Application event streams: machines get social

machines

Application event streams – timely business intelligence (BI) updates that can be followed and discussed in a social activity stream – promise to kick-start conversations around critical business data.

We have all witnessed the value of Twitter and Facebook acting as critical communications networks in times of crisis… or just boredom. Yammer and Salesforce.com’s Chatter application apply these same concepts to business, enabling workers to share their thoughts and experiences in a social activity stream for the enterprise.

Now middleware vendor TIBCO is extending the conversation to include machines. The company’s Tibbr offering pulls application event data from existing systems and incorporates the data into an activity stream. Workers can take it from there, adding their own qualitative assessment of the data. Users can follow relevant event streams and form groups around related topics.

Social Media and Business Intelligence Converge

Enterprise applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems have created overwhelming troves of corporate data. BI tools provide a sophisticated means of summarizing and analyzing this data, but these tools have not become pervasive across the enterprise. Too often, they are limited to a few executives and business analysts. Social media concepts, when implemented with more traditional BI and middleware tools, present a new opportunity to disseminate and discuss intelligence gleaned from corporate systems.

Application event streams empower people to stay aware and discuss information as soon as it emerges. Just as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized social interactions, the application event streams of new enterprise social systems like Tibbr can revolutionize how businesses collaborate when analyzing data.

Consider a scenario in which days sales outstanding (DSOs) exceed a company’s goal of fewer than 60 days. A system like Tibbr fires an event notification to its #DSO followers. The relevant participants can then discuss what’s driving the metric up. Accounts receivable staff can explain which accounts have aged to inflate the numbers. Sales and service reps attached to those accounts can call their contacts at those accounts to follow up on the receivable. The CFO can chime in with just how important it is to get DSOs in-line by quarter end.

An Elegant Solution to Common Challenges

Data integration is central to the value of application event streams. In most conversations, tangible data will increase the value of the dialog. In the case of application event streams, executives can consider information as soon as it arises. For example, activity streams can be automatically updated when revenue surpasses a particular level. Then users can comment and start a discussion with colleagues faster. In other words, communication becomes collaboration.

A social media user interface also invites a broader audience into the conversation. Event streams present information in a simple list of short messages, filtered according to the user’s priorities. As long as the settings are appropriate, it only takes a quick scan to find the latest developments in accounting or customer data. Responses appear right next to each of these updates, tying important data together with the discussion. This is vastly more simple than traditional ERP reporting.

The simple concept of “following” a stream gets the right information to the right people, right away. When users follow only what they need to know, they don’t waste time sorting through irrelevant information. As in Twitter, users can follow others to receive their updates or comments. But in application event streams, they can also follow a specific metric from a specific system, rather than logging into multiple systems each day. They receive event updates when a development occurs in an area of interest.

Work is About to Get Social

The market for enterprise social software, though young, is growing rapidly; Gartner projects spending to grow nearly 16 percent in 2011 from 2010 levels. They’re already tracking more than 80 vendors, with plenty of activity among them. Some vendors are seeking alliances with ERP providers to capitalize on integration potential. Take Jive’s partnership with SAP for example. Similarly, Socialcast’s Reach integrates with CRM and other programs. As more integration initiatives take place, application event streams will only improve how they present business data to the social experience.

BI activity streams are making businesses more social and saving time spent searching for answers. Now all it takes is a quick scan and a short comment to apply key business metrics to the actual decision making process. It’s pretty obvious now that activity streams can make business more efficient. Who knows; maybe it can even make us better friends with our co-workers. But if you’re staying late at the office to discuss last night’s NFL game with your ERP system, you might want to see a shrink.

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Hunter Richards is an Accounting Market Analyst for Software Advice. He specialises in accounting software, but often writes on cloud computing and green issues. Hunter graduated in 2010 from Washington University in St. Louis with degrees in economics and film studies. Before working at Software Advice, he conducted legislative research for offices of the U.S. Congress.