In business analytics, there are different camps of thinkers. Some believe that data is key in driving processes. Others think that data is the servant of process. However, both camps agree that data analytics and measurement are critical for process improvement.
Business process management, business intelligence, business activity monitoring, and other analytics collect and aggregate data for evaluation and action. Typically, these methods collect statistics on key performance indicator successes or failures. Process points are identified for monitoring. These could be lower-level tasks, such as number of orders processed. Or the focus could be at a higher level, like transaction frequency between a sales Web application and the order and database servers. An even higher-level example could be logging a mainframe to understand the relationship between order volume and how quickly a warehouse can respond.
But these types of analyses miss a key gap - events happening on the user desktop. Desktop event monitoring is granular. It provides key insights into how humans interact with business processes. It captures every detail of user interaction on the desktop. It records each detail of discrete tasks, such as entering information in a field, and complex tasks, such as the time used to complete and approve a dozen fields in a form.
While few would dispute the benefit of desktop event data, the process of capturing such data has always been challenging, as desktop events take place across dozens of applications on hundreds or thousands of desktops across enterprises. Very often, these applications are older and less open than modern Web applications.
The good news is that it is possible to rapidly access desktop-level user events. Technology can leverage the one common denominator between all applications deployed to user desktops - the fact that each application was written to use the underlying Windows operating system. The Windows OS is an environment rich in communications. Each user action is associated with an event that the OS processes and responds to or passes to applications running in the environment. Each event, such as a cursor or a mouse click movement, can be logged.
Comprehensive desktop event monitoring natively accesses any component of any Windows-based application, without application program interfaces. It opens up native applications, virtual applications, Web applications, technologies such as Java, Flash, Active X and so on. It is also noninvasive unlike many earlier technologies such as keystroke capture, desktop snapshot recording and archiving, which added a load on system processing and memory while being limited to superficial data collection.
Desktop event monitoring produces a combination of individual performance insights (the time it takes a user to fill out a screen, the number of times a submit order button is clicked) and business metrics (how long it takes to process a credit application versus a refund). The collected data is extended to compare results across teams or departments.
Two hypothetical business examples illustrate this. They are based on experience with similar vertical markets in the real world.
Purchase Order Processing
My Large Company, Inc., has four full-time buying agents who work on Windows PCs. Their desktop environments are a mix of legacy applications including a CRM system with vendor information, a mainframe terminal emulator used for order entry, and others.
My Large Company has set up workflows for order processing. Mainframe statistics are batched and compared daily. Certain procedures - such as a checklist for the buying agents and a better menu for payment selections and account information - have reduced buying cycle times by one day, which means that materials arrive faster in accordance with company production plans.
By leveraging desktop event monitoring, My Large Company was able to log two very different desktop applications - the terminal emulator and the CRM user interface. The logs revealed a large amount of time is spent manually cutting and pasting information back and forth between these applications. Further, the event data showed that the process was error-prone, which added more use time and frustration.
My Large Companys purchasing department worked with the IT department to turn event monitoring into action. Event data was passed to the enterprises service-oriented architecture solutions and also provided feedback to BPM solutions.
A desktop solution also exists with no runtime processing penalties. It logs and processes desktop events and gives users smooth use of legacy applications in a composite interface. The result is an improvement in purchase order processing times, greater vendor satisfaction and faster, more accurate deliveries.
Large Bank and Trust, Inc. has a call center with 600 customer service representatives working on Windows PCs. The banks IT environment is a mix of old and new - mainframe emulators running batch applications and online views, a CRM desktop application and in-house front ends that give unique database views and queries for some account categories. CSRs commonly have up-sell messages and programs that appear in Web applications for certain categories of accounts. The banks many IT processes generate reports during different cycles; analysts evaluate the data for financial KPI achievement, account turnover and other parameters.
Over a recent six-month period, account cancellations rose and up-sells were flat. Management discussions pointed to several causes related to the economy and consumer statistics. But a close examination of desktop events told the real story and highlighted significant inefficiencies in how CSRs worked with clients. The processes and procedures were fine, but bottlenecks emerged in how legacy desktop applications functioned together. Like the purchase order case above, it turned out that the assortment of legacy applications required manual intervention to add data, access collateral information and process transactions.
Based on its understanding of the desktop events, the bank can integrate the desktop applications, automate a number of tasks and build a common interface. This saves time on routine tasks and cuts test transaction times from call answer to up-sell message. Up-sells hypothetically increase (business goal), and productivity gains across the call center (individual and department improvements) are measurable.
From Passive Monitoring to Real-Time Events
Collecting granular user events from the desktop adds value to BPM and BAM solutions because it allows you to reach into user processes and understand which benefits and which penalties you may be getting but not accounting for in process planning or outcomes. BPM and BAM each present slightly different approaches.
Extend BPM to the desktop. There is typically a significant disconnect between BPM solutions hosted on a server and whats happening on a business users desktop. Processes can be automated and tracked across a wide range of back-end systems, but everything comes to a halt when a human process is required. By capturing business events on the desktop, BPM solutions can obtain valuable data about the human steps within a larger process. Has a user signed off on the task? Where within that task is the user? How long did it take to complete each task in the process? These are the questions that the BPM solution will be able to answer when connected to desktop events.
Extend BAM to the desktop. BAM solutions typically capture data across a wide range of systems. This helps companies identify and quantify the impact of events and notify people and systems about meaningful events so that processes can be adapted on the fly and people can take action to capitalize on opportunities and remediate threats. By passing business user desktop events from a product into BAM solutions, data from business users, including your customer-facing front lines, can be instrumented to trigger events processed within solutions.
By monitoring desktop events, organizations can extend their visibility into analytics of the user environment, where most of an organizations business processes occur. This provides valuable insight into business processes in a way no other technologies can and enables organizations to pinpoint true bottlenecks in real time.
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