The WebSphere Business Services Fabric Industry Content Packs (Fabric ICPs) are a set of prebuilt accelerator assets for business process management (BPM). The content packs supports a set of industry verticals including Healthcare, Insurance, Product Lifecycle Management, Telecom and Banking. This article showcases the work that we've done in the area of supplementing the business activity monitoring capability for the content packs using WebSphere Business Monitor (Monitor). The assets and artifacts that resulted from our work are also shipped with the ICP. The goal is to accelerate the development of a monitoring solution for these industry verticals.
Although each of these samples has a different industry standard and focus point, they share one purpose, which is to capture the business events emitted by the Fabric runtime, extract relevant information, calculate needed performance metrics, and show them on the dashboard of these industry areas.
We'll also describe the dashboard design we provided for the Insurance, Healthcare and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) industries.
BAM in insurance
The insurance industry is one of the fastest developing industries in the global economy. It consists mainly of insurance carriers (or insurers) and insurance agencies and brokerages. In general, insurance carriers are large companies that provide insurance and assume the risks covered by the policy. Insurance agencies and brokerages sell insurance policies for the carriers.
The Insurance Property and Casualty (P&C) content pack provides a reference implementation of a Claim Summary business process, as shown in Figure 1. This use case provides a snapshot of information about an existing insurance policy holder. The insurance carriers interact with the ecosystem partners like agents, brokers, customers, reinsurers, banks, claim adjusters, and so on. An insurance carrier submits an Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development (ACORD) transaction request to a service that returns insurance payment data associated with an insurance policy based on the insurance claim ID.
Figure 1. Claim Summary business process
In this Insurance P&C Claim Summary process shown in Figure 1, claims are received and submitted to a Claim Summary ACORD Gateway process. Claim requests are accepted and then evaluated. Finally the process provides the claim status and claim amount. The Claim Summary business process has three stages:
- First, partners access the insurance carrier's system through various channels.
- Second, the agent or the customer submits an ACORD message with appropriate details to obtain a claim summary.
- Third, the insurance carriers need to have a standardization insurance gateway that allows different partners to interact with the insurance carrier. Using this gateway, partners can add, modify, or query information about various policies, claims, and so on. On submission of the ACORD message to the Claim Summary through the insurance gateway, the document undergoes ACORD sign on, ACORD validation, ACORD reject repair and some Claim Summary business services processing to give a response to the provider.
Sometimes, customers may also want additional information, such as the total number of claims, other key performance information by geographic locations, such as the total payment and claim status in different states of the US, and so on. This kind of information can be easily provided by Monitor using the dashboard. Below are some screen shots of the dashboard we developed for the Insurance P&C content pack. Note that in V6.2, Monitor dashboards run on Business Space powered by WebSphere.
Figure 2 shows the main page of the Monitor dashboard for the Claim Summary business process. The main page, named My Business, shows a quick overview of the current performance status of the Claim Summary process. The idea is that the main page displays performance data that is most relevant to the business user.
A diagram widget is used to show a US map (upper left). You can find the total claim numbers in each state with a background color. The Monitor development toolkit comes with an editor you can use to edit an SVG diagram for display inside a diagram widget. Also on the main page are several key performance indicators (KPIs) displayed both bar style (bottom left) and gauge style (upper right). You can define more KPIs in addition to the ones that we have predefined. You can set the target and status using the monitor model editor or directly from the dashboard.
Figure 2. Insurance sample business space
Another page in the dashboard is called the Analysis page. This page provides business users more detailed information about the performance of the business. From a high-level view, the user can drill down further to get more insight as to what contributed to current performance situation. In Figure 3, the claim summaries are distributed across auto, home, and umbrella insurance (upper left). Users can find the percentage of closed claims in the past months or year (upper right). Monitor provides many chart styles, such as pie charts, bar charts (bottom) and line charts (Figure 4).
Figure 3. Insurance sample Analysis page
Figure 4. Insurance sample Report page
BAM in healthcare
The Healthcare content pack provides a reference implementation of the Benefits and Eligibility Inquiry business process. This use case provides a snapshot of information about an existing health insurance policy holder.
A benefits and eligibility transaction is an electronic transaction used to inquire about the eligibility, coverage, or benefits associated with a health plan, employer, plan sponsor, subscriber, or a dependent under the subscriber’s policy. HIPAA-mandated ANSI 270 (Eligibility and Benefit Request) and ANSI 271 (Eligibility and Benefit Response) are two kinds transactions used in benefits and eligibility transactions: the 270 transaction requests (inquires) information, and the 271 transaction responds with coverage, eligibility and benefit information. These two transactions provide client eligibility and claim status for providers who are members of the healthcare information system.
Figure 5 shows the Benefits and Eligibility Inquiry business process. There is a service to receive a HIPAA ANSI 270 transaction request submitted by a healthcare provider. This service returns fundamental data about a patient’s benefit and eligibility status. The data conforms to HIPAA ANSI 271. Both HIPAA 270 and 271 messages are formed using the EDI (Electronic data interchange) standard format.
