Life in the Fast Lane (thanks to Decision Management)
Brett Stineman 270002944C firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  business-events analytics decision-automation impact brms decision-management business-rules
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I'm going to iterate on Bruno’s recent posts and apply decision management to another topic related to improving travel experiences and customer satisfaction – waiting in line. After a week of negotiating the crowds at IBM’s annual IMPACT conference, I found myself navigating the lines at Disneyland the following week during a spring break vacation with my family. While the attendance at IMPACT was impressive (8000+ strong this year), we are talking about an order of magnitude difference on a busy day at the Southern California Disney parks.
So, how did decision management improve our guest experience? Disney uses several traditional queuing techniques to make it seem like the lines are always moving, but they also use a more technically advanced method to balance crowds at their most popular rides. The Disney Fastpass is a system deployed at select rides, offering guests access to an express line in exchange for postponing the ride until a designated time period later in the day. You insert your ticket in the Fastpass machine to get your entry ticket to the express line, and then go to other attractions in the meantime. The allocation of Fastpass tickets is limited for any given period of time, so the express line time moves further out as those tickets are taken. Also, each ticket holder can only request one Fastpass during a 2-hour time period, so choices have to be made about which rides you’re willing to postpone vs. which ones you’re willing to wait in the standard line.
Underlying this system are all the core aspects of decision management: analytics to determine on which rides to provide the Fastpass service and how many tickets to allocate; event-based data processing to manage ticket allocations and alert guests on how long they’ll have to wait if they request a Fastpass ticket; and business rules to assess whether a ticketholder is eligible to receive a Fastpass ticket based on what they’ve already requested. My family used this system to its maximum benefit and found it really improved our overall experience (note: I hate waiting in lines). In one case, we had to postpone going on a certain ride for 5 hours, but the ability to come back later and bypass the standard line was well worth it.
Coming back to IMPACT, there were some great customer presentations that highlighted decision management, including one from Accovia Inc., a provider of travel booking systems used by travel and resort operators such as Disney. Accovia uses the WebSphere ILOG Business Rule Management System (BRMS) within its Lexo solution for automating packaging, pricing and conditions in both self-service and call-center channels. The use of externalized business rules provides Accovia with flexibility in how their software handles comprehensive bookings that can include air and ground transportation, lodging, meals, entertainment tickets, insurance (etc.) – the WebSphere ILOG BRMS also provides benefits in governing rules that change frequently due to evolving business policies, as well as accelerating the introduction of new offers and promotions.
For more information on decision management topics and sessions at IMPACT, technology analyst and author James Taylor did a nice job on his blog covering a lot of what took place during the first two days at the event.