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                       DSS News 
                  D. J. Power, Editor 
           November 23, 2003 -- Vol. 4, No. 24
       A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 

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Featured: 
* Ask Dan! - Is there a relationship between Decision Support Systems 
(DSS) and Business Activity Monitoring (BAM)?
* DSS News Releases 

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Ask Dan!

Is there a relationship between Decision Support Systems (DSS) and 
Business Activity Monitoring (BAM)?

by Dan Power
Editor, DSSResources.COM

Recently, Gary Bowrin asked about the relationship between Decision 
Support Systems (DSS) and Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) in a posted 
message on the free DSS Forum at DSSResources.COM. This Ask Dan! tries 
to consolidate and expand upon my responses to Gary's question.

First, there is a relationship. BAM is the "real-time" evolution or 
descendant of the Executive Information Systems (EIS) and Analysis 
Information Systems of the 1980s and early 1990s. One should categorize 
Business Activity Monitoring systems as examples of Data-Driven DSS. 
Also, BAM is an example of a real-time DSS. Let's check the web for more 
information on the BAM buzzword.

What is BAM?

According to the Tibco website, "Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) 
refers to the aggregation, analysis, and presentation of relevant and 
timely information about business activities inside your organization 
and involving your customers and partners. BAM provides more accurate 
information about the status and results of various operations, 
processes, and transactions so you can make better decisions, more 
quickly address problem areas, and reposition your organization to take 
full advantage of emerging opportunities." Check Tibco at 
http://www.tibco.com.

Industry analysts Kevin Strange and Bill Gassman, Gartner Group, state 
"Business activity monitoring (BAM) refers to the real-time monitoring 
of business metrics and to the process for issuing alerts when problems 
or opportunities arise." 

Sengen (www.sengen.com), a technology consulting firm, notes "Through 
Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), companies are providing real-time 
access to critical business information by drawing data from multiple 
application systems and other internal and external sources and 
synthesizing them into quality reports - enabling a broader and richer 
view for faster and better informed business decisions."

What is the need for BAM? 

A Mentisys White paper argues "Organizations are feeling an increasing 
need to overcome traditional delays and lag times in business 
transactions. The move to real time is being fueled by different needs 
in different sectors: financial services corporations strive to meet the 
demands of regulators to close financial transactions quickly; 
manufacturers face competitive pressures that force a shorter 
time-to-market for new products; there is a universal demand for 
improved customer service, requiring more timely responses."

What are the claimed benefits of BAM?

In addition to those in the Tibco quote above, the Mentisys white paper 
makes a number of claims. BAM solutions "provide insight, helping users 
interpret business events and make decisions more quickly."  Also, BAM 
solutions enable users to "resolve discrepancies and eliminate delays 
through improved informed decisions and responsiveness. This improves 
operations efficiency and helps reduce costs." Finally, BAM improves the 
quality of real-time decisions.  Some of these claims seem plausible in 
specific situations. However, BAM does not necessarily provide more 
accurate information or decision insight. Real-time DSS can sometimes 
improve operations efficiency and help reduce costs.

A Case Study -- Tanker Operator

Vendor firstRain (http://www.firstrain.com) has a number of BAM solution 
examples.  The following is a summary of one case that should help 
explain BAM. Senior management of a major tanker and Floating Storage 
and Offloading (FSO) operator wanted "to monitor key corporate 
performance metrics, drawn from different applications and different 
systems in different locations -- in real-time." firstRain implemented 
its Transportation and Logistics Monitor to create customized dashboards 
that provided key executives with decision support information. "Each 
dashboard monitors key corporate performance metrics drawn from several 
applications and systems, as well as data from the operatorís partners 
and suppliers. Components of the companyís proprietary shipping 
application were extracted for use in the executive dashboard, 
maintaining the original application's full functionality." Executive 
users "can subscribe to receive alerts that are triggered whenever 
metrics exceed pre-defined subscription parameters, allowing them to 
'manage by exception'." Users of the system can then access data and 
applications to help them act on the alert.

Conclusions

Readers may recall the Ask Dan! columns on "Real-time DSS" from a year 
ago (Power, 11/24/2002; 12/08/2002). The controversy over real-time DSS, 
real-time data warehousing, and active data warehousing is continuing in 
the trade literature. This past summer Neil Raden discussed technical 
issues associated with storing real-time data in a database. He noted 
the problems with maintaining a set of fact tables and with updating 
dimension and aggregate tables. Those technical problems have not been 
completely solved. Raden notes however the "demand for real-time data 
mixed with historical and enterprise perspective is growing rapidly."

In the Ask Dan! of December 8, 2002, Marc Demarest, President of 
Noumenal, commented on real-time DSS. The following conclusions are 
based on his arguments and I recommend those interested in BAM check 
that column. So what about real-time DSS?

1. Real-time means providing data "as soon as things change";

2. There is always some delay or latency in real-time DSS;

3. Real-time decision support should be push-based; and

4. Real-time decision support is not always the best solution.

So is BAM a good thing?  For some businesses and some activities like 
emergency response monitoring and dispatching, tracking of airplanes, 
ships, and trucks, and especially currency trading, BAM is necessary and 
probably even mission critical today. Other activities and situations 
need to be carefully evaluated before implementing BAM.

Vivek Ranadive, CEO of Tibco, has been advocating real-time technology 
for more than 5 years.  His book (1999) "The Power of Now" presents some 
good arguments for creating what he terms "event-driven enterprises". 
Ranadive notes "Equipping employees with event-driven information 
constantly reminds all your people that the profit and loss of the 
company rests in their hands, and every moment is a distinct opportunity 
either seized for the benefit of the home team or lost to the 
competition (p. 59)."

So real-time, data-driven DSS is here to stay; but BAM may go the way of 
other buzzwords. As always your comments, suggestions and feedback are 
welcomed.

References

firstRain Staff, Transportation and Logistics Monitor Solution, 
http://www.firstrain.com/bam/log/case/default.asp.

Mentisys Staff, "Business Activity Monitoring from Mentisys", White 
paper, http://www.mentisys.com/literature/papers/bam.pdf.

Power, D. J., "What is "real-time" decision support?," Ask Dan!, DSS 
News, 11/24/2002.

Power, D. J., "When is "real-time" decision support desirable and 
needed??," Ask Dan!, DSS News, 12/08/2002.

Raden, Neil, "Real Time: Get Real Part I," Intelligent Enterprise 
Magazine Data Warehouse Designer (edited by Ralph Kimball), June 17, 
2003, http://www.intelligententerprise.com/030617/610warehouse1_1.shtml 
.

Raden, Neil, "Real Time: Get Real Part II," Intelligent Enterprise 
Magazine Data Warehouse Designer (edited by Ralph Kimball), June 30, 
2003, http://www.intelligententerprise.com/030630/611warehouse1_2.shtml 
.

Ranadive, V., "The Power of Now: How Winning Companies Sense and Respond 
to Change using Real-time Technology,"  New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

Strange, Kevin H. and Bill Gassman, "Digging Deeper Into Business 
Activity Monitoring," Gartner, July 8, 2003, 
http://www4.gartner.com/pages/story.php.id.8910.s.8.jsp.

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DSS News Releases - November 10 to November 21, 2003
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