When companies talk to us about business intelligence (BI) solutions, they’re often surprised by just how much things have changed. If you’re one of the many organisations still contemplating a new BI system – then you may be unaware that a quiet but powerful BI revolution has been going on for some-time now.
Sometimes a new business need emerges just as circumstances shift to reveal the perfect answer – and that’s exactly what happened in the world of BI. A new business need arose partly because new wireless technologies, the Internet and miniaturized electromechanical systems (MEMS) all converged to form the Internet of Things (IoT), making for even more challenging and complex market conditions. Then around the same time, consumer demand for greater personalisation shot through the roof.
For many businesses these two factors created a perfect storm as they found themselves struggling in a much more demanding and data-driven economy. Suddenly, in addition to working in real-time with static data (the traditional BI model), they also needed the ability to make sense of, and respond to, live data and demands pouring in from different devices and digital portals. They needed software solutions that would allow them to work with data as it changed and morphed in front of their eyes. But traditional BI systems just weren’t up to the job.
The Right Conditions
Although the speed and performance of computers and smart devices continue to double around every two years (check out Moore’s Law), the time it takes to retrieve data from a hard drive has remained fairly static. And while we’re only talking a matter of milliseconds, it’s that delay, reproduced across multiple processes and transactions, that makes traditional BI processes too slow to make sense of live data as it changes.
The solution, in-memory computing, has actually been around in various guises since the 1970’s, but it’s only recently that the right conditions emerged to make it a viable option. Instead of disk drives, in-memory computing relies on random access memory (RAM) to store information. Initially, RAM’s high costs and limited capacity hindered the spread of in-memory computing. But over the past decade, memory storage and costs improved to the point where in-memory computing could cost-effectively pave the way for a new generation of BI solutions, a generation that today we refer to as Operational BI (OBI) or Operational Intelligence.
Retaining all the benefits of traditional BI, with the advantages of in-memory computing, the new generation of BI solutions are enabling savvy businesses from a range of industries to work with live, fast-changing data streams as easily as they can with historical, static data. For manufacturers, OBI-capable solutions provide the opportunity to cross-reference live data from smart devices and sensors on the factory floor – with stored historical data trends, making it possible to spot problems sooner, prevent costly failures, improve production processes and achieve operational goals more efficiently.
In the retail industry, that combination of operational and traditional BI has revolutionised ecommerce, allowing online retailers to immediately deliver live, personalised and targeted offers to visitors based on historical shopping habits and browsing histories. Meanwhile on the high street, retailers are increasingly combining OBI technology and opt-in mobile shopping apps, with historical demographic and behavioural information, enabling shop-floor staff to make personalised recommendations that perfectly match their customer’s current needs.
Smarter Than Ever
We said at the beginning that this has been a ‘quiet revolution’, and that’s because leading solutions such as Microsoft Dynamix AX, Greentree4 and Qlik have so swiftly and naturally incorporated operational intelligence into their structure. Now companies can enjoy operational and traditional BI capabilities in a single platform. In one swoop, they can compare learnings from tactical front-line tracking and analysis of live data and current customer behaviour (OBI), with the more strategic, big-picture analysis of long-term trends and patterns in their historical data sets (BI).
Business Intelligence has gone ‘fully operational’ and is now smarter than ever. We’ll be taking a deeper look at OBI in future blogs, but you can find out more right now by contacting the team at Endeavour on 0800 422 272!