In an age of "total informational awareness," when companies can get instantaneous access to information about virtually anything happening anywhere in their operations at any time, how does one cut through the clutter and data overload, to tease out just those discrete pieces of information which require immediate attention?
Twenty years ago, consultants preached "management by exception." IT departments focused on creating daily or weekly reports to identify and highlight exceptions that workers or management needed to address.
Last decade, the buzz centered on "executive information systems"—reasonably flexible analytic engines designed to extract knowledge from data, to provide managers with actionable intelligence they could use to help them better understand and run their businesses.
Today, these concepts are being taken to a whole new level, with approaches to application design and dedicated software systems that revolve around "event management."
The idea is to set up a series of rules and criteria through which all transaction data is sifted in real time, in order to identify situations that require or warrant human intervention—as they are developing. To varying degrees, event management systems also provide the means for the responsible parties to take action on each situation, or at least record their responses.
This information, in turn, is maintained in the system, creating a data bank of events and responses that can be analyzed and searched going forward, to help deal with, eliminate, or take better advantage of similar business events when they recur in the future.
"We see this approach as a way to increase the value of human capital, and improve human productivity," comments Karin Bursa, vice president of marketing, Logility Inc, Atlanta. "A lot of IT applications over the years have helped tremendously with number crunching, relieving people of a huge burden. Now the next step is to take these human resources that have been freed up, and focus them where they can do the most good."
This sort of approach, Bursa notes, can be leveraged in a variety of ways.
Logility's strategy is to embed event management capabilities into the fundamental architecture of its Voyager solution, rather than market a separate "event management" system.
"It's a part of the basic underpinning that brings all the different functional areas together within the Voyager suite," Bursa explains, noting that Logility has prepackaged more than 100 basic alerts within its Voyager applications. Each of these alerts, in turn, can be tailored according to a variety of business criteria, threshold types and notification options.
"So really there are hundreds of different ways those hundred or so prepackaged alerts can be deployed across various scenarios," she points out.
Among the kinds of situations and events users commonly track via alerts are thresholds related to forecast accuracy, whether at a category or SKU level, or for a particular distribution center, customer or channel. Other popular alerts are based on perfect order measures, such as percentage of orders delivered on time, in full, and in perfect condition.
Users can take a single alert and apply it in different ways to different subjects or fields, such as individual customers, SKUs, or different warehouses, geographic markets, or channels, defining a unique set of targets and thresholds for each object.
"The beauty of the fact that all this is built right into our supply chain suite, is that when someone gets an alert, the notification automatically links them to the appropriate place within an application to begin their investigation and resolution. This level of integration really speeds up the process of analysis and problem solving," Bursa says.
Users can choose which individuals in the organization will be notified, and how, when particular performance indicators fall outside of different specific tolerances.