Monday, September 7, 2009

Managing By Exception

My wife and I recently went on a little vacation. Went to visit some friends in Utah. Good trip, even though I didn't get in any fishing.

We booked the trip through one of the on-line travel services (you know the genre: Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc.). As usual, the service worked pretty well...but there was one thing I found really irritating by the time the trip was over. As the workflow for my ticket purchase progressed, I got a text message and/or email alert with every step. Reserving the ticket, booking the ticket, payment received, only 5 days until your flight takes off, your reservation is confirmed, only 4 days until takeoff...seems like I was getting alerts serveral times a day. These alerts continued until a few hours after my return flight touched down (I actually got an alert letting me know my flight had arrived on time). Got to be pretty irritating by the end of the trip.

Pretty amazing that I'd get alerts on a continual basis like this. So a little tip here for all the business process development people: when my transaction and the ensuing workflow are running smoothly, stop buggin' me! I expect it to work and don't appreciate all the notices telling me things are working as intended. Tell me about the exceptions, not about the processes that are running smoothly.

I actually think this is one of the big paybacks for transactional business intelligence. If I work in Payables, the last thing I want or need to do is check on the gazillion invoices or checks I've processed in the past month to make sure they're each processing as expected. I want to be able to see the exceptions - those transactions that are not processing as expected. Even more importantly, I want some clues as to what needs fixin' to get those transactions back on track. Seems to me somebody savy with business process engineering and business intelligence could do well by designing and implementing a basic user interface that presents my transaction exceptions and messages on how to fix those exceptions - that's how I would want to start my work day. There's a serious productivity pickup to be had with managing by exception, and business intelligence strikes the tool that could get us there. It might also lower my blood pressure by cutting back on all those pesky alerts the next time I travel.

Thoughts? Hit the comments.