Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sense-Research-Respond patterns

In recent discussions and a number of projects we have done, we see an emerging pattern: Sense-Research-Respond.

Typical situation: the need to respond to an ever increasing number of alerts/signals/data, but to do this as cost effective as possible.
A number of business situations:
- An organisation knows it can and should detect signals of fraud by clients and internal workers and respond to it, but is trying to find an efficient way
- Inspection agencies that need to cut cost, and are moving to more risk-based inspections instead of trying to do 100%. But: how to pick the right risk-situations and tune the selection process, based on insights?
- Organizations that see the enormous growth in social media, and are finding references to their products and organization (positive and negative) and want an innovative but economic way to deal with these developments

In the last years we have seen the following pattern for these type of business situations:

The key ingredients:
- The capability to sense: to filter and detect data/events (and when needed correlated ones), that need attention. Usually driven by business rules ("risk profiles"), and easily tuned. The typical technology: Complex Event Processing, based on technology from for instance Tibco, IBM.

- The capability to research: advanced tooling, such as Palantir, SAS, to further research a certain situation, link it to other earlier events and to support decision making: will we need to react to this,and give it priority over other signals (as resources and time is constrained)

- The capability to effectively handle the situation, efficiently coordinating people in own and possibly other organizations. Sometimes this can follow pre-defined structured processes, but often, as situations can differ greatly, might require more flexible case management solutions. Technology such as Pega, Cordys, BeInformed, IBM.

And we have learned that technology is mature enough to handle these situations.
We have even developed a number of offerings around it, such as our "Grapevine" offering for social media. See here for a short video. Another is our Alert offering for Fraud detection.

Fascinating times. My lesson: don't ignore the growing available data-volumes (and become obsolete). Don't drown (and go under). But conquer in a smart way to use effectively. The ability to respond is a critical capability in modern organizations.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Future Process-App: think Navigator

Do you remember the time that we did not have navigators installed in our cars?
Two typical situations I remember:

1. Driving with my wife, on vacation, where she was frantically trying to understand the map, while I was stressed out, since our next exit might be the one, and the next one was 30 km ahead.

2. Coming well prepared with a Google Map's driving instruction, only to find out that at step 23 there was a roadblock, making the rest of the procedure unusable. (And the frustration that we saw beautiful other route possibilities, but were afraid to divert from our Google route).

Both situations show a remarkable similarity to the current support of IT-solutions for knowledge workers:

1. No process support at all, just data. IT solutions that are great at storing and providing information (system of record), but not helping to plan and coordinate activities. For the knowledge worker, this means that he or she needs to plan and coordinate actions with other means, such as e-mail, spreadsheets, notes, etc. And for managers it make it quite difficult to get an oversight of the work in progress (who does what, what is still ahead?)

2. Solutions that provide support for activities (systems of engagement), but only using a very rigid procedural template, that locks the knowledge worker in : current workflow solutions. For the knowledge worker, this often means: tweaking the workflow (filling in false data to get access to the right functionality later in the process) or turning to shadow systems for activity management, just to be able to serve the customer request correctly. Both choices lead to incorrect or incomplete management information for the manager.

Based on the projects we are doing for various customers, a new paradigm is dawning:
The navigator as metaphor for the modern process-driven knowledge worker IT-solutions!
Key features:
- It provides real-time situational awareness (where are you? Where do you want to go? What are possible routes? Where are the traffic jams, possible roadblocks? What traffic (business) rules limit your choices?
- It provides goal-driven suggestions, but the knowledge worker can still decide to change route, and the system will re-establish other suggestions. It gives the right balance between standardization and freedom, driven by business policies
- It's easy to use

That's exactly what our Advanced Case Management solutions are providing: a navigator for goal-driven case handling.