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Eyes Everywhere

Eyes Everywhere

If there was ever a technology to bring out CIOs' inner Cat in a Hat, it's BAM, or business activity monitoring. Business activity management in some guise or another has been around forever, and little by little CIOs are being cajoled and nudged into trying it

Business activity monitoring offers a constant watch on business processes.

Remember how the 'Cat in a Hat' is lured to try green eggs and HAM? At first he simply will not try the dish. Not on a train, not with a fox, nor any other permutation. However, ground down by the relentless Sam I Am, the Cat tries a little. And what do you know - he likes it.

If there was ever a technology to bring out CIOs' inner Cat in a Hat, it's BAM, or business activity monitoring.

Business activity management in some guise or another has been around forever, and little by little CIOs are being cajoled and nudged into trying it. Some of the early adopters want to more quickly become aware of and respond to changing business conditions. The technology provides the business equivalent of an e-mail notifying an airline passenger of a flight delay or a text message alerting an eBay customer he's been outbid.

BAM technology extracts operational data from multiple transaction systems, melds it, and compares it to historical data. Correlating all these sources helps companies assess the business implications, based on historical precedent, of events in real time. The sooner a company becomes aware of a problem - an inventory shortage, sales forecasting discrepancy, or increase in fraudulent transactions, for example - the sooner it can take corrective action to avert business-threatening conditions.

It was not always called BAM; two decades ago it was executive information systems that were being sold as the tool to help business make better decisions, then came digital dashboards, decision support systems, business intelligence and so forth. BAM is an evolution of each of those versions of business activity monitoring, and thanks to advances in underpinning communications, processing and storage technology now promises large-scale data analysis of multiple business processes in near or near real time.

BAM is also an evolution in terms of thinking about who in the enterprise needs access to information about corporate events. In the past many information systems that tracked business operations for anomaly or exception reporting were targeted at senior executives who felt they needed reports in order to make strategic decisions. Today BAM systems are being rolled out that also support the front lines of decision making in what are often tactical situations. Once key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to that front line manager are identified, the BAM system can monitor them, and based on predefined conditions post alerts when action needs to be taken to bring the KPIs back in line. The consequences of that front-line decision making are then fed back into the information loop, and reports made available to the strategic decision makers.

BAM is really about getting the right information to the right people at the right time so they can make the right decision - wherever they are and whatever their role in the enterprise.

Like most things that sound simple, it is not. But while complex to implement, requiring both technical and process change, it is a very seductive notion.

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