Real-Time Visibility into Business Processes
By vebhhav.singh on Jan 25, 2009
I am limiting my discussion here to Order Processing…..you would have realized by now that it applies to almost any processes running inside E-Business Suite…Will follow-up with some blogs on other processes like Procure-To-Pay…which kind of proves and gives an idea that customers can really take the advantage of this technology to optimize their processes.
So let’s get back to this one….
In my Order Status blog I described some of business requirements for having a visibility into the Order Management process. Why is the Order Status so important? Well business processes are put in place to serve the customers…Imagine yourself…when you as a customer place an order for a laptop from Dell’s website….you keep on checking the status…as where it is..there is a drive within you that I should get it as soon as possible….Now imagine the same from a business perspective..in my previous blog ..where I talked about a real example….Customer’s business and further commitments depends on what has been ordered…any delay in the shipment….affects his ability to fulfill the end customer and delays the process of recovering the money…
Well in business a problem has to relate to customer satisfaction ( ..indirectly loosing customer’s)….or money in the end….
So what do we need?….a dashboard…yep that makes sense…where customer’s can login and check the status of their Orders…What else….we are forcing customer to login here…what if he does not…hum…How about automatically notifying him….well….you need some filtering here….you may not want to notify the customer if problems are at your end….let’s say one of your concurrent programs is not running….You will definitely like to notify the customer if an action is required from them….
OK now let’s look it from IT perspective…In Order to answer a question of where the Order is…they need to build a UI which goes across Order Capturing (Siebel), Order Management (E-Business Suite) and Fulfilling System (SAP)…so the problem becomes even more complex…you need something in the middle (….middleware..) which connects these systems…and can provide visibility in a comprehensive way…..Once this UI is build a flavor of this needs to be exposed to the end customer…some sort of Portal Technology….
So in summary we need following
- Dashboard – Customer Facing or business view
- Automated Notifications
- Dashboard – Internal IT view
Typically ERP provides some sort of Business Intelligence (BI) framework. Traditionally these are more geared towards getting historical trends…over a period of time…..for example …Which are the top 10 customers by volume…top 10 most selling products…What’s my DSO (...Daily Outstanding Sales). E-Business Suite on the same lines provides DBI. (Daily Business Intelligence)….One big advantage of DBI being that you don’t need to create a separate dataware house….and feed the data from the different systems involved in the overall process….DBI is built into E-Business Suite…
More importantly whether its BI or DBI…its about historical trends….Here is a good analogy…Everybody drives a car….dashboard provides..information on Average speed, Acceleration,…, Fuel level…etc…these are like BI reports…What happens when your fuel…goes to Empty sign….Hum….we have something in real-time….a Yellow indicator lights up…indicating get the fuel right away.
Similarly in a business we need a capability which can tell the status of my Order in real-time…especially alarm me when Order is running into errors…or waiting for an action…from a user for approval…and crosses the SLA (Service Level Agreement) attached with processing that Order…This is where real-time technology comes into picture….Another place where BI falls short is its capability to attach to the actual workflow in real-time..…a workflow responsible for processing the Order and get real-time updates…as and when the Order moves from one stage to another…the status should get updated…Which directly goes back to my point of previous blog where I explained how you can enable…actual workflows within 11i to generate events in real-time……
So how do you build the overall solution?
What’s the Solution?
This is where Oracle Middleware comes into picture. We have something called as BAM (Business Activity Monitoring)…It has capability to listen to events from back-end system and provide dashboards which changes in real-time….something like AJAX……stock symbol for GOOG getting automatically updated in real-time. You can define SLA’s. If these SLA’s are violated the user get’s notified. Here is a snapshot build to provide Order Status across the entire Order-To-Fulfillment process…spanning not just E-Business Suite but other applications such as Siebel, SAP etc..
We started with the Business Process – Order-To-Cash
Business View - Order Processing
Order Status - Dashboard
How does it help?
- Gives a real-time view of your Order Processing as and when they move through the cycle.
- How many Orders are in Booked Status, how many have been shipped, how many are closed
- Ordered Entered – captured inside Siebel
- Order Booking etc – E-Business Suite
- Order Fulfillment – external system like SAP
- Closing – E-Business Suite
- Drill down to find out which Orders are “Awaiting Shipping”
Order Query – Dashboard
Hoes does it help?
- Single dashboard to query Order status by Order Number. Answer to most of the customer queries.
- These dashboard can be embedded inside a portal….customer facing dashboards
- Goes across systems…Not Just E-Business Suite…..Order Capture, Order management and Order Fulfillment system.
Order Processing SLA’s
How does it help?
- You can define SLA’s for Order processing. It can go down to the level of….if Order processing takes more then 5 hrs in “Awaiting Shipping” automatically notify the user.
IT View - Order Processing – Visibility into Integration Points
How does it help?
Integration Points - Order Processing spans multiple integration points. They all are potential points of failure. There is an absolute need to monitor these. Most of the issues…are found here…Order captured through multiple Order channels…if not able to make it to Order management system (…going though patching…down time)…end systems are down…services within the end point is down…etc…Manual approaches are used to sync up the systems ….
Errors within the end system - Why this is important? Time and again I have heard from customers that 11i is like a black box. If an order enters 11i…and if it get’s fulfilled then you are good…In case something goes wrong…it’s very hard to troubleshoot..11i is a black box..So let’s see how we can provide visibility into 11i…
System Level – Concurrent Program is down….related Oracle workflow is not active…Agent Listeners are down….background engines is down…..in short all the system level components responsible for processing an Order..
Application Level – During processing of an Order in 11i…where is it? Till what stage the Order has made through…..Order is booked….in shipping…..invoiced….visibility helps in pin-pointing where the issue and take appropriate actions…..
Customers use E-Business Suite to implement business processes like Order-To-Cash (Sell Side) and Procure-To-Pay (Buy Side). With time newer business requirements force customers to either extend existing business applications or use niche applications. In the current economic conditions Mergers and Acquisitions has become important. One of the ways it affects Order-To-Cash process is to integrate multiple Order channels and multiple fulfillment systems. Whenever a company acquires a new business, it comes with its own brand…and hence comes with their own Order management and fulfillment systems. In many cases you try to consolidate the new systems…at other times as we know its hard to consolidate….then you are left with the only choice of integrating them with the existing Order Processing.
Customer requirements still remains the same…Order Status…but multiple systems to deal with…thereby putting the basic requirements of integration. There are various integration technologies, based on SOA, available with customers to use. Of course Oracle offers one of the best in class and highly optimized for connecting Oracle and non-Oracle based applications…
As well all know integration brings the inherent challenge of multiple points of failure…thereby putting a requirement of an architecture which can go across systems/applications and provide visibility into these processes…The need becomes absolutely must when orders are running into errors…and that too is required in real-time…...
Hum…But why in real-time?
If you are receiving Orders which are running into errors…normally its OK and you can troubleshoot them later on…couple of days should not matter….Situation becomes critical when you are approaching last couple of weeks before the end of the Sales quarter…which happens four times a year…IT’s inability to process orders will result into companies inability to receive money from your customers…directly impacting the bottom line.
What IT should do? They should provide real-time visibility into their processes. There is a need of dashboards for Business users and there is a need for IT based dashboards.
Bottom line in these hard times…there is a greater need to do have more efficient and agile processes…incremental technologies which can provide better visibility into what you have already invested in…big ERP applications.