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Editor's Note: In this three-part package of tips, Gartner Distinguished Analyst W. Roy Schulte discusses how the right approach to event processing can make business systems not only faster, but significantly smarter as well. Here, in the introduction, Schulte defines event data and discusses ways to capture it. Part II explores approaches to analyzing event data; Part III offers tips for using analyzed event data.

In Roy Schulte's view, today's businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to make their operations smarter, faster and more effective than ever before.

But the concepts underpinning that goal aren't exactly new: "The notion of using business intelligence has been around for 20 or 30 years," Schulte acknowledges. In addition, "good architects have long used event-driven architecture to make complex business systems run faster."

So what's changed?

Historically, "there has been a gap between the people who do business intelligence and the people who build the production systems, the systems that run the company," says Schulte, a Gartner distinguished analyst and vice president. That gap has now disappeared, he says: "We're now able to make production systems smarter than they were in the past by leveraging the analytics and some of the other concepts that have been traditionally only used off-line for business-intelligence activities."

And that ability represents a profound shift for the business side. "It's a change that's enabled by IT, but, fundamentally, it's a change that affects businesspeople," Schulte says. "It's a change that business people can see."

Evangelizing about event data

Schulte can sum up the key to making business operations smarter in two words: event data. He defines "event" this way: "It's a description of what's happening. It's a state change." And, he emphasizes, he's talking about current events: "It's not what occurred last week or last month; those are old events," he says. "It's what's occurring now."

Event data, then, is information about exactly whats changing—both inside and outside your company. Internally, event data comes from both people and machines. "You may get event data from the database management system," says Schulte, who recently delivered a keynote address on the topic at ebizQ's sixth annual BPM in Action virtual conference. "You may get it from sensors like RFID [radio-frequency identification] or GPS [global positioning satellite] devices. You may get data from the applications themselves."


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