Classifying Visibility Solutions
In this article on Visibility Solutions, I focus on a general classification of such solutions. My goal is to provide a concise and logical structure to discuss and assess concrete visibility solutions, like the ones we have developed at Lunatech.
As with every classification, the rationale behind it is as important, or even more important. For that reason, I shall not only provide a scheme to classify visibility solutions, but also explain why I consider it a useful one.
In general, Visibility Solutions aim to provide an accurate insight on one or more operational processes being monitored. In principle this could be any kind of operational process, but in Lunatech’s case we are mainly concerned with business processes of which logistical activities are a prime example.
When looking at visibility solutions, you’ll find them in all kinds and sizes. The difference between the various solutions are mostly caused by the nature of the operational process being monitored, but there are more indicators that can be used to qualify visibility solutions. Below I give key indicators that I consider important, when addressing the solutions. Equipped with these four indicators, existing visibility solutions as developed at Lunatech Research can be discussed and planned solutions examined.
Domain - solutions with a mature concise domain model versus an in-progress ad-hoc model
One business process is not the other. As a consequence, one visibility solution is not the other. Of course, this is a platitude, but an important one. It means that you can’t just take a standard, works-for-all, solution and expect it to work instantly. You will have to understand the type of activities or transactions that take place in the business process you are monitoring. Based on that understanding you can identify the kind of information you want to see and model it accordingly. Only then you will have a solution that effectively addresses the needs of the business processes.
Coverage - isolated solutions versus integrated solutions
This addresses whether the visibility solution is isolated to one business application, like a Warehouse Management System, a Transport Management System and an Enterprise Resource Planning System, or whether it aims to provide an integrated view across various business applications that are not necessarily under the control of one enterprise.
Interaction - strict monitoring solutions versus interactive solutions
A visibility solution should at least allow its users to view the monitored business process in some intelligent way. However, a next step quickly becomes that such a system allows its users to actively interact with the business process being monitored. An even more advanced solution would be able to autonomously cooperate with the business process, while in the most extreme case such a solution could even direct the business process automatically.
Technology - traditional solutions versus leading-edge solutions
A lot of choices arise when it comes to technology, where the possibilities are constantly changing and boundaries blurring. Currently you can choose between web based solutions or desktop solutions, mobile solutions that integrate with a PDA, or what ever else that is arising as a new trend. As technology keeps on changing, a more useful way of classifying the technology is needed.
A practical alternative to classify a visibility solution is to look at the level of innovation, or in other words traditional solutions versus leading-edge solutions. This gives you an indication how much problems you may encounter along the way, but also how innovative the solution might be.
To conclude with the rationale behind the selection of these indicators, one should start by considering the why, what, where and how behind each visibility solution. Understanding them is mandatory, but also sufficient to give a high-level assessment of the effectiveness of a solution on one side and the complexity and innovation on the other.
In this article’s view, the why, what, where and how is answered as follows:
why is answered by the domain indicator, which explains why the visibility solution fits into the business processes
what is answered by the coverage indicator, which tells what parts of the business processes are covered and what not
where is answered by the interaction indicator, which shows where it still has an influence, and where not
how is answered by the technology indicator, which shows the technical choices made or to make in the implementation