Business activity monitoring with IBM Business Monitor V7.5, Part 4: Customizing the dashboard experience

In Part 4 of this series, you'll customize the dashboards that were generated from the IBM® Business Process Manager process application you used in Part 3. You'll learn how to edit a dashboard page so you can configure its widgets to display just what you want. You'll also learn how to create your own dimensional report (using Cognos BI technology), KPI gauges, and alerts for when a business situation is detected. This content is part of the IBM Business Process Management Journal.

John Alcorn (jalcorn@us.ibm.com), Senior Software Engineer, IBM

author photoJohn Alcorn is the lead architect for the IBM Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) platform. He has worked as a software engineer with IBM for 15 years, with more than ten years on WebSphere products, including roles in both product development and software services. John has been a technical leader with the WebSphere Business Monitor product for 4 years, and works closely with the wider IBM WebSphere Business Process Management (BPM) team.

John is IBM-certified in XML technologies, SOA technologies, and in multiple WebSphere products, and is Sun™ certified in Java™ programming. He currently manages a team of developers at the Research Triangle Park lab in North Carolina. You can reach John at jalcorn@us.ibm.com.



29 June 2011

Overview

In Part 3, you learned how to deploy the monitoring for a BPM process application, and how to work with the dashboard that gets automatically generated for it. Now, you will learn how to take that generated dashboard and customize it to meet the specific needs of your particular business users. You will see that you have full control over what data should be displayed, how it is visualized, and how to use the tools in the dashboard to author additional, personalized visibility into how your BPM processes are performing. Specifically, we will see how to specify exactly which fields to display in tables, we'll create our own custom bar chart, a custom gauge, and will see how to get alerted when something goes out of range - all based on data being tracked from a BPM process.Now that you've seen the generated dashboards for a BPM Process App, let's learn how to customize and extend them.


Customize a widget

First, let's learn how to customize a widget.

  1. Go to the HR Open New Position Instances page in Business Space, and click Edit Page, as shown in Figure 1.
    Figure 1. Editing a dashboard page
    Editing a dashboard page
  2. Click the down arrow at the top right of the widget, and choose Edit Settings, as shown in Figure 2.
    Figure 2. Editing settings on a widget
    Editing settings on a widget
  3. A dialog displays in which you can pick the columns you'd like to see in this widget. Let's hide some of the metric columns from the table. In the list on the right, you should see a list of Selected metrics. Choose several metrics you want to hide in that list, and click the left arrow to move them from Selected to Available.
  4. You can also adjust the Refresh rate to control how often the widget contacts the server to look for new or updated process instances. The default is once a minute. As shown in Figure 3, change this to 30 seconds.
    Figure 3. Customizing the Instances widget
    Customizing the Instances widget
  5. Click OK, then click Finish Editing to return the dashboards to their normal state, as shown in Figure 4.
    Figure 4. Completing your customization
    Completing your customization

Now you can see your BPM process instance data just the way you want!

Figure 5. A customized view of BPM process instance data
A customized view of BPM process instance data

Define a new report

Next, let's define a new report by doing the following:

  1. Add a new Tools page to the space, to hold new widgets you'll be using. Click the plus icon to the right of the HR Open New Position Diagrams tab, as shown in Figure 6, then enter Tools for the Page name, and click OK.
    Figure 6. Adding a new dashboard page
    Adding a new dashboard page
  2. Now let's change the page layout so that we have sufficient width for the widgets we're going to use. Click Edit Page, then click the icon to the left of the Save button, and select 1 column, as shown in Figure 7.
    Figure 7. Controlling the page layout
    Controlling the page layout
  3. Drag the Report Designer icon from the palette onto the page. The palette is arranged alphabetically, so you'll need to scroll down within the palette to find this widget -- or you can start typing the first few letters of the name of your desired widget (such as Rep) in the Filter Widgets field, to display only those items containing those characters.
    Figure 8. Adding the Report Designer to your page
    Adding the Report Designer to your page
  4. Click Finish Editing.
  5. Using the Report Designer widget, enter a name for your new report, such as Hiring by City.
    Figure 9. Name the report
    Name the report
  6. Click Select, and in the Select Package dialog, expand HiringSample_Main, and select HR Open New Position, then click OK.
    Figure 10. Select your BPM process to report on
    Select your BPM process to report on
  7. Now that you have selected your package, you will have dimensions and measures to choose from. Skip over the Specify a dimension, frequency, and time period for the report section, and under Select the data you want to include in this report, check location as the dimension, and Average empNum as the measure.
    Figure 11. Select data to include in the report
    Select datea to include in the report
  8. You can now preview your report and even drill down in the preview to see an example of analyzing the average number of employees to be hired by loation, to make sure you are happy with it before saving it. Click the Preview button.
    Figure 12. Preview your report
    Preview your report
  9. Close the preview, and click Save.

