Why is investing in real-time business intelligence a must?

16th November 2016
Source: Connexica
Posted By : Alice Matthews
Why is investing in real-time business intelligence a must?

As the modern world continues to grow older, one thing always stands out as a constant; we humans are obsessed with improvement, constantly bettering ourselves with new technologies that perform more efficiently, produce improved outputs or just offer an increase in speed. Here, Ben Edge focuses on that desire for speed.

As our species has developed, it is obvious to see that our impatience has also grown with it and we have to thank our desire for instant results being the main driver.

Take an everyday task such as cooking; in the UK the amount of time households spend on cooking meals has plummeted to 30 minutes – that figure is almost half of what it was in the 1980’s. Think about how you react when your internet connection starts being slow, especially when in a rush. I think we are all guilty of showing frustration in this regard.

This need for speed isn’t and shouldn’t just be limited to cooking though, as it applies to everything we do. This includes access to our data and our decision making; this is what real-time business intelligence is all about.

Does real-time business intelligence exist?
My main criticism of buzzwords is that they can often raise expectations too high and I think it would be fair to say that is true of 'real-time business intelligence'. Unfortunately, no matter how much technology evolves, we will never get to a point where data is completely real-time. There will always be a lag between the data capture, the data processing and reporting output phases of business intelligence with the main variables being volume of data and technology used, even if it is just half a millisecond.

Therefore, when we refer to real-time business intelligence, what we mean is near to real-time; we can always work to reduce this gap to get it as close to real-time as possible.

The big data impact
Because this generation has developed surrounded by a culture of impatience, a resulting drive for faster outputs has manifested – which has benefited business intelligence technologies. In this modern business world, time is money (as the saying goes) so it’s important to reduce the amount of time it takes to capture data, process it and finally make proactive decisions from the insight acquired.

Making this task more difficult is the sheer volume of data that we have to cope with today, even compared to just a decade ago. Technologies have evolved to cope with this scale of data production but achieving near real-time analytics is a constant challenge.

The quantity of data now available has also had a knock on effect on the expiry date of data. With that in mind, we need to ensure that our business intelligence systems are able to make use of the data before it hits its expiration date and becomes obsolete.

Another issue we have to plan for is the variety of data we are now monitoring. Since the launch of the internet, particularly Web 2.0 principles, we have seen an explosion of user-generated content. Before this, we were only used to dealing with data that was in a computer-ready, structured data format, whereas with user-generated content we are dealing with a variety of data formats, often semi-structured and even completely unstructured.

With this in mind, it’s important to understand what data sources you have access to, the format the data is in, how it can be integrated and how often you need the data to be fed into your BI system. Often, individuals state that they need the information in real-time but what they actually mean is they do not want to wait until the overnight data extraction to view their updated dashboards and reports.

Determining the necessity of having real-time access to a particular data set early will save you headaches down the line. For example, it’s not likely that you’ll need real-time access to stock delivery data where the inventory gets replenished once a day.

Why you should have a need for speed
Among the first to adopt real-time business intelligence technologies were those organisations working within the defence, aviation, robotics, and medical equipment industries. By having near real-time access to live data, organisations working in these spaces were able to be far more responsive, something one would assume critical for a defence organisation.

The more efficient and effective you are at gathering data, the more you are provided with an opportunity to improve your understanding of your audience. Finding insights to improve customer experience can prove to be incredibly powerful – resulting in conversion of leads to customers and encouraging a loyal customer base. This was the exact case of Continental Airlines who achieved a ROI of over 1,000% from their $30m investment over six years.

Access to real-time data breeds real-time decision-making. Dashboards provide a continuous stream of real-time data which if used properly can help to improve the effectiveness of operational strategy resulting in efficiency improvement gains.

These benefits are not just limited to one particular organisation or industry however, and investing time and money into making this work for your organisation now will ensure that you build competitive advantage or maintain competitiveness in your industry.

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