The BEP services which consume and process events can be implemented using WebSphere Business Events.
Increasing revenue and improving customer service
By resolving data quality problems and minimizing errors in its product and price catalog, IBM has helped to improve credibility, enhance customer satisfaction and increase revenue.
IBM experiences many of the same challenges that its customers face, regardless of their size. Many companies can benefit by becoming real-time enterprises. IBM has documented the BEP framework and all the associated reference implementations as the basis for an engagement model allowing reuse of the framework in other service engagements to support any end-to-end business process.
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