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Book Review: The Real-Time Enterprise

This book was recommended to me by Mike Gonzalez over at Hands-on-BI. The book is a couple of years old but its time horizon was fairly long so it is still nicely relevant. The book introduces the concept of a Real Time Enterprise, discusses how exactly you can compete on time and talks about how various approaches, especially business process management, can and must be used as part of moving to an RTE. The book tries to avoid too much hype but sometimes falls victim to overblown rhetoric nevertheless.

There is a lot in the book about operational transformation, clearly a key ingredient in moving to an RTE, and the authors do a good job covering the people and culture issues as well as the technology ones. Some specific thoughts:

  • The book puts some emphasis on codified rules or business rules but tends to lump them as part of describing a business process, something with which I disagree.
  • It uses many examples of real-time business decision-making like cross-sell and fraud detection that are classic EDM targets
  • It makes the point that you need organizational knowledge to be "explicit, executable, actionable and adaptable" - a clarion call for a business rules management system if ever I heard one.
  • The authors focus on "right time" - the responsiveness needed to add value or create competitive advantage.
  • There is a nice little example that perfectly illustrates why decisioning is so important in this kind of situation. They discuss how an RTE responds to a crash of a truck carrying monitors by finding other comparable monitors and sending them. To me this is full of decisions as well as process - what is a comparable monitor for this customer? How urgent is this delivery? how willing are customer and supplier to incur additional cost? and so on.
  • I think the concept of Decision Yield would fit well into some of their discussion of how to measure processes.
  • There is an interesting chapter on an event-driven company and how Complex Event Processing or Business Activity Monitoring is key in an RTE.
  • Where the authors talk about "cycle time" I might have spent some time talking about the decision cycle and the competitive advantage to be gained by changing decisions faster and more effectively than your competitors.
  • Finally they talk about having change built in to systems - agility being something I have blogged on before.

There is a great quote from Dr Michael Porter of HBS who  said "The essence of strategy is choosing to perform activities differently than rivals do". For me, the essence of strategy can be choosing to decide how to treat customers differently than rivals do. That takes EDM.

It's a readable book and a nice overview of some of the trends and responses in real time enterprises. There is more on the blog on several of these topics and the book can be purchased here.

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