Bidirectional Business Intelligence
1 June 2012
Business Intelligence improves organizations' decision making. Whether a strategic, tactical or operational decision a combination of the right data at the right time in the right format is critical for optimal decision making.
Bidirectionality is a movement or action usually performed in two opposite directions. Both large and small organizations struggle with the challenges presented by Business Intelligence. In smaller organizations data control is more available yet as the organization grows larger data "islands" are formed as experts keep their information in personal folders and local Excel sheets. Despite the great work invested by IT departments in developing BI infrastructures, the real challenge they face is granting access to said data "islands". If when required, indirect resources are invested to retrieve the information (sending an email to the content expert, calling relevant parties, browsing through network folders to find the right file), BI is apparently flowing in one direction only.
Bidirectional BI transforms BI into an interactive application by incorporating BI into operational systems and presenting users the data while they use the system. The result: a user can make decisions based on data and operate the system. Thus a "closed circuit" is created, allowing the organization to learn from edge users' insights for its benefit. BI then becomes bidirectional since it is based on data received from operational systems and directed back at them to benefit comprehension and improve decision making.
Take Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) operational systems for example. Suppose a manager in this field detects a problem in the making, they can operate according to data while consuming new data via bidirectional BI, all while using only one system. While in traditional BI actions can be performed only after review and use of complementary systems, involving system managers, emails, calls and even meetings will ultimately lead to the reaction and change being executed only a few days later. Organizations' main motive to use smart tools in this field is to increase the organization's responsiveness to rapid demands for change. ERP requires much integrative and ongoing operation of data systems as well as transparency; Bidirectional BI is therefore a step in the right direction.
Another driving force behind Bidirectional BI is WEB-based. These systems allow users to interact with data. In a way, these systems resemble regular applications that offer updates. A WEB system can also make data accessible to users more easily since users are accustomed to the user-friendly interface.
Some would say that a bidirectional system might affect data reliability, a real concern when utilizing open unmonitored systems. Yet experience shows that BI systems can classify authorization and distribute control, thus deciding who can view data and who is permitted to update it as well as enables creating rules determining how the data may change if needed (colleague monitoring, expert monitoring, etc.) to defend the system's data reliability.
Bidirectional BI provides workers with high-quality solid real-time decision-making skills while also contributing to a friendlier decision making process thus proving users with a sense of preparedness and adds value to the individual worker. An increase of use can be indirectly viewed since users possess an in-depth understanding and sense of ownership towards the data, ultimately leading to improved organizational efficiency.
Most organizations work in a one-dimensional model centered around the concept of data collection>>data display>>data consumption. There is no attempt at interaction or data update in real-time. The power of Bidirectional BI lays in granting user control thus allowing them to face diversity and frequency of changes the data which knowledge workers must acquire, process and finally act accordingly goes through. In some cases, this allows users to affect data (unlike the usual state of data consumption and analysis only).
This trend is changing over time: more organizations are considering implementing BI systems in operational systems, creating a "closed circuit" and bidirectionality of BI systems.