Tuesday Sep 24, 2013

Achieving Business Visibility

Achieving Business Visibility

Traditional BPM lifecycle begins with mapping key organizational processes into a graphical model. Achieving a common understanding of current process and ideal to-be process requires close engagement with process stakeholders. For ex: In a call center scenario, manager of the call center operations would know best how call center handles customer escalations.

Process stakeholders are motivated to improve processes. Modeling is just a medium to get there. Hence, once the processes are modeled and automated, it is imperative that we give these process stakeholders the required level of visibility into the entire process execution. This visibility enables them to observe, orient, decide and act (check out “OODA Loop” by John Boyd).

Different process stakeholders have different visibility needs.

Real-time visibility – This gives operational users real-time view into process execution, enable them to identify areas of bottlenecks and take actions immediately. Ex: In a call center, a call center manager may benefit from real-time visibility in agent performance, call metrics and use it to distribute call load evenly.

Historic Visibility – Traditionally delivered with BI, these dashboards provide historical insight into business performance. BI dashboards allow business executives to analyze process metrics with contextual data to detect important business trends. Ex: In a call center, VP of call center would be more interested how customer satisfaction has been improving over past 6-12 months.

Prescriptive Visibility – Analytics can recommend users to take certain actions by learning from past and present behavior. This insight can be very powerful, accurate and alleviate the burden of analyzing data from the end user. Ex: Call center agent is fielding calls from customers requesting an increase in credit limit. Dashboard to recommend him to cancel or approve the request based on customer’s spending history as well as how similar requests have been handled in the past.

Most vendors only focus on siloed dashboards and fail to deliver user centric, actionable insights. Its important that dashbaords deliver unified experience – bring together all aspects of visibility (real-time, historic, prescriptive) in a seamless fashion and enable users to make intelligent business decisions.

We have started to see companies bringing together process management (BPM) and decision making (BI) capabilities to make business processes intelligent and adaptive. With strong integration between Oracle BPM Suite, Oracle BIEE Suite and Oracle Real-time decisions, you can build dashboards which deliver true business insights at every level in the organization. These insights help process stakeholders take decisions and drive process forward. In next few weeks, we will share an exciting demo which brings this concept of unified business visibility to reality.

At Openworld 2013 in San Francisco, I was joined by Brigette Vinton, Director of Corporate Accounting, Alliance Data Systems (ADS) to discuss business visibility in the session “Achieving End-to-End Business Visibility with BPM and Business Intelligence [CON8609]”. ADS is a leading provider of marketing, loyalty and credit solutions. While my talk focused on BI & BPM integration patterns and a BI+BPM+RTD demo , highlight of the session was Brigette’s talk on how ADS has streamlined its Capital Expenditure Request (CER) process with Oracle BPM, Oracle BIEE, Oracle WebCenter and PeopleSoft.

Capital Expenditure Request at ADS is a very human centric process. Every time requester initiates a new Capital Expenditure request, it navigates across multiple stakeholders (accounting, business admin, controller, finance) requiring collaboration, document management and dynamic approval management.

Oracle BPM Suite orchestrates this entire process. This enables complete audit trail of the approval process thereby enabling compliance. All approvals and notifications are mobile enabled. Once the expenditure has been approved, BI dashboards provide near-real time visibility into actual costs. At any point, if actual costs of the project exceed the approved budget, BI dashboards automatically trigger BPM process using Action Framework. BI dashboards complete the CER lifecycle to ensure project overspend goes through a review process again. ADS also leverages Oracle Essbase with PeopleSoft to help business users perform complex “what-if” analysis to further fine tune the approval decisions.

AVIO Consulting helped ADS with solution implementation. Project went live in July 2013 and has helped ADS gain visibility in 100+ CERs already. Going forward, ADS is planning to feed approved CERs into Hyperion Planning application for forecasting depreciation.

Whether you refer to it as adaptive business process or business process intelligence, what ADS demonstrated is a classic example of how the world of process automation, business intelligence and predictive analytics together enables complete business visibility.

Tuesday Sep 10, 2013

Internet of Things: Thinking services

Internet of Things brings tremendous promise to integrate every smart “thing” in this world. Having been an integration practitioner for more than decade, I find it hard to resist drawing a parallel between these 2 worlds: the world of integration & the world of Internet of Things.

- IoT market is Wild Wild West - fragmented, full of competing standards & proprietary solutions - exactly where integration was in 90s before SOA, webServices & XML redefined the landscape. ETSI is doing significant work to unify different standardization efforts and Oracle is actively contributing to this effort. But, there is lot of ground to be covered.

- Smart things i.e. sensing devices, medium powered gateways represent the IoT endpoints. This is akin to B2B integration scenario where cloud apps, B2B apps etc are communicating with the integration platform. Of course, we are now talking about hundreds to even millions of devices sending data to an enterprise versus a handful of apps in a traditional integration project

- There are wide range of devices supporting different interfaces, communication protocols and lack interoperability. It’s virtually impossible for any vendor to provide connectivity solution to entire breed of current and emerging devices. Before enterprise applications started becoming service enabled, we all grappled with the challenge of dealing with myriad of applications exposing their functionality through proprietary interfaces.

