Complex Events, Simple Experiences

Jameskobielus_6By James Kobielus

Before the week is out, a few more thoughts inspired by various things I experienced at and around Forrester's Enterprise Architecture (EA) Forum last week in beautiful (but surprisingly chilly) Coronado, California.

What stuck with me was the presentation and demo by Kevin Lynch, CTO of Adobe. Though I was already quite familiar with Adobe’s Flex technology for rich Internet applications (RIA) technology, I liked the fact that Lynch presented Flex this time around as a business tool--in other words, as an interactive visualization technology for business intelligence (BI), business performance optimization, and event-rich analytics. All of which made perfect sense in a forum for enterprise architects.

As I was watching the demo, I began to think that RIA can be a double-edge sword, where BI is concerned, in terms of RIA’s potential to deliver meaningful, actionable intelligence for decision support.

On the one hand, as Lynch demonstrated, BI application developers can easily--if they don’t restrain themselves--craft any arbitrarily complex configuration of dashboards, scorecards, graphs, reports, query boxes, tickers, widgets, pop-up windows, and other visual (and audio) UI elements to deliver every imaginable form of intelligence to the user through every device or application at their disposal. And, in fact, as more BI environments begin to deliver more real-time event-driven refreshes direct-from-the-source, the more the potential for overburdening the poor end user’s overfull cranium. Where CEP for I&KM is concerned, this can easily degenerate into a nightmare scenario of information overload.

Or the BI/CEP application developers can deliver simplicity. They can use back-end event engines, business rules engines, and other infrastructure to conceal distracting complexities. Earlier that week, I was meeting with a vendor that provides real-time DW, plus in-database analytics, plus rules engines that can deliver, triggered by streaming data, simple recommendations through an Information Worker’s BI environment. For example, the DW/CEP/BRE/analytics environment might provide account reps with crisp, time-sensitive, context-sensitive recommendations to respond to an irate customer while they’re still on the phone--to keep them from bolting to the competition.

All of which brings me to a closing thought re this particular post. The problem with the term “complex event processing” is that it seems to imply a complex UI--hence, that CEP's potential user base is limited to rocket scientists, Wall Street quants, IT industry analysts (gasp!), and other folks who are professionally obliged to handle (indeed, embrace) complexity.

But complexity is part of the problem, not the solution, where CEP for I&KM is concerned. We can’t stop the world of business from growing more multifaceted. But we can and should filter it all down to the simplest, most meaningful, most actionable experience, targeted specifically to each user, and contextualized precisely to each and every occasion.

Down to a pure and beautiful crystallization.