Figure 5. Benefits and Eligibility Inquiry business process
Following is an overview of the Benefits and Eligibility Inquiry business process:
- The HIPAA request is sent to the EDI basic validation service for validation. The provider requests eligibility determination via provider portal, call center, fax or via batch submission. The transaction can be submitted by providers in a variety of fashions, including real-time and batch.
- If the request is valid, the message is unbundled through the EDI Unbundling Basic Service to create several HIPAA messages. Each message is validated for HIPAA270 compliance.
- The policy information is retrieved from the HIPAA270 message.
- The back-end system builds a HIPAA271 message.
- Finally, after bundling and validation, the HIPAA271 message is sent to the requesting client through the EDI Gateway.
One of the most common requirements by business leaders in the healthcare industry is the ability to keep track of the number of transactions over a period of time. Useful information includes the percentage of accepted HIPAA requests, as well as the percentage of those that are rejected. In our implementation, specific business performance information of interest was identified and then relevant information was extracted from every message to derive this business performance information.
Monitor provides the capability to address these requirements with the KPIs, alert, diagram, dimension, report, instance widgets, and so on
Because both HIPAA 270 and 271 messages are encoded using the EDI standard format, we needed a way to decode these messages so that relevant data could be retrieved from the message. We addressed this challenge by using User-Defined XPath functions (UDXF).
User-defined XPath functions (UDXF) were introduced in Monitor V6.1 (see Put new capabilities of business activity monitoring (BAM) to work, Part 7: Creating user-defined XPath functions for IBM WebSphere Business Monitor V6.1). They provide extensibility to the monitor programming model by allowing developers to incorporate, among other things, additional processing logic, data handling, and data retrieval into their monitor models. We wrote a UDXF to decode and parse the HIPAA standard messages as part of the artifacts delivered with this sample
After retrieving the needed information from the message, the derived performance information is shown through a Monitor dashboard using different widgets. Below are some snapshots of our healthcare industry dashboard. In Figure 6, you can see the main page which contains one US map diagram with two colors to show whether the total submitted requests are over the threshold or not (for example, the green color in New York means the total submitted requests in New York this month are below the threshold), and one pie chart to show the distribution of requests across different states. The dashboard also includes some KPIs, such as average elapsed time of benefits and eligibility transactions, total accepted requests, percentage of rejected request, and so on. An alert view is included to notify us of any significant situations that need action. By looking at the main page, you can easily detect which states in the US caused the total requests to exceed the threshold.
Figure 6. Healthcare sample business space
In Figure 7, a dimension widget shows the distribution of HIPAA transactions based on states and request time, or based on transaction status. You can drill down to choose other times or states to analyze the distribution of transactions.
Figure 7. Analysis page of Healthcare sample
You can use a report widget to view a line chart report of transaction status, as shown in Figure 8. The left side of Figure 8 shows the thread s of monthly rejected requests. The orange line indicates total requests and the blue line indicates total rejected requests. The right side of Figure 8 shows the threads of reject reasons with three colors indicating three types of reject reasons. You can define other threads by configuring the report widget.
Figure 8. Report page of Healthcare sample
BAM in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
PLM represents the management of all data relating to the requirements, design, production, support and disposal of a manufactured product. It consists of well-defined stages and approaches used by management as a product goes through its lifecycle. The condition in which a product is sold changes over time and must be managed as it moves through its stages.
The product lifecycle has many phases, involves many professional disciplines, and requires various skills, tools and processes. PLM has to do with managing descriptions and properties of a product through its development and useful life, mainly from a business and engineering point of view.
Fabric provides a business process for specifying and deciding on engineering change requests (ECRs) at the engineering change phase. ECR is the ability to evaluate a change to one or more products involving changing parts, assemblies, documentation, or other items belonging to these products or by changing activities necessary to engineer or build these products. Here is an overview of how to evaluate ECRs:
- First, to determine the extent and impact of the planned change, the user submits an Engineering Change Request document through the Manage Engineering Change gateway using any of the available channels.
- After the document is submitted, the process shown in Figure 9 determines the decision to accept or reject the planned change response to be returned to the user. The process includes five phases, in which a specific task is applied to an ECR in each phase.
Figure 9. Engineering change process
The five phases are summarized as follows:
- The Inquiry of ECR phase serves to receive proposals for ECRs.
- The Creation of ECR phase actually creates the ECR and explicitly describes it.
- The Technical Analysis of ECR phase is when technical aspects of the ECR are determined and an initial overview of its impact are studied.
- The fourth phase, Commenting on ECR, examines the ECR from with regard to its impact on topics such as prototyping and certification.
- In the last phase, Approval of ECR, a decision on whether to approve or disapprove the ECR is made.
