Why Investing in Real-Time Business Intelligence Is a Must

As the modern world continues to grow older, one thing always stands out to me 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.

In this post I intend to focus on the latter option, our desire for speed. As our species has developed, our impatience has grown with it.

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-Rime 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 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 five years ago. Technologies have evolved to cope with this scale of data production but achieving near-real time analytics is a constant challenge. Also, our business intelligence systems need 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 if the inventory only 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 organizations working within the defense, aviation, robotics, and medical equipment industries. By having near real-time access to live data, organizations working in these spaces were able to be far more responsive.

The more efficient and effective you are at gathering data, the 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 percent from their $30 million investment over six years.

Access to real-time data breeds real-time decision-making. Dashboards provide a continuous stream of real-time data which 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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Written by:
Contributor to Smart Data Collective and iCrunchData News blogging communities. My posts are focused around how we can make better use out of the data that we have available to us and the latest innovations around big data and technology.
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