"The account executive responsible for a key customer like Wal-Mart, for example, may want to know about any order that is short, or delayed, or otherwise falls short of some specified goal. He can then pick up the phone and immediately start dealing with the situation and soothing the customer before a problem arises. He might call to say the shipment is on the way, but we missed our dock window, we'll be there four hours later. Then a new receiving appointment can be scheduled, or whatever else is necessary can be done to minimize disruption to the customer," she points out.
The whole point of the system, Bursa adds, is to accelerate communication across an organization, to help people approach situations proactively and prioritize where to put their attention.
"It's much better to prevent a late order than to report a late order," Bursa observes. "If you do quarterly reporting on performance, you may see where your challenges were. But alert notification capabilities help you identify and head off problems right as they start to occur."
Add It On
Another system provider, Atlanta-based Infor, incorporates event management into its supply chain management package, but also provides an event management system as a separate, standalone product. Companies can tie this event management solution into their existing enterprise system or other applications, with varying degrees of integration.
"The system allows you to connect to any of your back end programs, from supply chain management, warehouse and transportation, inventory management, planning and forecasting, all the way out to your financial document management systems. You decide what events or situations within those functional areas you wish to monitor," Kaushal Vyas, Infor senior product manager, explains.
Rather than prepackaging alerts, he notes, Infor provides simple tools that let users create and monitor all of their own business rules, simple or complex.
"Once these rules are created, they act across whatever different systems you want to monitor. Reports on exceptions can also be sent out in multiple ways: by email, phone call, or pager for example, informing the appropriate human resources in real time that a particular exception has occurred. They can be used to track anything from something as simple as stock level—what products are available where and in what quantities—to situations with lead times or expiration dates, and many others."
In addition to such plain, straightforward criteria, companies can also develop more complex screens by starting with a simple rule and stringing several steps together, Vyas points out.
"You can specify that if a certain event doesn't happen within a certain amount of time, for example, if a certain quantity of a specific item is not received within the next two hours, then a particular resource will be notified," he explains.
Several differentiators help make Infor's standalone event management system a best-in-class solution, says vice president, product marketing, Eric Nilsson. One is that "besides enabling companies to create these monitors and notifications, we also provide the framework for collaboratively managing the response to an exception, once it's been identified.
"When I get a notification that says this exception has happened, for example, not only can I go into the exception, do research, take action, and close it. I can also perform any of these activities in collaboration with other resources. For example, I might examine an exception, and then forward it to someone else with a directive that this is their responsibility to fix. Then, as they address the problem, I can continue to monitor the resolution."
Lawson Software, St. Paul, MN, another enterprise systems designer that builds "smart notification" capabilities into its applications suite, also provides tools to help individuals in a company collaborate as they respond to alert situations. Lawson offers an inside-the-firewall instant messaging system which links individuals viewing notifications or reports to other employees who have knowledge about the content being viewed.
"Collaboration using IM between parties in real time, viewing identical information, helps lead to better and faster decisions," the company points out.
Another key feature of event management systems is their ability to accumulate repositories of information on events and solutions that can be easily accessed when similar situations recur, or for strategic analysis.
Nilsson says one of Infor's strengths is the way its solution weaves these capabilities into companies' existing applications.