The speed and frequency of all types of transactions is increasing, with more and more activities and processes now considered as such. Many business sectors – with retailing fast becoming the most obvious example – are today being pushed towards digital transformation. That is a good direction, but it carries with it a fundamental operational issue.

If digital transformation is to be effectively exploited, it will require increasing levels of automation with richer, end-to-end monitoring of processes, as near as possible in real time. Without that, no business can be sure that their processes are functioning effectively, and there will be no accurate, validated data for analytics tools to work with. Without effective monitoring of end-to-end processes, business managers might just as well guess at an answer.

What is more, business problems will only to grow as the use of APIs increase. These can play a vital role in building complex application synergies, which in turn can create rich business processes that enhance customer satisfaction down the line. In the end, that is what every business wants to achieve. But the more complex these synergies, the more risk there is of creating customer dissatisfaction if the business cannot be sure of the data being used.

Businesses, therefore, need to be prepared to meet this need, which dives deeper into the business and is much more involved than the transaction witnessed by a customer. Typically, the customer’s involvement with the business process starts with an inducement to purchase ‘something’. This results in a connection of some kind, either online or face-to-face – where the direct transaction starts and, hopefully, runs through to completion. For the business, however, the full scope of the operation will have started before any customer is near and goes on after they have left. It will, for example, include collecting funds and processing bank transfers, as well as updating inventory levels.

Transparency of All Processes Crucial

The key starting point for monitoring is to see business processes ‘mapped out’, so that they are more transparent. Another key factor is to create, as quickly as possible, a profile of what constitutes ‘normal’ activity for a process. In this way it‘s possible to monitor for anomalies, which eliminates the need to scrutinize all variations of business processes. As well as process errors, it is also possible to ensure that even those rare, exotic processes – for example, where one out of a million transactions goes to a special database.

Before a customer buys a single product, businesses have to perform a number of processes, each of which must be monitored. They need to identify the products to be sold, agree with a supplier on terms and conditions, check the supplier’s credit status and be checked themselves. In addition, they must get logistics in place so that the item is in inventory, on any current marketing campaign and is widely available online. Most important, its price must be shown on the POS system. All of that preparatory work needs to happen before the customer decides to begin a transaction.

At the checkout stage the inventory needs to be updated and rules need to be implemented – such as whether the supply should be replenished or has reached its end of life. This aftermath of every transaction must also be organized and properly monitored. In order to cope with rising volumes of transactions, it is essential that process monitoring is automated. Only with analysis routines that ensure the data precision of each process step is it possible for management to have an accurate guide for their decisions.

Business Challenges Continue to Grow

This automation is now vital in the retail world, where stores can have 10,000 different items on sale. Any attempt at manual processes monitoring would be, at the very best, extremely tiresome and prone to error. And in today’s world, businesses need to be able to change the price of fast-selling items every day. This is a challenge when business is booming, and is even more complex with retailers that need to keep tens or hundreds of stores in sync with local adaptations, while making sure that an appropriate price is listed at that shop.

With a high level of product variations, retailers and similar fast-transaction businesses are getting closer to running Internet-of Things (IoT) environments. The need is then not just to monitor the processes themselves, but also the sensors of the systems and devices that control the products’ lifecycle through all stages of the supply chain.

Another issue retailers have is that a particular store might run out of a certain item and will need to inform customers that it is still available in a store five miles away – otherwise the customer might simply walk away. Therefore, a growing number of retailers are building virtual inventories, which group stores and warehouses together. Customers can use this virtual inventory to locate and book items online to ensure that it is available at their preferred shop.

Integration Matters Makes End-to-End Monitoring Easy

Our Integration Matters process visibility platform gives organizations the tools they need to identify any breakdowns in this complex mix of business processes. They can easily identify and deal with errors or issues concerning unavailable products and are able to fix problems before consumers notice. Our solution also helps businesses validate the accuracy of process-produced data to ensure that the major analysis applications provide the best possible results. The depth of that analysis can be vital in highly competitive markets.

For example, business managers would traditionally get an end-of-day report from every outlet, which would tell them how many items had been sold. But they would never get a report on how many sales opportunities were lost because they ran out of stock. This is now a vital and quickly obtainable piece of business information.

Whether you are looking to see a demo, want to partner with us, or just want more details, get in touch and we will have the right person respond as soon as possible.

About the Author: Birgit Jordan is Marketing Director at Integration Matters.