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Almost everyone wants to have an adaptive enterprise, a company that runs faster and smarter because it has "situational awareness," can "sense-and-respond" to opportunities and threats, and can "track-and-trace" items as they go through their life cycles. What do these three capabilities have in common? They are all achieved through event processing.

Situational awareness implies having an up-to-the-minute understanding of all critical aspects of your internal operations and the external environment. It is "knowing what is going on so you can figure out what to do" (Adam 1993). Sense-and-respond has a similar flavor, and in fact, the term is sometimes used interchangeably with situational awareness. However sense-and-respond emphasizes timely reaction to specified opportunities and threats whereas situational awareness connotes having a holistic view of many factors.

Track-and-trace is a bit different. It focuses on recording the status of identified items as they move between physical locations or through the steps of a business process. For example, logistic systems track-and-trace movements of physical goods in supply chains. They tell users where a shipment has been and where it is now, predict when it will arrive at a destination and can prove that it was delivered. The idea of track-and-trace can also apply to the movement of insurance claims, customer orders and other information-based items as they go through their life cycles.

Situational awareness, sense-and-respond and track-and-trace are aspirations. Event processing is how those aspirations can be achieved. It encompasses a specific set of concepts, design pattern, best practices and software tools.

To address the growing importance of this field, Gartner has organized a new conference on Event Processing and Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) to be held from September 19 - 21, 2007 in Orlando Florida (see http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=502259&tab=overview). It is aimed primarily at architects, software engineers, business analysts and IT managers. This article provides background information for those who will attend the conference and others who want to learn more about the subject.

Overview of Event Processing

Event processing encompasses two separate, although related, notions:


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