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What is Real Time Business Intelligence (RTBI)?

1 September 2014

Anat Bielsky

Today's competitive business environment is characterized by clients who demand much and expect highly. This fact requires companies and organizations to make decisions based on the most current information in hand in order to strengthen their relationships with clients, increase profit and maximize their operational efficiency.

When dealing with Real Time Business Intelligence (RTBI), deals flow as they take place into the organizational BI system. Thus, the system is always updated with the organization's most recent status.

RTBI systems provide tactical support for activities and events in real time. Therefore, RTBI is also referred to as "event-driven business intelligence.  In order for the organization to respond in real time, the BI system must respond/alert the organization as they take place (not even a minute later). With RTBI the organization/business can decide on a long term strategy in order to optimize its activity while responding to intelligence regarding events in real time.

For example, a credit card company needs to know about potential situations in which scams can occur. Thus, if the credit card was used to purchase an item in New York and thirty minutes later the same credit card was used for a purchase in Amsterdam, the tactical way to use this information would be to deny this deal confirmation as well as contacting the credit card owner and checking all activities performed with this card.

In the optimal situation in which there is access to immediate data which can be analyzed, organizations can proactively respond to the new information rather than only responding to situations.

Using classic BI tools supports the organization's strategic goals (such as limiting costs, increasing sales) by mining enormous amounts of data in order to produce new knowledge and information on the organization's activities.  Integrating the systems (combining the BI system with the organization's operational system) also addresses the organization's tactical needs since integration allows the systems to respond immediately to events produced by other systems.

Nevertheless, I must point out that this integration has little strategic value as it does not provide a database apt for data mining. Thanks to technological developments. The gap between analytical and operational processing has, with time, been bridged quickly. In the past, it would take several hours to perform complex inquiries regarding data-mining. Nowadays, it is possible to perform inquiries in very short times (sometimes even mere seconds). If possible to use the data-mining systems on the most updated data, the BI's tactical and strategic needs can merge to a synthetic, unified solution.

There are 2 main obstacles for an effective & efficient use of RTBI:

  1. Situations in which the data is unavailable: if the organization reaches a point in which it mainly relies on data from the RTBI-this unavailability can be derived from technical glitches and may even being the organization's activity to a halt. It is therefore critically important to maintain consistent availability.

  2. The value of the data in the system usually decreases as the data becomes outdated-when the users rely on the RTBI to assist them in making tactical decisions, the most updated information is required as well as the quickest response time.

In other words, the organization cannot check what events are occurring in real time if it does not have immediate information regarding the situation. Thus, the organization cannot immediately respond to events if the system which provides these events’ analysis is unavailable.  These malfunctions can be resolved by the use of sophisticated duplication engines.

That said, it is noteworthy to remember that the "real time" approach is not required for the majority of the organization's departments. Most BI users can continue using weekly or monthly data analysis in order to support their business goals (e.g. checking monthly performances, understanding long term trends and comparing different years' activity, comparing predictions and performances).

Since RTBI applications may increase the cost of the organization's BI system, it is important to apply these solutions only when real time data is required. 

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