Lustratus recently received a comment to a post I wrote a couple of years back on IBM’s acquisition of Cognos.
The comment asked whether this meant IBM now had two BAM tools, COGNOS and WebSphere Business Monitor, and I thought that rather than respond to the original and now very old post I would create a new post, since this question actually crystallizes a very contemporary confusion over the roles of BAM and BI.
BI (Business Intelligence) is the term that originally emerged to describe the market for tools to find out more about data. Typically, BI tools aggregated data and provided ‘slice and dice’ services to look at data in different ways, correlating it and detecting interesting patterns. So, as a simple example, examining sales information allowed Amazon to identify trends in related customer buying – hence when you buy a DVD Amazon can helpfully pop up and point out that ‘people who bought this DVD also bought….’ to try to accelerate sales based on buying patterns. The key characteristicof BI was that it was typically a static activity, usually carried out against historical data. In modern times, however, it is more and more related to the analysis of any data, whether static or dynamic. COGNOS was a leading supplier of BI tools.
BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) was the term coined to describe tools that were primarily focused on analysing behaviour of run-time applications rather than static data. An example here might be monitoring a loans application in order to see how often loan requests are having to be queued up for supervisor approval rather than executed under the authority of the loans advisor. A trigger could then be defined to highlight excessive involvement of the supervisor which might indicate other problems, such as inadequately trained loans advisors.
So, to reinforce this distinction, an executive view of BAM might be a dashboard display that shows the oeprational performance of the business in real time, with a colour-coded scheme to point out areas of concern. In contrast, the BI view might be of a set of charts in a presentation that describe business or buyer trends based on analysis of company performance over the last three months, enabling new initiatives to support competitiveness or access new business opportunities.
Over time, these two markets have tended to overlap. After all, both markets involve the steps of gathering information, and then analysing it. While gathering info will be completely different in the two cases (looking at data files vs monitoring business application and process execution) the analysis may well involve the same procedures, and hence BI analysis technology may well be used to enhance BAM offerings. However, there is a more pressing reason for linking the two areas. More and more companies are looking to ‘BAM’ as a way to optimize and enhance operational execution, and it is foolish to limit its scope to just looking at application performance. The user really wants to take into account all information in order to reflect corporate performance and identify opportunities. This covers both real-time execution AND what is happening to the data files.
However, because of the different smarts required for these two areas, it is unlikely that products are going to merge – in other words IBM is unlikely to replace COGNOS and WebSphere Business Monitor with a single product. This would make little sense. Instead companies are likely to improve the linkage and integration between these two distinct areas of technology.