Next Best Action Functionality Baked into Your Business Platform

Big Data Evangelist, IBM

As a business asset, “next best action” is not a secret sauce. It’s more like a layered lasagna that–depending on the ingredients, how carefully you assemble them, and how well you bake and serve it all–can be either a highly consumable platform or a sloppy mess of ill-fitting investments that you’ll need to mop up at a later date.

Fundamentally, next best action is a layered architectural framework, a cookbook for assembling dynamically optimized applications. As such, it can support a broad range of business functions, use cases and deployment models. Done right, it can provide a general-purpose runtime platform that is fueled by big data and advanced analytics.

What does it mean to speak of next best action as a general-purpose business infrastructure? It all comes down to the ability to rapidly repurpose disparate functional components for each new analytics-powered application. The platform components often include big data clusters, decision engines, business rules management systems, and stream computing platforms. Just as fundamental is the need for reusable “business logic” artifacts–data, metadata, predictive models, business rules, process orchestrations, service definitions, and the like–that developers can access from within integrated toolsets. Teams of next-best-action developers should be able to access these artifacts from a unified component repository, with their interactions shaped by shared governance, collaboration and deployment infrastructure.

Ideally, your next best action solution provider should furnish you with the individual infrastructure components, tools and repository. It should also bake “integrated expertise patterns” into its tooling, which instantiate development best practices and simplify development tweaking of any out-of-box next-best action “solution accelerators.” These accelerators consist of application-specific predictive models, rules, metadata, schemas, reports, dashboards, calculations and other business content. Accelerators spare your developers–or those of your system integrator–from having to reinvent from scratch the next-best-action patterns associated with your specific industry (such as telecom, retailing or financial services) or with your specific business process (such as customer service, marketing, sales, finance, HR and logistics).

The most common solution accelerators bundled with next best action platforms are for customer-facing processes, such as multichannel offer targeting, marketing campaign automation, and customer experience optimization. Please note that IBM offers customer-facing next-best-action platforms, tools and accelerators in our SPSS and Unica portfolios. We also have a deep portfolio of next-best-action enabling components and tools in our best-of-breed information management and business analytics solution portfolios. And we provide a wide range of professional services to facilitate planning, integration, deployment and management of next-best-action platforms and applications.

Next best action may be baked into your business application platform, but that doesn’t always mean you should consume its output without further tweaking. Typically, you will need to tailor the out-of-box, next-best-action solution accelerators to suit your specific needs. Considering the pivotal role of predictive models in next best action, your data scientists will play a key role in this regard. Developing, validating, maintaining and updating the analytics, rules, orchestrations and other business logic may demand a wide range of developers with specific technical specialties and domain expertise.

Clearly, you should undertake next best action from a top-down architectural planning perspective. But you will also need to think bottom-up, prioritizing your next-best-action investments to realize near-term payoffs from well-scoped business applications. Initial projects should prove out the technology and approach, while providing the foundation for subsequent initiatives in different channels, processes and business units.

For a transformational business initiative such as next best action, it would be unwise to proceed half-baked.


See James' other posts on Next Best Action: