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James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

Taking advantage of mobile devices with decision management

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Lots of articles talk about the need to provide BI and analysis on mobile devices. And lots of enterprise applications want to "mobilize" themselves. But I don't see it. I don't think employees want to do BI on a smartphone or even data mining on an iPad. Nor do they just want to enter data using it. They want their smartphone to be a partner in their day to day work, an intelligent assistant perhaps. This is different from how a consumer views their smartphone only in terms of what it means for companies. When the person holding the phone works for you rather than being a customer you need to make the phone do different things. The good news is that the new generation of smart devices makes this kind of intelligent device practical - it just needs companies to think about decision management as well as mobile devices.

One of the key aspects of decision management is a focus on taking action using insight gained from data - not just showing someone the data (BI) or just letting them create or update it (enterprise apps). Identifying the decisions that drive the behavior of your employees is crucial. If the mobile employee is a claims agent then the decisions that matter are ones like "is this claim fraudulent". If the mobile employee is an account manager then the decisions that matter are thinks like "is this prospect entitled to a credit account", "will this account get these products in time", "what's the best upsell or cross-sell for this account" and so on.

If you focus on managing and automating these decisions then you can use the information the phone has (position), insight from the data the company has (fraud likelihood of this claim based on analysis of similar claims, predicted wait times for a product delivery based on analysis of the supply chain, propensity to buy of the account for highest margin products based on analysis of similar accounts and products) to take an action (tell the person using the phone to do or not do something).

I don't see traditional BI vendors having much to offer here - the whole reporting/OLAP infrastructure they have developed is predicated on knowledge workers doing analysis. If you want to take advantage of mobile devices you need to think about automating decisions for the person holding the device. For instance:
  • Use mobile phones held by maintenance engineers to track their location and then use analytics to predict which pieces of equipment are most likely to fail soon and rules to assign the nearest, qualified engineer before sending the directions on where to go to the engineers phone.
    • Don't show them reliability graphs or travel times, tell them where to go to make best use of their time
  • Use the mobile phone of a real estate appraiser to find out which risk zones a property is in and what the predicted difference is between a house inside and outside that risk zone
    • Don't show them a picture of the risk zones
  • Use a doctor's mobile phone to route them to the most useful hospital during an emergency based on predictions of patient load, the hospitals they know and their specialties
    • Don't show them graphs of wait times and pie charts of specialties needed
  • Use a customer's mobile phone to make them an offer at a store that is nearby having predicted that they are likely to buy it, checked that is in stock there and estimated that they are more likely to respond in person than to an email promotion to the website

And so on. Automate decisions and use mobile devices to provide context for those decisions and to deliver decisions to people out and about. Don't send them reports. Please.

James Taylor blogs about decision-management technologies such as predictive analytics and business rules, discussing how they deliver agility, improve business processes and bring intelligent automation to SOA.

James Taylor

James Taylor blogs on decision management for ebizQ, and is an independent consultant on decision management, predictive analytics, business rules, and related topics.

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