InetSoft Podcast: Real Time Business Intelligence

This is the transcript of a podcast hosted by InetSoft on the topic of "Real Time Business Intelligence." The speaker is Abhishek Gupta, product manager at InetSoft.

So let me jump right in, we’re starting to see a growing demand for access to real time data for business intelligence. For some of you, that’s not news. But it maybe to others. Obviously the adoption rates in real time are certainly growing, and there are a few reasons for why that’s occurring.

I think that’s happening because people are assigned to operationalize their BI infrastructures. When you look at the current economic climate out there, people are trying to get the most out of their infrastructure investments, and I think we are going to see more and more people trying to leverage these investments more.

What happens when you operationalize your BI infrastructure is, you need to start making things a lot more timely because operational people don’t care about what happened a month ago. They just care about what’s happening right now and what they need to know this second to do their jobs better.

So from their perspective real time access or access to real time data, both are very important concepts. It also allows the companies to have a consistent information interface about their customers so that they can across the board deliver the same service quality, deliver the same messages and be a lot more effective and efficient.

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A handful of years ago real time was really starting to get initial traction. We saw certain segments of the world or industries in our world starting to use it. The travel industry really liked real time, and there were great stories around successes there. Of course, financial services always tends lead the parade when it comes to innovation, especially around things with real time but do all industries or most industries have a space for real-time BI at this point, or are they starting to find valid reasons to have real time in some of the other sectors?

There are certain industries that are a lot more obvious where the goods and services delivered are more perishable and the demand for information is much higher. But at the same time, as time goes by, we are seeing more and more different industries using real time information to improve their processes and quality of service that they deliver to their customers.

For example, traditionally you wouldn’t associate utilities with real time, but they are benefiting heavily from being able to leverage real time information in terms of billing for the green projects. In each industry segment I think you see that there are areas where you can benefit a great deal from real time information.

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Not necessarily every function will benefit from real time information. For example, HR may not benefit from real time. But marketing is a function that cuts across all industries that over time will adopt this because it creates efficiencies, reduces customer churn, improve service quality and it makes people more competitive.

One of our customers in the retail space, the home shopping network, is actually using our solution in a way that wasn’t so much about delivering real time data to the operational side. It was more about business continuity, and that was an interesting story as well. When you get to the real time realm what really happens is the ability to move large volumes of data with very low latency enables much better integration but also business continuity.

So functionally the types people who carry out, for example, BI projects or data integration projects are very different from the people who carry out business continuity initiatives. One of them tends to be the folks on operations side. They are the ones on the development side, but this is a technology that enables all parts of the business.

As time goes by I think this is one of the big challenges that our customers face. Those two sides really need to interact with each other a lot better because when they do, then it leads to a lot more innovation and more successful projects.

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Getting both sides of the business world together whether it be the business management side or the IT side of the house, its probably one of the challenges that people see when they are trying to get real time business intelligence initiatives up.

There are quite a few challenges, but this one is a pretty important one. What happens is in a lot of cases people look at what data they have and then from that data they have they decide what BI projects they are going to initiate and then they try to go and sell this to the business side.

But in reality for a lot of the more successful projects, business guys are screaming about oh, I need this data, I need that, and then IT folks deliver it in a very short period of time. It’s not driven by what data you have. It’s driven by what the business really needs.

It’s like when you open your fridge, you see ground meat and pasta sauce, and you make spaghetti versus you go to a restaurant, and you decide to order pizza. In one case your driven by what you have, not what you want, what the business wants. In the other case you actually get to choose what is of the highest value to the business at that time.

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So that’s one of the big problems I think people are facing because you initiate the project, you deploy it, by the time you’re done, the business may have lost interest, or you have to go sell it to the business user instead of delivering exactly what it was that they were asking in the first place. So that will probably become a little bit more important over time given the return on investment and efficiency benefits driven by businesses of opposed to driven by IT.

One question I hear a lot is an architecture issue, where the data is and what kind of data BI initiatives are based on. Can the same data warehouse the business analysts as well as the front-line operations staff in an organization today?

If you have a data warehouse that supports mixed workloads and has high-end capabilities like a Teradata box, you’re certainly capable of doing that, but there are a lot of different factors that drive that solution, the amount of data that’s involved, where the data is coming from, and the nature of the workload.

Unless you leverage the analytical data in an operational prospective, you’re really not getting the most value out of your BI infrastructure. Whether or not your current infrastructure allows for it is one problem. Will you have to do it? I think absolutely, yes. Otherwise what you have in place is going to age on, become less valuable to your organization overtime.

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People are really embracing this operational BI, starting to democratize information if you will. More and more people in an organization have access to information, and if you go listen to active enterprises tell their stories, many of them are driven by putting the data in the hands of more and more people.

The other thing that looks interesting are the new visualization technologies, especially geospatial types of applications that people are moving towards. I think we are going to see some pretty interesting implementations of BI frameworks around that.