Real Time Business and the Wrong Question

I noticed an interested phenomenon this week.  In conversations with two groups within a supplier (or at least a sort of supplier) about two very different subjects my requirement for near real time updates was questioned.

Whilst I know that this was mainly because fundamental changes to the supplier’s architecture were necessary to support the requirement, the way the question was phrased is what I found most interesting.

“The data doesn’t change very often so why can’t you wait until the next day?”

I am not sure what the frequency of change of the data really has to do with how quickly a consumer needs to know that it has changed.  I really would have thought that what is more important is how quickly does the consumer really need to know such that he can act on the new information.

The matrix of scenarios is very interesting because each scenario has its place, changing quickly and being communicated quickly, changing quickly and communicated lazily, changing slowly with immediate communication as well as changing slowly with no real rush to communicate the change.  The issue is that in the enterprise only two extremes are considered and they are slowly changing lazily communicated and often changing instant communicated.

Compounding this fact is how slowly changing data updates become slower as they move through the enterprise, because at each point there is a willingness to let it hang around before communicating it forward.  In some cases the latency of this becomes so significant that consumers of the information at the end of the chain receive something which is very much out-of-date because the data has changed again.

In the modern era there are very few ‘self-service’ actions I can take with the electronic platforms that I deal with that respond with a ‘come back tomorrow’ answer.  My mortgage only changes once a month, yet I can see its balance online immediately even when my payment has very much just gone in; I don’t have to wait because this has been designed to consider consumption requirements rather than the rate at which the data changes.

To make sure that enterprise systems are designed appropriately, instant communication must be the default route – real time business within the enterprise must become normal rather than the exception.  I do very much understand that this makes some of the architecture design very challenging.  No-one should be asking why you can’t wait, instead the question should be flipped on its head and the requirement for lazily communicated data should be questioned, asking how it is possible that you are not in rush to receive the information.

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