List could go on and on. But, it makes one think whether a service oriented approach could be considered when building an IoT application. Before we apply service oriented principles to IoT architecture, we should acknowledge the fact that IoT does bring its unique set of challenges

-   Security: How do I ensure that data in motion (traveling between devices, gateways, network to enterprise apps/cloud) or data at rest is secured?

  - Identity – Device is the new data source. But, there is no human associated with a M2M device unlike an enterprise app or a mobile. This makes it challenging for enterprises to manage the device lifecycle - onboard/off board new devices and manage their identity

  - Device Management: How do I remotely manage and monitor a device throughout its lifecycle (diagnostics, troubleshooting, configuration)?

  - Analytics: IoT will lead to data deluge. Enterprises would need to think beyond traditional business intelligence tools. How do I analyze IoT data at real-time (i.e. is there a medical emergency based on data received from blood pressure monitor?) to how data is analyzed for historical & predictive analytics (How do I improve patient care based on medical trends from patients over past 6 months)?

      In a typical SOA Composite application, we have collection of business processes, business services, data services with each layer building on top of the other to enable loosely coupled integration. Data services expose application interfaces as services which could in turn be orchestrated together to create a business service. E.g. “Create Employee Record” Data Service is responsible for creating a new record in Fusion HCM application, while “Onboard Employee” business service would orchestrate several steps (read data services) needed to on-board a new employee (create employee record, provision new email account etc).

">Figure 1: Layered SOA Architecture

IoT architecture could essentially be modeled in a similar layered format. Device layer, at the bottom, is the main source of data. It includes sensing/edge devices which sense the surrounding environment and transmit data in regular intervals. These sensors, in turn, may interact with an intelligent gateway. Gateway provides data aggregator and in few cases device level data processing capabilities. Data is funneled through a communication service provider network. CSP could either play the role of the network provider or it could move up the value chain to offer IoT infrastructure services. This layer would enable seamless connectivity with different M2M devices (akin to data services in SOA) and offer the ability to remotely monitor and manage them for device connectivity.

IOT services layer is completed agnostic of underlying devices, communication protocols and connectivity semantics. This layer would include core set of services to build IoT applications (i.e. composite applications)
- Analyze data at real-time (event processing)
- Act on M2M data & events (integration service)
- Enable historical, real-time and predictive analytics (Analytics Services)
- Visualize operational and analytical data through mobile/desktop (UI Services)

- Manage data security & identity of devices/apps (Security & Identity Management Service)


- Figure 2: Layered IoT Architecture


Oracle IoT platform enables this service oriented approach to building IoT applications. Listen to this webcast replay how Oracle customers have leveraged Oracle IoT stack to build applications for smart city, home automation, industrial automation and e-health.

Tuesday Oct 02, 2012

Why Fusion Middleware matters to Oracle Applications and Fusion Applications customers?

Did you miss this general session on Monday morning presented by Amit Zavery, VP of Oracle Fusion Middleware Product Management? There will be a recording made available shortly and in the meanwhile, here is a recap. Amit presented 5 strategies customers can leverage today to extend their applications.

Figure 1: 5 Oracle Fusion Middleware strategies to extend Oracle Applications & Oracle Fusion Apps

1. Engage Everyone – Provide intuitive and social experience for application users using Oracle WebCenter

2. Extend Enterprise – Extend Oracle Applications to mobile devices using Oracle ADF Mobile

3. Orchestrate Processes – Automate key organization processes across on-premise & cloud applications using Oracle BPM Suite & Oracle SOA Suite

4. Secure the core – Provide single sign-on and self-service provisioning across multiple apps using Oracle Identity Management

5. Optimize Performance – Leverage Exalogic stack to consolidate multiple instance and improve performance of Oracle Applications

Session included 3 demonstrations to illustrate these strategies.

1. First demo highlighted significance of mobile applications for unlocking existing investment in Applications such as EBS. Using a native iPhone application interacting with e-Business Suite, demo showed how expense approval can be mobile enabled with enhanced visibility using BI dashboards.

2. Second demo showed how you can extend a banking process in Siebel and Oracle Policy Automation with Oracle BPM Suite.Process starts in Siebel with a customer requesting a loan, and then jumps to OPA for loan recommendations and decision making and loan processing with approvals in handled in BPM Suite. Once approvals are completed Siebel is updated to complete the process.

3. Final demo showcased FMW components inside Fusion Applications, specifically WebCenter.

Boeing, Underwriter Laboratories and Electronic Arts joined this quest and discussed 3 different approaches of leveraging Fusion Middleware stack to maximize their investment in Oracle Applications and/or Fusion Applications technology. Let’s briefly review what these customers shared during the session:

1. Extend Fusion Applications

We know that Oracle Fusion Middleware is the underlying technology infrastructure for Oracle Fusion Applications. Architecturally, Oracle Fusion Apps leverages several components of Oracle Fusion Middleware from Oracle WebCenter for rich collaborative interface, Oracle SOA Suite & Oracle BPM Suite for orchestrating key underlying processes to Oracle BIEE for dash boarding and analytics. Boeing talked about how they are using Oracle BPM Suite 11g, a key component of Oracle Fusion Middleware with Oracle Fusion Apps to transform their supply chain.

