Business activity monitoring
The term was originally coined by analysts at Gartner, Inc. and refers to the aggregation, analysis, and presentation of real-time information about activities inside organizations and involving customers and partners. A business activity can either be a business process that is orchestrated by business process management (BPM) software, or a business process that is a series of activities spanning multiple systems and applications. BAM is an enterprise solution primarily intended to provide a real-time summary of business activities to operations managers and upper management.
Goals and benefits
The goals of business activity monitoring is to provide real time information about the status and results of various operations, processes, and transactions. The main benefits of BAM are to enable an enterprise to make better informed business decisions, quickly address problem areas, and re-position organizations to take full advantage of emerging opportunities.
One of the most visible features of BAM solutions is the presentation of information on dashboards containing the key performance indicators (KPIs) used to provide assurance and visibility of activity and performance. This information is used by technical and business operations to provide visibility, measurement, and assurance of key business activities. It is also exploited by event correlation to detect and warn of impending problems.
Although BAM systems usually use a computer dashboard display to present data, BAM is distinct from the dashboards used by business intelligence (BI) insofar as events are processed in real-time or near real-time and pushed to the dashboard in BAM systems, whereas BI dashboards refresh at predetermined intervals by polling or querying databases. Depending on the refresh interval selected, BAM and BI dashboards can be similar or vary considerably.
Some BAM solutions additionally provide trouble notification functions, which allows them to interact automatically with the issue tracking system. For example, whole groups of people can be sent e-mails, voice or text messages, according to the nature of the problem. Automated problem solving, where feasible, can correct and restart failed processes.
In nearly all BAM deployments extensive tailoring to specific enterprises is required. Many BAM solutions seek to reduce extensive customization and may offer templates that are written to solve common problems in specific sectors, for example banking, manufacturing, and stockbroking. Due to the high degree of system integration required for initial deployment, many enterprises use experts that specialize in BAM to implement solutions.
BAM is now considered a critical component of Operational Intelligence (OI) solutions to deliver visibility into business operations. Multiple sources of data can be combined from different organizational silos to provide a common operating picture that uses current information. Wherever real-time insight has the greatest value, OI solutions can be applied to deliver the needed information.
All BAM solutions process events. While most of the first BAM solutions were closely linked to BPM solutions and therefore processed events emitted as the process was being orchestrated, this had the disadvantage of requiring enterprises to invest in BPM before being able to acquire and use BAM. The newer generation of BAM solutions are based on complex event processing (CEP) technology, and can process high volumes of underlying technical events to derive higher level business events, therefore reducing the dependency on BPM, and providing BAM to a wider audience of customers.
A bank might be interested in minimizing the amount of money it borrows overnight from a central bank. Interbank transfers must be communicated and arranged through automation by a set time each business day. The failure of any vital communication could cost the bank large sums in interest charged by the central bank. A BAM solution would be programmed to become aware of each message and await confirmation. Failure to receive confirmation within a reasonable amount of time would be grounds for the BAM solution to raise an alarm that would set in motion manual intervention to investigate the cause of the delay and to push the problem toward resolution before it becomes costly.
Another example involves a mobile telecommunications company interested in detecting a situation whereby new customers are not set up promptly and correctly on their network and within the various CRM and billing solutions. Low-level technical events such as messages passing from one application to another over a middleware system, or transactions detected within a database logfile, are processed by a CEP engine. All events relating to an individual customer are correlated in order to detect an anomalous situation whereby an individual customer has not been promptly or correctly provisioned, or set up. An alert can be generated to notify technical operations or to notify business operations, and the failed provisioning step may be restarted automatically.