Part 5 — Operational Business Intelligence

Operational business intelligence (OBI) systems provide an intermediate step toward satisfying the strategic needs that data warehouses address as well as the tactical decision-making that enterprise application integration (EAI) addresses. An OBI system provides an event database that is frequently updated. As an historical database, the event log summarizes and satisfies strategic requirements. With frequent updates, strategic decision-making extends to daily or intra-day information that is used to immediately take operational action to address an immediate problem.

Figure 1 illustrates operational business intelligence. Hourly/daily minibatches of transactions are sent to the OBI system that first logs the transactions in a transaction database, and then processes changes in a data-mining engine. From this data, the OBI system runs its rules-based detection system, and generates a suspected fraud report.

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Figure 1 — Operational Business Intelligence

Industry experts in the field of business intelligence note that competitive pressures are forcing companies to react faster to changing business conditions and customer requirements. Business intelligence (BI) that helps drive and optimize business operations on a daily basis and sometimes used for intra-day decision-making, is called operational business intelligence. Since the objective of operational BI is to make more timely business decisions, it has a close relationship to real-time or right-time BI processing (RTBI).

Indeed, OBI systems abound today. Conceptually, OBI systems are thought of as a data mart that is updated frequently (daily, every few hours, or even every few minutes or seconds) with minibatches. OBI systems are similar to data marts because they generally focus on a specific task rather than on enterprise-wide functions. For instance, as shown in Figure 1, an OBI system might be periodically fed ATM and point-of-sale transactions. Its data-mining engine will then search for potentially fraudulent activity and prepare reports of such activity. After a review of these reports, a hold might be put on some credit or debit cards until the activity is resolved.

OBI systems bring together two needs for business intelligence, an historical database for strategic analysis and the capability to make rapid suggestions for operational actions. However, what is still missing is the capability to make real-time suggestions for actions that are taken immediately upon the occurrence of some specified event; this capability is real-time business intelligence (RTBI).

RTBI is also known as event-driven business intelligence. In order to react in real-time, a business intelligence system must react to events as they occur, and not minutes or hours later. After all, if one can use RTBI to stop suspected or fraudulent activity before it completes, enhance a shopper’s online experience, and/or upsell additional products, RTBI has created real, measurable business value for the organization’s bottom line.


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