Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tibco Lays Out Architecture for Customer Interaction Management

Tibco Software (www.tibco.com) has been providing enterprise integration technology for what seems like forever (actually, since 1985). But while it’s still basically in the plumbing business, it has apparently been paying attention to how people are using its products. Or at least, that’s my interpretation of what led it to publish a paper on “Predictive Customer Interaction Management,” available here.

The paper speeds past the niceties of why interaction management is important to reach its real topic: what a customer interaction management architecture looks like. It presents a pretty good picture of this, specifying three main components:

- channel adapters that sense and respond to customer activities (which Tibco calls “events”) in touchpoint systems
- a recommendation engine that combines business rules, offer history and a decision engine to generate reactions
- a virtual data source that integrates customer and product data from source systems

Needless to say, Tibco has products for each component. But the paper is generic enough that this doesn’t get in the way. Its most important point is that reacting properly to customer events is not simple: it requires combining “rules, policies, inferencing, and analytics—both statistical and probabilistic—to produce complex models of reasoning via events, customer data, time, and analytics.” At the core is the recommendation engine, which does “pattern matching of a set of events with the policies, knowledge, and analytical models to generate a set of responses.”


Tibco’s recommendation engine is based on its BusinessEvents software, a complex event processing system. Although complex event processing is not a new concept or technology, it’s one I expect to see mentioned more often as part of a customer experience management infrastructure.

After describing the architecture, the paper presents several rather pedestrian examples of interaction management in a retail banking context: reacting to a customer’s new child, address change, large bank deposit, product inquiry, invalid telephone number, and travel purchase. None of the business practices described will be new to people who worry about such things, although offering travel insurance to someone who has recently made a large payment to a travel agent strikes me as a potentially alienating invasion of privacy. In any case, Tibco’s goal is less to present brilliant marketing ideas than to illustrate the remarkably complicated technical choreography required to make such reactions possible.

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