Lines of business in complex organizations of all kinds need to use planning and scheduling in their operations more effectively than ever before, and to consider both strategic and tactical time-frames. They need to:
- Anticipate best-case/expected-case/worst-case scenarios;
- Understand trade-offs, alternatives, bottlenecks, and inconsistencies;
- Develop plans and schedules that can be adapted in the course of operations;
- Enable different stakeholders to collaborate in the planning process.
These kinds of applications involve common decision support functionality:
- User interfaces that enable decision-makers and planners to visualize business problems and their proposed solutions in terms they understand;
- Decision support interactivity that enables business users to develop confidence in proposed solutions, such as what-if and sensitivity-analysis;
- Advanced analytics ensuring true optimization of plans and schedules, the best outcomes that can be achieved within the resources available, and controlled relaxations of constraints when infeasibilities preclude finding a solution that meets all criteria;
- Support for planning and scheduling processes including enterprise deployment with collaboration among multiple decision-makers.
For some industries and some problems, pre-packaged analytical decision support applications are available. They don’t always offer enough flexibility to fit the particular needs of individual organizations, and still many industries and problems are not covered.
As a consequence, in many cases, companies would be better served with a custom solution which can be adapted to their unique business and process. However, certain issues are usually associated to building such custom solutions:
- Custom solutions often have a high cost of ownership;
- Building is much more risky than reusing;
- Urgency of the needs limit the time to build.
What is needed is a way to build these custom decision support solutions in a cost-effective, reliable and rapid way. For these situations, IBM offers tools and platforms for customizing and deploying corporate analytical decision support applications with optimization technology. IBM’s platform includes common planning and scheduling functionality out-of-the-box, but configurable for the uniqueness of every business organization and process through complete configuration and customization capabilities.
- Solutions can take advantage of out-of-the-box planning and scheduling features. Business users can interact with the decisions by creating and comparing different possible scenarios in order to take informed decisions. They can also request recommendations from IBM’s state-of-the-art optimization engines which will automatically generate plans and schedules with optimal decisions with respect to given data, constraints and objectives.
- These applications support collaborative decision making as multiple users can share scenarios and work together on plans, and scale with the need of optimization support as processing can be delegated to clustered optimization servers.
- Based on a standard platform, the development of custom solutions is more cost-effective, faster and safer than if based on low level components because the common functionalities are included and best practices enforced.
- In order to reach a perfect-fit solution, IBM’s platform is open and modular with standard technology and architecture that can be customized to correspond as much as desired to the exact needs. An integrated development environment allows different persons involved in the development process to work together on application data modeling, optimization model development, and application configuration and customization.