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Is faster better? Where real time is the right time for some organizations

Financial organizations already appreciate the value of sub-second response. Now, organizations as varied as Interpol, PepsiCo and OfficeMax are exploring real-time capabilities for parts of their operations.
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

"Real time" -- a piece of industry jargon that's been batted around for at least a decade -- means many things to many people. In the financial services space, especially in high-frequency trading, it has credence, as millions of dollars get traded and valued within a space of nanoseconds.

An F/A-18 Hornet at transonic  speed and displaying the Prandtl-Glauert singularity just before breaking the sound barrier. Credit: Wikimedia Commons, US Navy

But in most businesses, how essential is real-time processing and visibility? And is capturing an event within an hour or so close enough to be considered real-time?

For a number of global businesses, real time seems to be the right time as a way to maintain competitive edge, as well as squeeze out costs from inefficient, labor-intensive processes.

My colleague at ebizQ and a highly regarded expert in event processing technologies, Brenda Michelsen, attended this week's Tibco end-user conference, and is providing plenty of accounts of real-time processing in action. For some industries, even outside of financial services, speed means everything. She quotes Tibco's Vivek Ranadive, who shared the Silicon Valley secret that the most innovative, high-growth companies – Google, Facebook, Amazon – "are not using relational databases," but rather, 'in-memory' information stores" to speed up their event processing capabilities.

Real-time information and event processing is a high priority for other leading organizations:

Interpol: Ronald K. Noble, secretary general of this international police agency, provided perspective on the need for real-time responsiveness, even between systems and networks of different countries. For example, he said,  there are 500 million passenger arrival events annually across the globe, and many passports are not screened against the database of lost or stolen passports, because systems are not connected.  There are almost 12 million passport records in the stolen and lost travel document database.

OfficeMax: Randy G. Burdick, EVP and CIO, described how the retailer implemented an architecture, based on an enterprise service bus, that managed business events such as store sales and distributing item information. Through real-time analysis, OfficeMax is able to order out-of-stock items from the point of sale, employ predictive monitoring of core business processes such as order fulfillment, and conduct real-time analysis of business transactions, to quickly measure and track product affinity, hot sellers, proactive inventory response, price error checks, and cross-channel analysis.

PepsiCo: Finally, Brenda describes how PepsiCo is employing real-time analytics to manage its transportation and logistics, "A common use case for real-time information." In this case, PepsiCo's challenge was to more efficiently manage the dedicated fleet.  "The cost of carrying the dedicated fleet during the downturn was exorbitant," Brenda relates.  "However, the cost (and risk) of not having a dedicated fleet during good economic times was untenable." In addition, the decision-making process for allocating shipments was manual and labor-intensive. The company needed real-time feedback and a way to communicate automatically with dedicated and company fleet carriers, as well as a real-time business fact cost valuation for fleet trips. The company also needed to better automate shipment decisions.

Through business process optimization, the company reported is was able to accomplish these goals. Lessons learned included the need to "break complex actions into smaller actions that can be re-used; capture enough data elements in events for future expansion of business rules; and involve business early in defining business rules, actions and data elements."

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, US Navy)

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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