Monday's Musings: Real Time Versus Right Time And The Dawn Of Engagement Apps

Different Flavors Of Real-Time Result In Significant Implications.

Many pundits, research insight folks, bloggers, and hand wavers keep talking about the need for real time in social business, analytics, mobile, and other disruptive technologies.  Given the volume of data, bandwidth constraints, and magnitude of business processes to be supported, is the notion of real time even possible?  It's been the holy grail of many technology suppliers to state they are delivering information or reacting in "real-time".

While researching the issue, I rediscovered a classic post from event processing researcher Dr. Opher Etzion, from IBM Labs Haifa.  The central thesis from this 2007 classic post is that real-time is quite valuable in the context of "the damage caused when missing a deadline".  When you look at that from a business value perspective, his approach leads to four types of real-time (see Figure 1):

  1. Soft real-time: there is a sense to react after the deadline, but the utility decreases (maybe fast) and at some point gets to zero - no use to do it at that point, but no damage.
  2. Firm real-time: The utility go immediately to zero when the deadline is missed - no use to do it after the deadline, but no damage.
  3. Hard essential: Missing the deadline - the utility function goes to a constant negative value; there is a constant penalty.
  4. Hard critical: Missing the deadline - the utility function goes immediately to "minus infinity", means: a catastrophe will happen.

Figure 1. Four Types Of Real-Time And their Implications Of Missing A Deadline

Source: Dr. Opher Etzion


The Shift From Real-Time To Right-Time Prioritizes Events By Business Value

A deeper examination of the four types shows that business value can easily be quantified in the hard essential and hard critical types as these result in penalties and disasters when real-time is not achieved.  In the case of firm real-time, the lack of timely response results in a wasted and non-valiant effort.

Consequently, organizations must prioritize business processes for real-time by business value achieved and potentially lost.  Essentially, this prioritization results in the notion of right time delivery of information. Moreover, right time increases in value as a concept when gauged against reactiveness versus proaactiveness.

As we break down business processes by interactions, an emerging class of applications move beyond transactions.  In fact, these applications must quickly determine right time actions at the point of engagement that follow 4 distinct types (see Figure 2):

  1. Proactive value added anticipation: the heart of engagement applications, anticipation allows for proactive response.  Examples include offers, suggestions, actions based on context drivers.  Context drivers could include location, presence, time, proximity, relationships, previous purchase behaviour, etc..
  2. Mission critical reactions: where most "real-time" use cases tend to fit, this type addresses deadlines, commitments, and regulations.  Examples include response times, regulatory requirements, alerts, threshold triggers, and service level agreements.
  3. Nice things to do: reminders with minimal impact but provide proactive engagement.   Examples include status updates, background information suggestions, and non-critical notifications.
  4. Timeless responses: where useless information resides in an abyss.  Examples include log reports, short action items, nice to know information from activity streams.

Figure 2: The Four Types Of Right Time Interactions

The Bottom Line: Right Time Information Will Enable The Emergence Of Engagement Apps

The maturation of transactional apps and the advancements in emerging technologies such as mobility, social networks, cloud computing, big data, advanced analytics, gamification, and unification now make way for the dawn of engagement apps.  Early concepts such as Enterprise 2.0, social business, and social CRM will make way for a new class of apps.  Stowe Boyd's Work Media concept and some of the emerging analytical apps show promise in pushing forth this notion of engagement apps beyond social and into a multitude of design scenarios.
These people centric applications build on peer-to-peer (P2P) concepts such as relationships, interaction points, and context.  Engagement applications take advantage of technology trends to transform human and system interactions.  Engagement apps will require a different approach in construct.  Builders of engagements applications will require a design thinking approach to design the expected interactions and process flow to achieve a higher level of interaction and business value.  Stay tuned as this trend continues to emerge.

Your POV.
Ready for right time apps? Got a different point of view on where apps are headed?  Is real-time possible or is there just too much information for real-time?  What to call these apps? people apps? engagement apps? right time apps?  Add your comments to the blog or send us a comment at r (at) softwareinsider (dot) org or info (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com.
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