Once a proposal for a change is created, an inquiry is typically made to follow up on whether the proposal will be pursued or not. Figure 10 shows the sub-process of the Inquiry phase. ECR requests are submitted to an Inquire VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie) ECR business process. The ECR request is received and evaluated. Finally, the process provides the ECR status to indicate whether the ECR is accepted for further processing or not.
Figure 10. Sub-process: Inquire of ECR
The PLM sample that uses Monitor is focused on the information carried by the sub-process of ECR inquiries; for example, how many ECRs are inquired in one month, how many ECRs are accepted or rejected, and so on.
The following figues shows the result of monitoring the inquiry process using Monitor. Figure 11 shows the main page of the Monitor dashboard called “My Business”. The status of ECRs is shown using a pie chart which is displayed through a dimension widget. Also, you can see the total accepted ECRs, total pending ECRs (which are waiting for decision), and total rejected ECRs using the KPIs widget. We've also incorporated an instance widget where you can see each ECR request and its associated details.
Figure 11. Monitor dashboard for PLM sample
With the calculation capability of Monitor, we provided the ability to show the trend of ECR submission using a linear type, as shown in Figure 12.
Figure 12. Report page of PLM sample
We also show the total number of submitted ECRs over a given time period, as shown in Figure 13.
Monitor V6.2 provides some new dashboard features for customers, such as KPI History and Prediction. Using the KPI History and Prediction functions, you can collect data from a KPI over time and analyze it to see trends. The resutls are displayed in a fully interactive graph format (right side). The line in the KPI History and Prediction widget shows the historical trend and possible future trends of a given KPI.
Figure 13. Analysis page of PLM sample
Because there is one human task for each of the sub-steps in the inquiry ECRs phase, we use another new feature called Human Task to display all human task instancesm, as shown in Figure 14.
Figure 14. Action page of PLM sample
Designing dashboards for a given process in any industry is both a discipline and an art. The main consideration is extracting from the business leaders of the industry what information is most relevant to them and then determining how this information can be calculated from the data that is available or produced from the business process. The second consideration is determining the best way to present this information in the dashboard. Which widgets are most appropriate for which piece of information? How do you organize them logically as separate tabs and pages? In what order should the pages appear?
Key to this exercise is the engagement of the subject matter experts and the business users in the design and development process. Make sure that you capture the answers to these questions from them. In our case, we used an iterative approach in which prototypes are created and presented to the users. Each subsequent prototype is an improvement based on the users' feedback. On the other hand, you also need to make users aware of what is technically possible and what is more practical from the perspective of performance, migration, portability, and so on.
The one thing that common to each of these industry verticals is the presence of industry standards, specifically data format standards. Therefore, the development of monitor models often requires an understanding these standards, knowing where specific pieces of data can be retrieved from the format, how they can be retrieved and in some cases, how they can be decoded. The use of User-Defined XPath Functions comes in very handy in situations where data transformations are needed. Another approach is to implement the data transformation before the data is fed to the monitor models using technologies such as WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus, XSLT, and other data mediation approaches.
In this article. we described our dashboard implementation for three Industry vertical samples taken from the WebSphere Business Service Fabric V6/2 Industry Content Packs using WebSphere Business Monitor V6.2. From the Insurance industry sample, you can see that Monitor helps users see the total number of claims, as well as other key performance information, in specific states. Customers may also want to look at the statistics for total payment and claim status distribution and more. This kind of information can be easily provided by Monitor via a dashboard. From the Healthcare industry sample, you can see that in order to help people know how many transactions happen in one month, and the percentage of accepted HIPAA requests and rejected HIPPA requests, Monitor extracts the relevant information contained in every message and shows the result using KPIs, alert, diagram, dimension, report, and instance widgets. Also, we added User-Defined XPath functions (UDXF) to decode and parse the HIPAA standard messages as part of the artifacts delivered with the sample. From the PLM sample, Monitor collects the useful information, such as the number of ECR status inquiry transactions in one month, the number of ECRs by status, and so on. We implemented the monitor models for these samples to capture events and calculate performance data.
- Put new capabilities of business activity monitoring (BAM) to work, Part 7: Creating user-defined XPath functions for IBM WebSphere Business Monitor V6.1 (developerWorks, 2008): In this series, learn about the dramatic changes in WebSphere Business Monitor V6.1, a major release that extends capability and simplifies how you monitor and manage the performance of your business. The user-defined XPath functions (UDXF) are a useful and powerful extension to the programming model. With this new feature, you can add function to your monitor model logic. You can write a user-defined XPath function that performs any ordinary Java™ functions, such as reading data from a remote CICS® database or calling out a Web service. In this article, learn to write your own user-defined XPath function and use it in any expression within your monitor model.
- Business Process Management Samples & Tutorials: These samples demonstrate features developed in WebSphere Integration Developer and deployed on WebSphere Process Server and WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus (WebSphere ESB). They help you work with various product features to develop your own applications.
- developerWorks BPM zone: Get the latest technical resources on IBM BPM solutions, including downloads, demos, articles, tutorials, events, webcasts, and more.
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