In the comics, superheroes use words like this to draw attention to their escapades and to punctuate their physical exploits with words that bring to mind the sounds of a real-life struggle. In the world of business intelligence, one of these words – BAM – has a similar impact but actually reflects an emerging concept destined to shed light on immediacy in corporate management. BAM! What a term! It kind of slaps you up the side of the head, doesn't it? It's the acronym that research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc. devised for business activity monitoring, which enables real-time access to critical business performance indicators as a way to improve operations.

We're all familiar with analytics. For years, we've been developing, implementing and utilizing data warehouse and business intelligence architectures that provide analytics. However, the analytics involved in data warehouse environments are founded on the concept that future events can be predicted based on historical trends. BAM is something different. BAM is real-time analytics. Don't get me wrong; we still need historical analytics. However, we also need real-time analytics to respond to changes in the business environment that happen more quickly than can be captured only in a periodic data warehouse feed.

Beware of suppliers claiming to provide BAM in a neat package. Currently, BAM is not a product, but a concept. BAM is a combination of many technologies we have known about for some time. BAM involves alerts, triggers, sensors and agents that determine a transaction or event that is meaningful. BAM involves enterprise application integration (EAI), business intelligence, rules-based engines, middleware, message queues and other technologies that integrate information for human consumption. To say BAM is one product is erroneous.

BAM is real-time BI, as opposed to traditional BI which deals with static, historical trends. BAM is more than providing an alert when supply inventories reach a critically low point. (Individual operational applications can already provide alerting mechanisms, even to mobile devices, that can notify operational managers of needed action.) BAM involves looking at multiple disparate applications/transactions and finding specific transactions or groupings of events that contribute to a more complex definition of notable behavior. BAM is about noticing these events. BAM is also about notifying someone about these events. BAM is even about enabling these people to take action based on these events ­ all in real time.

Let's look at the problem of money laundering as an example of where BAM may come into play. Money laundering has always been a problem for U.S. financial institutions, but has come under even greater scrutiny in recent times because of ties to terrorism. Money is laundered to conceal criminal activity associated with it. Laundering conceals the true source of funds so that they can be used freely. Banks have become targets in money-laundering operations because they provide a variety of services and instruments ­ such as cashier's checks, money orders and wire transfers ­ that can be used to conceal the source of the money.

Banks need to be able to discern, as transactions occur, those that require closer scrutiny because they are inconsistent with normal customer behavior. Rapid increases in the size and frequency of cash deposits, sending or receiving frequent or large volumes of wire transfers and depositing funds into several accounts in amounts below a reportable threshold are all transactions that could require closer scrutiny. Also, unusual cash purchases of money orders as well as sudden and inconsistent changes in the pattern of currency transactions for a corporate or business account could indicate situations that require further review. A BAM infrastructure could, per a rules-based engine that defines such suspicious behavior, filter these transactions as they pass through the message queue and alert bank operations staff for further action. Determination of complex patterns correlating current events with historical events ­ including not only transactions that are happening (or did happen at some point in the past), but also something that is not happening (or did not happen in the past) ­ is required for bank staff to identify customer behavior that is inconsistent and, therefore, a potential money laundering situation.

Regulations are requiring banks and other financial institutions to be more watchful of activity that is unusual or inconsistent with a customer's business. While some specific application solutions may provide alerts of narrowly focused potential problem situations, it's going to take BAM to achieve integration and complex pattern determination across many systems or applications. BAM may provide the superhero impact to thwart money laundering. BAM will undoubtedly have a similar impact on real- time operational problems in other industries as well. Remember, for real-time business operations improvement, technology can provide a haymaker – wind 'er up ... BAM!

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