The Six Levers of Business Agility

Directors are always on the look out for ways to increase their revenues, reduce costs and mitigate their business risks.  One of the principal ways of achieving these goals is to create a dynamic and highly responsive business operation using a number of agile technologies.

Directors are often being told that if they implement a single agile technology that they will solve the agility problem for their business.  However whilst many businesses have achieved some levels of success in using a single technology (such as BPM or Predictive Analytics), this single technology approach is no longer viable in today’s challenging and competitive business environment.

There are currently six technologies that can be considered as the “Six Levers of Business Agility”. A detailed white paper on the Six Levers of Business Agility can be download from here).

Implementing these six business agility levers provides a substantial additional uplift in business performance over what can be achieved by a single lever.

The following is a brief overview of the  six levers of business agility:

Business Agility Lever 1: “SOA-enable” your business applications

If the functionality within your business applications are available as SOA services, then you can use these services to compose more flexible and dynamic business processes capable of responding to changes in your business environment.

The requirement to have “SOA-enabled” applications is a requirement if a business wants to take full advantage of the Six Levers of Business Agility.  However the good news is that, today,  most enterprise business applications and SaaS offerings are already “SOA-enabled” using Web services.

 

Business Agility Lever 2: Business Process Management (BPM).

You should consider acquiring a suite of Business Process Management tools to design, compose, manage and execute business processes based around your SOA-enabled applications.

The BPM tooling, and a business process execution platform, will enable you to reduce the operational costs of your business processes, as well as provide a platform for  injecting the other agility levers into your business processes.

 

Business Agility Lever 3: Enterprise Decision Management (EDM).

You should factor out your company polices, procedures and business rules from your application code and and replace them with their equivalent in business rules format.  It is these business rules executing within business rules engines that are called enterprise decision services.

These enterprise decision services can be called from within BPM process models to make real-time operational decisions, and, direct and control the flow of the business process.  Enterprise decision services enhances business agility because it is very easy to modify the business rules to reflect external changes.  For example, changes in customer demand, corporate policies or government regulations can be implemented without additional costly software modification work.

 

Business Agility Lever 4: Complex Event Processing (CEP).

At any given  moment, hundreds or even many thousands of events per second occurs within your business applications, operating systems and networks.

Often whilst single events are consumed by specified applications, it is the combination of several events generated by many different applications  (known as a complex event) which, if you could detect and respond in real-time, could help you identify new opportunities that could lead to increased revenues or reduction in costs.

Now the key to CEP agility is configuring a CEP engine to execute any number of business processes on the detection of specific combination of complex or single events.   Using CEP with the other agility levers gives your business real-time agility to respond in time to take advantage of revenue generating opportunities. For example, the ability to respond to any interaction, by any of your customers, using any of your sales or support channels in real-time.  Furthermore the response can be  tailored to each specific customer interaction.

The potential applications for CEP are huge as this technology can be applied to virtually all aspects of your business operations.

 

Business Agility Lever 5: Predictive Analytics.

Predictive analytics is one of the most important business agility lever and a lot of vendors are currently selling standalone predictive analytical applications.

However the sweet spot, if you have already using  SOA, BPM and EDM business agility levers, is that you can use predictive analytics to enhance your enterprise decision services so that even more profitable decisions can be made.

 

Business Agility Lever 6.   Constraint Optimisation.

This technology was previously hidden away in the Operational Research and Logistics departments.

Constraint optimisation is about determining the best possible utilisation of   resources (e.g. time, people, raw materials, securities) required to achieve a desired business outcome (minimum cost, maximum profit, minimum process time, etc.).

The sweet spot of constraint optimisation is when it is injected into decision services to provide highly optimised  business decisions that reduce business costs and at the same time maximising a business objective.

 

Implementing the Six Levers of Business Agility.

Do not forget that when proceeding to implement these Six Levers of Business Agility that one does not attempt to implement all six levers in your first iteration.   The best approach is to undertake a series of phased implementations, adding additional levers at each iteration.

Of course implementing  these business agility levers will require software products and tools.  There are several companies that offer good platforms that support 3, 4 or even 5 of the Six Levers of Business Agility.

One such company, Azinta Systems (http://www.azinta.com)  who provide a single integration Business Agility platform (APADO) containing all the required software products and tooling to implement the Six Business Agility Levers.  However I must declare an interest as I am the CEO of Azinta.

It is also possible to use open source products to implement the Six Levers of Business Agility (in fact APADO is based on open source projects) and I will discuss these open source projects in subsequent posts.

Posted by Suleiman Shehu  – CEO of Azinta Systems (http://www.azinta.com)