You have just authored a Cognos BI report on your BPM process application!


Customize a report

Now let's add that report to a page and customize it.

  1. Go to the HR Open New Position Reports page, and click on Edit Page. Then drag the Report Viewer icon down from the palette to the drop zone at the top of the page, so that your custom report will show up first. Choose Edit Settings from the widget menu at the top right of the widget, as shown in Figure 13.
    Figure 13. Edit the Report Viewer settings
    Edit the Report Viewer settings
  2. A dialog displays, in which you can choose which report this widget should show, then click Select.
    Figure 14. Select the report to display
    Select the report to display
  3. The Select Report dialog displays, in which you can navigate to the report you selected earlier. Expand Public Folders => HiringSample_Main, then click the report under there (it will show whatever name you gave it in the Report Designer), then click OK.
    Figure 15. Select report to open
    Select report to open
  4. The report should display. Click Finish Editing to return to the normal dashboard mode.
  5. Drill down on the location (double-click on the blue bar). Notice as you hover over each bar that information about that bar is displayed.
  6. Select Save changes for me under Action at the top right of the widget, as shown in Figure 16, so that you'll see the report in this drilled-down state whenever you visit this page in the future.
    Figure 16. Save changes
    Save changes

Create a KPI

Now let's create a new KPI.

  1. Return to the Tools page, then select Edit Page
  2. Add the KPI Manager widget to your page. Instead of dragging, you can just click the plus icon to the right of the icon in the palette.
  3. Click Finish Editing, to hide the widget palette.
  4. In the Model drop-down menu, select HiringSample_Main.
  5. Select Actions => New Aggregate KPI, as shown in Figure 17.
    Figure 17. Create new aggregate KPI
    Create new aggregate KPI
  6. In the dialog that appears, enter Average Openings per Hiring Request in Atlanta in the KPI name field, as shown in Figure 18, then click the Definition tab.
    Figure 18. Specify KPI name
    Specify KPI name
  7. You can look at the aggregation options under the Operator drop-down menu, but leave it the default of Average for this KPI. Then click the button next to the Metric field to select your desired metric.
  8. The Metric Selection Tree dialog displays. Expand HR Open New Position and select empNum, as shown in Figure 19.
    Figure 19. Select metric to aggregate
    Select metric to aggregate
  9. Click Add under Data filter, so that you can limit this KPI to just employees in Atlanta.
  10. Select location from the Metric drop-down menu.
  11. Leave the Operator drop-down at its default value of Equals.
  12. Enter Atlanta in the Value field (or whatever location you want to filter on, if you specified different values when running your process instances).
    Figure 20. Specify KPI filter criteria
    Specify KPI filter criteria
  13. Click the Range tab.
  14. Enter a value in the Target field, such as 3.
  15. Use the Add row button to create new ranges, and name them Low, Medium, and High.
  16. Use 0 and 2 as the Start Value and End Value for the first row.
  17. Click the color box to pick a green color from the color selector dialog (or enter 00FF00).
  18. Repeat for the second and third rows, using 2-4, and 4-6, and the colors yellow, and red, respectively, as shown in Figure 21.
    Figure 21. Enter KPI range properties
    Enter KPI range properties
  19. Cick the Other tab.
  20. Check Decimal place precision, and specify 1 in the entry field, then click the Preview tab.
    Figure 22. Enter additional KPI properites
    Enter additional KPI properites
  21. On the Preview tab, you can preview what the KPI would look like on a dashboard page, and see some details about your new KPI. You don't need to take any action here, so just click OK when you're done.
    Figure 23. Preview the KPI
    Preview the KPI

    Go back to the KPI Manager widget and scroll until you see your new KPI listed.

