End-to-End Data Visibility: 5 Practical Examples

Insight from Ulf Persson, Director, Product and Solutions Marketing, Axway

BPM Visibility Paves the Road to Operational Excellence

by Sylvain Astier
Product Manager, BPM
Axway

While going through my stuff, I found a copy of “The Scorecard Methodology,” an old HBR article (circa 1992) by Kaplan and Norton in which they emphasize performance measures in key areas of every organization.

A BPMS is simultaneously the rearview mirror allowing you to understand what happened, the windshield through which you view what is about to happen, and the steering wheel empowering you to modify and adapt your course of action.

A BPMS is simultaneously the rearview mirror allowing you to understand what happened, the windshield through which you view what is about to happen, and the steering wheel empowering you to modify and adapt your course of action.

It got me thinking about visibility. A strategy-focused organization can use the balanced scorecard approach to track how well it performs in regard to its different goals and objectives. The general idea is that organizations get what they measure. For instance, focusing on short-term financial performance most likely would lead to a disaster—what you might call the Lehman Brothers effect.

This strategy determines what an organization must achieve and how it must achieve it. If you don’t know where your organization’s at, you won’t know how to take it anywhere, and though this has been known since ancient times when warfare theories focused on a thorough understanding of topography and logistics, it seems that modern organizations have only begun to understand the importance of mapping their own courses of action. With a proper map of its processes, an organization can better align its operational reality toward its strategic goals. In this regard, Business Process Management Systems (BPMSs) are extremely powerful, as they allow process automation and offer visibility on how an organization performs in its overall value creation network.

In fact, BPMSs can also provide visibility without automating anything, simply by consolidating flows of events. For instance, probes can be used to fetch information from legacy applications and generate events, which are consolidated by a BPMS providing visibility on parts of process instances about which one has very little information. Another important usage of non-automated processes is the control of events coming from business partners, ensuring that every collaboration’s participant provides the appropriate information at the right time (and in the right format) as defined per the service level agreement.

BPMSs make many aspects visible, most notably these two: the proper state of process instances and the different variables associated with each step, such as its cost or completion time. Hence, BPMSs can help predict the future state of an organization based on its current situation. For instance, BPMSs can help identify a potential bottleneck before it arises, and can easily correct it through something called “dynamic resource re-affectation.” BPMSs can also provide real-time visibility on specific customer cases and answer important questions (e.g., “Where is my order?”), ease human work and interactions, and identify who is responsible for what and who did what. A BPMS is simultaneously the rearview mirror allowing you to understand what happened, the windshield through which you view what is about to happen, and the steering wheel empowering you to modify and adapt your course of action.

This brings me back to Kaplan and Norton’s point: you get what you measure. BPMSs are fantastic tools, but if you focus on the wrong objectives, BPMSs will help you reach those wrong objectives in an efficient manner! However, at the same time, as BPMSs provide real-time visibility, you might easily re-assess these wrong objectives, adapt your organization’s behavior accordingly, and realize a broad spectrum of opportunities that had been unthinkable until now.

(Photo by stevelyon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicanerii/ / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Three Reasons Why Supply Chain Transactions Demand Data Integrity Assurance

by Chuck Preiss
Director, Solutions Enablement
Axway

Marco Polo operated a global supply chain in the 13th century, and he did it successfully, centuries before there was any data, period—let alone data whose integrity needed assuring. So why is assuring data integrity so important now?

Marco Polo operated a global supply chain in the 13th century, and he did it successfully, centuries before there was any data, period—let alone data whose integrity needed assuring. So why is assuring data integrity so important now?

The importance of data integrity in the supply chain is a mystery to some folks. After all, Marco Polo operated a global supply chain in the 13th century, and he did it successfully, centuries before there was any data, period—let alone data whose integrity needed assuring.

So why is assuring data integrity so important now?

There are several reasons.

The first one is cost. There are folks out there who waste a lot of time in the supply chain with invoicing and ordering problems due to data issues. For instance, I’m Company A and I send out an invoice to Company B, and I’m missing ship-to or bill-to information or I have wrong pricing. Company B’s system is going to kick the invoice back and I’m not going to get paid. And I’m not going to know that kickback happened until my accounts receivable people come to me and say, “Hey, this invoice is past due. Why didn’t Company B pay it?” Then my people have to perform some serious research to find out what happened—a real cost issue. Cost, of course, runs just about everything in the supply chain, but sometimes, it actually creates panic (i.e., “I need to have this inventory here at a certain date and time. If I don’t, I’m going to have a stock-out situation that could cost me money or customers.”)

The second reason is relationship management. Manufacturers, retailers, transportation, logistics folks—they’re all trying to have a kind of win-win relationship, to have everything run smoothly. The only way they can do that is to hold supply chain folks accountable. If I’m a retailer, I want my manufacturer to send me his shipments on time and I want that to happen to the five nines level; the only way I can measure that is to track all of his shipments and create trending information. That way, I can rest assured that he’s satisfying his service level agreements with me. (Not that I want to necessarily charge him for late shipments, but the point is this: the more we can both become more efficient—the more my manufacturer can meet my demands and I can hold him to it—the better.)

The third reason is visibility. Companies often don’t even know that they’re having these problems. They send out invoices. They’re hoping they’re getting to the other end, hoping they’re right, hoping their customer will pay them. But the only time that they know that something’s amiss is when their accounts receivable department says, “Hey, we’ve got a problem. So-and-so hasn’t sent us payments on the last hundred invoices.” Once again, the company has to figure out what the problem is. However, if you add the visibility piece to it—say, a technology like business activity monitoring—a company can proactively, before the shipment leaves the enterprise, check the invoice file and ensure the information is accurate. If they’ve found a problem previously, they can set up a rule to catch that problem before it happens again.

That’s the true strength of these technologies. It’s not about dashboards. It’s not about “here’s what my business is doing right at this very moment.” It’s about cleaning up information and allowing the whole process to run better. Marco Polo didn’t have it, but if he was doing business today, he almost certainly wouldn’t allow his supply chain to run without it. Why should you?

(Image in the public domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marco_Polo_portrait.jpg)
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