Software // Information Management
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9/29/2008
12:33 PM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Is Business Activity Monitoring a BI Application?

A question I posed to a LinkedIn group — Is Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) a BI Application? — sparked interesting discussion. There have been 9 responses to date, including two from Howard Dresner, who has done as much as anyone to shape current-day BI. The responses speak to growing interest in operational BI, and they hint at the impact that complex event processing (CEP) will have on enterprise analytics.

A question I posed to a LinkedIn group — Is Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) a BI Application? — sparked interesting discussion. I noted and asked, "BAM involves dashboards and analyses for business processes, and BI isn't typically very processy. If not BI, who 'owns' BAM?" There have been 9 responses to date, including two from Howard Dresner, who has done as much as anyone to shape current-day BI. The responses speak to growing interest in operational BI, and they hint at the impact that complex event processing (CEP) will have on enterprise analytics.

BAM displays operational performance indicators in numerical and graphical form, often backed by rules-based alerting capabilities. BAM monitors execution of business processes and is part of operational-performance management solutions. It can be incorporated in line-of-business and operational interfaces, for instance for contact-center management, and in automated control systems. As the speed-of-business accelerates, BAM is more important than ever.BAM sits astride two analytical+integration technology domains, complex event processing and BI. Given this positioning, BAM constitutes an early beachhead for CEP in the BI world.

A response from Andy Hunt of Vistaar noted, "business process management tools on the market... can be used to not only model and then quickly create an application for your process, [they] have BAM built in," that is, BI doesn't explicitly enter the picture.

Four contrasting responses directly viewed BAM as part of BI (as I did in posing the question). Benjamin Karter from Cognos put it this way: "Since both BI and BAM provide the same fundamental ability to transform data into information via reports and actionable dashboards, BAM should be viewed as an extension of BI. A key advantage to BAM is the ability to report in real-time but it's important to note that reporting is just one component of an enterprise BI tool that includes additional functionality such as: analytics, scorecards and event management, tightly integrated on a single, web-based architecture."

I share Karter's view of BAM myself. Dashboards and visualization widgets, (key) performance indicators (KPIs), and data-derived alerting: these elements are common in the BI world. Most frequently, they provide perspective on historic results rather than on real-time events. BI has long been reactive. It's the desire — the imperative — to monitor events as they occur, coupled with BI's proven ability to provide accessible, actionable, data-driven perspectives on business problems, that is driving BI into real time.

This is a scenario where BI transforms into (complex) event processing, which has the ability to perform real-time analytics on high-frequency data that has not been (and cannot be) assimilated into a data warehouse, offering constructs such as sliding time and record window not available in standard SQL, and integrating data from diverse messaging and stream sources. While recent Oracle and TIBCO positioning (in particular) heralds a push to mainstream CEP, to date, with the exception of financial-market applications, CEP has been a proverbial "solution in search of a problem."

Returning to BAM-BI question responses, BI analyst Kamal S. Gelya suggested a useful clarification (albeit one I don't completely agree with), that "BAM is ALWAYS business driven as opposed to BI, which is mostly IT driven."

So did Howard Dresner, who wrote, "I believe BAM is BI when the user is involved in the decision-making process. BAM can also be used for decision automation, which would not be BI." Howard wrote in a later comment, "[Enterprise Process Management] and BI are not synonymous. EPM includes BI but adds modeling and planning to 'marry' BI to the planning and control cycles of the enterprise."

I returned to those responses because, unforced, they help make my point about complex event processing's role in BAM. CEP provides business-process focus, supplying rich information-integration and automated decision capabilities. BAM is part of BI, residing at a juncture where BI meets complex event processing.A question I posed to a LinkedIn group — Is Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) a BI Application? — sparked interesting discussion. There have been 9 responses to date, including two from Howard Dresner, who has done as much as anyone to shape current-day BI. The responses speak to growing interest in operational BI, and they hint at the impact that complex event processing (CEP) will have on enterprise analytics.

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