    Figure 24. New KPI in widget
    New KPI in widget

Use the new KPI

Now, let's go make use of our newly defined KPI.

  1. Click the HR Open New Position KPIs page, and choose Edit Page.
  2. Select Edit Settings from the widget drop-down menu in the upper left of the widget, as shown in Figure 25.
    Figure 25. Edit the KPI widget settings
    Edit the KPI widget settings
  3. Expand your monitor model and uncheck all of the KPIs except for HR Open New Position Average Total Time and HR Open New Position Count, then check the new Average Openings per Hiring Request in Atlanta.
    Figure 26. Select KPIs to be displayed
    Select KPIs to be displayed
  4. Click the Layout tab.
  5. Choose Full Gauge from the Select a display type drop-down, choose Large from the Select a size for visualization elements drop-down, and set the Refresh rate to 30 seconds. Then click OK.
    Figure 27. Specify layout options
    Specify layout options
  6. Click Finish Editing. You should now see three gauges, including one for your newly defined KPI, as shown in Figure 28.
    Figure 28. New gauges
    New gauges

Define an alert

Finally, let's define a new alert.

  1. Return to the Tools page and select Edit Page, then add the Alert Manager widget to your page and click Finish Editing.
  2. Click on the New Alert button, as shown in Figure 29.
    Figure 29. Define new alert
    Define new alert
  3. In the dialog that displays, shown in Figure 30, enter High Average Openings per Hiring Request in Atlanta in the Alert name field. Provide a Description if desired. Choose HiringSample_Main 2011-06-05 16:35:17 in the Model drop-down (your timestamp will vary).
  4. Click the Add button in the Conditions section, then select your Average Openings per Hiring Request in Atlanta for the KPI Name, select In range for Condition, and select High in the Value field. Select Minutes in the How often to check conditions field, and choose Only once when the condition applies in the Notification frequency drop-down, then click OK.
    Figure 30. Define alert conditions
    Define alert conditions
  5. You should now see your alert definition in the Alert Manager widget.
    Figure 31. New alert definition in the Alert Manager
    New alert definition in the Alert Manager

Receive alert when condition occurs

Now let's add an Alerts widget to the dashboard, so we'll know when that alert arrives.

  1. Return to the HR Open New Position KPIs page, click Edit Page, and add the Alerts widget to the bottom of the page, then click on Finish Editing.
    Figure 32. Add Alerts widget to dashboard
    Add Alerts widget to dashboard

    Note you may already have some alerts showing already, if you ran the Showcase model in Part 2.

  2. Finally, return to Process Designer and "play" a process instance in the Inspector, using the same approach as we used in Part 2, whose location is Atlanta, with a large enough value for the Number of Employees Needed (the empNum field)to push the average into the High (4-6) range. For example, if you have one Atlanta instance with an empNum of 2, create another Atlanta instance with an empNum of 8 (meaning the average would be 5). Be careful not to pick a value so high that the average falls beyond the upper bound of the High range. In a minute or so, an alert should appear in your dashboard, as shown in Figure 33.
    Figure 33. New alert displays in dashboard
    New alert displays in dashboard

Congratulations! You now have a fully customized dashboard, tracking business activity of interest to your dashboard users for your BPMN process.


Conclusion

In this series, you have learned about IBM Business Monitor V7.5, including how to monitor a BPMN process running in IBM Business Process Manager, from the point of view of a business author and a dashboard user. You've seen how to specify what you want to monitor, and have learned how to deploy that and use the generated dashboards. You have also learned how to enhance the dashboards by customizing existing widgets and by authoring new reports, KPIs, and alerts, all without writing any Java, JavaScript, or SQL code. Instead, you learned how to use Business Space and its widgets to graphically assemble a powerful business dashboard.

We hope you've enjoyed learning about the simple yet powerful combination of IBM Business Process Manager and IBM Business Monitor, and that you now feel ready to empower your business users by offering them greater visibility into both the real-time state and the historical performance of their business processes.

Resources

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