Tim Murnin, Director of Supply Chain talked about Boeing’s 5 year supply chain transformation journey. Boeing’s Integrated and Information Management division began with automation of critical RFQ process using Oracle BPM Suite. This 1st phase resulted in 38% reduction in labor costs for RFP. As a next step in this effort, Boeing is now creating a platform to enable electronic Order Management. Fusion Apps are playing a significant role in this phase. Boeing has gone live with Oracle Fusion Product Hub and efforts are underway with Oracle Fusion Distributed Order Orchestration (DOO). So, where does Oracle BPM Suite 11g fit in this equation? Let me explain. Business processes within Fusion Apps are designed using 2 standards: Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) and Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN). These processes can be easily configured using declarative set of tools. Boeing leverages Oracle BPM Suite 11g (which supports BPMN 2.0) and Oracle SOA Suite (which supports BPEL) to “extend” these applications. Traditionally, customizations are done within an app using native technologies. But, instead of making process changes within Fusion Apps, Boeing has taken an approach of building “extensions” layer on top of the application.

Fig 2: Boeing’s use of Oracle BPM Suite to orchestrate key supply chain processes across Fusion Apps

2. Maximize Oracle Applications investment

Fusion Middleware appeals not only to Fusion Apps customers, but is also leveraged by Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards customers
significantly. Using Oracle BPM Suite and Oracle SOA Suite is the recommended extension strategy for Oracle Fusion Apps and Oracle Applications Unlimited
customers. Electronic Arts, E-Business Suite customer, spoke about their strategy to transform their order-to-cash process using Oracle SOA Suite,
Oracle Foundation Packs and Oracle BAM. 

Udesh Naicker, Sr Director of IT at Elecronic Arts (EA), discussed how growth of social and digital gaming had started to put tremendous pressure on EA’s existing IT infrastructure. He discussed the challenge with millions of micro-transactions coming from several sources – Microsoft Xbox, Paypal, several service providers. EA found Order-2-Cash processes stretched to their limits. They lacked visibility into these transactions across the entire value chain.

EA began by consolidating their E-Business Suite R11 instances into single E-Business Suite R12. EA needed to cater to a variety of service requirements, connectivity methods, file formats, and information latency. Their integration strategy was tactical, i.e., using file uploads, TIBCO, SQL scripts. After consolidating E-Business suite, EA standardized their integration approach with Oracle SOA Suite and Oracle AIA Foundation Pack. Oracle SOA Suite is the platform used to extend E-Business Suite R12 and standardize 60+ interfaces across several heterogeneous systems including PeopleSoft, Demantra, SF.com, Workday, and Managed EDI services spanning on-premise, hosted and cloud applications.

EA believes that Oracle SOA Suite 11g based extension strategy has helped significantly in the followings ways:

- It helped them keep customizations out of E-Business Suite, thereby keeping EBS R12 vanilla and upgrade safe

- Developers are now proficient in technology which is also leveraged by Fusion Apps. This has helped them prepare for adoption of Fusion Apps in the future

Fig 3: Using Oracle SOA Suite & Oracle e-Business Suite, Electronic Arts built new platform for order processing

3. Consolidate apps and improve scalability

Exalogic is an optimal platform for customers to consolidate their application deployments and enhance performance. Underwriter Laboratories talked about their strategy to run their mission critical applications including e-Business Suite on Exalogic.

Christian Anschuetz, CIO of Underwriter Laboratories (UL) shared how UL is on a growth path - $1B to $2.5B in 5 years- and planning a significant business transformation from a not-for-profit to a for-profit business. To support this growth, UL is planning to simplify its IT environment and the deployment complexity associated with ERP applications and technology it runs on.

Their current applications were deployed on variety of hardware platforms and lacked comprehensive disaster recovery architecture. UL embarked on a mission to deploy E-Business Suite on Exalogic. UL’s solution is unique because it is one of the first to deploy a large number of Oracle applications and related Fusion Middleware technologies (SOA, BI, Analytical Applications AIA Foundation Pack and AIA EBS to Siebel UCM prebuilt integration) on the combined Exalogic and Exadata environment. UL is planning to move to a virtualized architecture toward the end of 2012 to securely host external facing applications like iStore

Fig 4: Underwrites Labs deployed e-Business Suite on Exalogic to achieve performance gains

Key takeaways are:

- Fusion Middleware platform is certified with major Oracle Applications Unlimited offerings. Fusion Middleware is the underlying technological infrastructure for Fusion Apps

- Customers choose Oracle Fusion Middleware to extend their applications (Apps Unlimited or Fusion Apps) to keep applications upgrade safe and prepare for Fusion Apps

- Exalogic is an optimum platform to consolidate applications deployments and enhance performance


Fusion Apps, Exalogic, BPM Suite, SOA Suite, e-Business Suite Integration


Harish Gaur is Director of Product Management at Oracle focused on Oracle Fusion Middleware strategies around Internet of Things, Integration & BPM.


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