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Rapidly changing market conditions, emerging opportunities and competitive threats, and government regulations are forcing companies to become real-time enterprises, and the ebizQ webinar Critical Success Factors for the Real Time Enterprise part of the BPM and the Real-Time Enterprise, sponsored by CommerceQuest, served up a timely Top Ten list of those factors.

"It's very important to have your finger on the pulse to manage the business in real-time for competitive advantage," noted ebizQ.net Vice President for Strategic Services Beth Gold-Bernstein, citing a recent Gartner study predicting that Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) will be a major source of IT spending next year.

"The real-time enterprise is not a single technology, it's actually a business model focused on delivering business information on-demand, anytime, anywhere and focused on accelerating business processes. The problem with business processes today is that they cross multiple systems, organizational units, and even organizations," she noted.

The audience seemed to agree about the importance of becoming a real-time enterprise: almost three-quarters of respondents to a real-time survey during the webinar said becoming one is part of their companies' current initiatives.

"The regulatory environment has never been more intrusive and active management of those processes is a necessity," added CommerceQuest President and COO Lee White, who noted that Sarbanes-Oxley compliance was going to require companies to "produce certification not just of the results that the business has produced but also of the processes that produced those results."

The key, agreed Gold-Bernstein and White, is to boost visibility into processes and inject flexibility into infrastructures by implementing initiatives aimed at ten real-time enterprise necessities:

  1. Real-time Visibility: "You can't manage and improve what you can't see. It's important to understand what the status of the process is before you can improve it. You can't wait for end-of-the-month reports or end-of-the-quarter reports. You need it now," said Gold Bernstein, who described strategies for giving visibility to all of a company's constituents.

    White agreed, noting that "in most organizations we turn to, we find there are business processes that are being performed every day, but they're often not defined and frequently not understood" - let alone integrated or consistent.

  2. Real-time Management: White described how embedding key controls, alerts and metrics into existing legacy, BPM, CRM and supply-chain systems "allows business management the chance to see real exceptions and take action." (Editor's note: Gold-Bernstein and White covered developing performance metrics during an earlier Webinar in this series
  3. )

  4. Business Process Modeling: With times to produce new products going from years to days, "staying with the status quo actually means failure," Gold-Bernstein argued. Instead, she described the development of simulation tools that let a company understand a process by cost, time and other metrics.

  5. Process Automation: Gold-Bernstein described the business-model acceleration, and error-reducing ROI, of automation. Such processes don't have to "be so rigid that different groups or organizations can't adopt uniqueness that are more appropriate to their businesses," White noted. "In fact, a lot of the processes and models can have very robust decision rules that allow you to follow multiple paths and have each of the process models included so that the business areas can be as unique as they need to be in order to satisfy customers."

  6. Rapid Deployment of Solutions: Companies "can't afford to rip and replace technology," but Gold-Bernstein described how new BPM and EAI-based solution templates from certain vendors can provide anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of solutions to problems such as HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.

  7. End-to-End Integration: Gold Bernstein outlined a BPM-based approach to "comprehensive integration among computing platforms, applications, people and processes.

    "You can still maintain your current systems of record, but you can reuse the business logic and data in new applications and system flows and make all of them work together in a much more holistic way," White noted.

  8. Flexible Infrastructure: Real-time enterprises need to react quickly to both business and technology changes.

    "In this world where business applications are changing every day and where people are adding and divesting themselves of departments and divisions, the ability to do this automation and change processes very flexibly is a critical requirement," White noted.

  9. Service-Based Architecture: Gold-Bernstein described how component and service-oriented architectures provide maximum agility and flexible deployment options that isolate and enable infrastructure changes.

    "You can wrapper services applications as a Web service and enable different functions as services that can be tied together as business processes and enable composite application development," she noted.

    "In order for an SOA to work, you really need two things," White maintained. "One is the ability to enable and expose existing assets, be it logic, business data, stores, etc. If they can't participate in those services and can't participate in the business, you really have only half of the solution."

    "The second thing that's required is some sort of a bus, and enterprise-wide transport capability that allows you put messages on the bus and off of the bus and go to the services that have been available that have been exposed," he pointed out.

  10. Support for Standards: e-commerce demands have sparked more rapid adoption of standards, and Gold-Bernstein showed how standards such as, RosettaNet, XML, SOAP, WSDL, UDDI, and UML can reduce the cost of maintaining skill sets within an organization.

    "The key to life is that (organizations) need to follow these standards so you have the ability to export them so you don't lose the investment you made in them in the first place," White said.

  11. Organizational Agility: While allowing that "most people resist change just as a matter of fact," Gold-Bernstein suggested developing new metrics and rewarding employees according to their projects' contribution to real-time agility and long-term ROI.

    "It's really important that this approach -- the ability to actually model and automate and integrate processes -- is viewed as company-wide and business users and constituents are directly involved with the IT community in their creation and support," White noted, adding that the task would require "tools and techniques and communications that show people what's in it for them if they successfully participate."


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