by Mark Farabaugh, Sri Ayyeppen, and Harish Gaur
Part of the Oracle Fusion Middleware Patterns article series.
Published March 2010
Oracle Fusion Middleware
Application users in today's world demonstrate an ever-increasing need for real-time intelligence as part of their user experience, a variety of aggregate information along with key performance indicators (KPIs) available in real time when they need it and where they need it, without having to search for it. A bank teller processing transactions typically needs real-time intelligence for the customer in front of him. Without that information, the teller is in no position to offer sound advice on savings or changing investment patterns, or to advise that to act on new information. This represents a lost opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell new products and services. If the bank teller had real-time intelligence on current mutual fund interest rates, the customer's investment pattern, and the health of the customer's investments, he could, for example, advise the customer to move funds from a low-interest account into a better-performing money market account for a short term.
However, intelligence alone is not sufficient. Once the intelligence is gathered, the next issue to address is accessibility. How does a user gain access to this critical data? Traditionally, there are many ways employed, including printed paper reports.
Traditional applications have always separated data entry or data management functions from reporting and analytics. They are handled by two different applications, two different information portals, or two different technologies.
Let's imagine the world of Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0), in which every information worker is empowered to be a decision-maker, cutting out key bottlenecks upfront. In this scenario, nuggets of information are treated like gold and made available to the users when and where they need them. Why should business-critical analytical information be treated any differently? Users are constantly in need of these nuggets of business intelligence (BI) either historical or real-time which help them to create and manage their transactions much better.
A combination of BI and E2.0 allows us to combine information management and analytics in the same context and transaction. In this article we will put together a reference architecture for contextual, real-time business insight. Using as an example DJO, a leading global provider of high-quality orthopedic devices, we will walk through a real-life example of how this is accomplished using Oracle WebCenter, Oracle Business Activity Monitoring, and Oracle Coherence.
So, what is real-time BI? To understand this, let's slide BI within an enterprise across three different categories:
The need for real-time intelligence is becoming more critical because traditional enterprise resource planning applications and homegrown portals are focused mostly on just transactions intake creating an order, managing customer information, updating financial information, and so on. Gone are the days when transactions were viewed as a point of data management. You have to look at the process as a whole. The ability to create an order while you update customer and financial information during the transaction is critical. Businesses are grooming users to be decision-makers across a process in order to avoid a multistep transaction process. As more and more businesses adopt this practice, real-time intelligence becomes key to any decision-making process.
Building a contextual, real-time BI application requires a combination of four key technologies: a Web 2.0 framework, business activity monitoring (BAM), grid caching, and service-oriented architecture (SOA), as illustrated in Figure 1.
In the next section, we will put together a reference architecture and present an approach to build a contextual, real-time intelligence application.
As previously discussed, this application requires integration between the Web 2.0 portal, SOA, BAM, and a grid caching solution (Figure 2).
All six steps are highlighted in Figure 3.
Now that we have reviewed the reference architecture and the six steps to build such an app, we will focus on the real-life implementation of a similar application at DJO Global.
DJ Orthopedics (DJO), headquartered in Vista, California, designs, manufactures, and distributes a line of technically advanced products and services for the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of acute and chronic orthopedic and spinal conditions. DJO, as part of its reimbursement business, runs call centers processing private and government medical insurance claims from all regions of the United States. The call centers also supply patients with healthcare devices and process the claims with insurance companies. Clinics and patients supply critical healthcare information as part of their claims. Call centers interact with healthcare insurance providers through electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions.
Information about customers and orders is distributed across custom databases, third-party systems, and Oracle E-Business Suite. However, in this configuration call center agents had no access to real-time aggregated customer information.
It is imperative for agent workings on claim processing to view in real time the daily or weekly call activity associated with a specific claim. Call center managers require real-time forecasting and load distribution to process claims, recognize trends, and address cash flow in real time.
In order to provide access to the necessary information, DJO decided to build a real-time BI application that would support call center user interaction and showcase real-time information on:
DJO Global chose the combination of Oracle ADF, Oracle Coherence, Oracle BPEL PM, and Oracle BAM to build this solution (see Figure 4), with Oracle E-Business Suite at the core to provide all processes, from order management, contract management, fulfillment, and shipping to financials and order-to-cash.
Let's review these architecture pieces using the invoice reconciliation DJO use case. DJO organizes all patient claims based on the insurance provider, and sends the claims invoices to the insurance companies for reimbursement. These external transactions are supported by business-to-business processes through Oracle SOA Suite. The insurance companies perform direct payment to the banks, and the banks send back EDI files to DJO with explanations of the payments. This information has to be reconciled with the source information sent to the insurance companies to ensure and sign off on records paid. If information can't be reconciled, DJO processes records that are, for various reason, not paid.
In some cases, pending transactions from past months may still be awaiting payment. There is a need for real-time intelligence as new files are received and new claims are adjudicated. It is necessary to get a real-time view of the records processed today, total records sent for reimbursement, total payments received, and pending reconciliation.
As part of this reconciliation, multiple steps occur:
Therein lies the need for a real-time dashboard that can be viewed by both call center agents and invoice agents to collaborate, process, and rectify.
|Design Goals||Solution Approach|
|Call center agents and invoice agents need visually rich dashboards to review invoice and order activity.||Leverage Oracle ADF DVT for visualization|
|Reconciliation information should be instantly available upon request (1k transactions/second expected).||Oracle Coherence to act as in-memory data grid to collect and display data.|
|Dashboards should be updated as soon as new reconciliation information is available. Agents should be able to analyze data in a variety of formats (charts, graphs).||Oracle BAM|
|The process of integrating order and invoice data should be automated. Processes and policies should be easy to adapt to new healthcare regulations.||BPEL engine as part of Oracle SOA Suite managed with Oracle BPEL PM.|
Now that we understand how all the pieces fit together in the context of the invoice reconciliation use case, let's walk through the six steps that were outlined earlier.
The combination of BI and E20 enables us to combine information management and analytics in the same context and transaction. This solution could easily evolve into an architecture that combines complex event processing with online analytical processing to further expand the capabilities to leverage business intelligence.
Many thanks to Gana Duraiswamy and Sandeep Reddy, solution leads at Keste, for putting the solution together and making this a reality.
|Mark Farabaugh is a VP of IT at DJO in Vista, CA., leading DJO's multi-year program to consolidate all legacy ERP applications to a global single instance of Oracle eBS R12. Mark has more than 20 years as experience as an IT professional, and has focused on implementing Oracle enterprise applications such as ERP, BI, CRM, FP&A for large multi-national corporations.|
|Sri Ayyeppen is the co-founder and CTO at Keste, an Oracle Platinum Technology Partner, where he is responsible for the leading teams that deliver complex solutions with Oracle Applications, Technology and Infrastructure. Sri, recently recognized as one of Oracle's Deputy CTOs for the year 2010.|
|Harish Gaur is Director of Product Management for Fusion Middleware at Oracle. In this role he works closely with strategic customers implementing Service-Oriented Architecture using Oracle SOA technology. Harish is the co-author of The BPEL Cookbook, from Packt Press.|