Software // Information Management
Commentary
7/16/2007
12:27 AM
Neil Raden
Neil Raden
Commentary
50%
50%

Get Real About Operational BI

There is a lot of conflicting information about the term "Operational BI." We need some research to sort out the jargon and propose a clear definition for the term... Operational BI is an oxymoron because BI is the discipline of gathering, transforming and integrating data from diverse systems, cleansing it and storing it for long-term analytical and reporting purposes with tools.

There is a lot of conflicting information about the term "Operational BI." We need some research to sort out the jargon and propose a clear definition for the term (I'm willing). All of the following are being positioned as Operational BI (not a complete list): • Data warehousing of operational data for reporting, with or without integration • Replication of operational data for reporting • Direct reporting from operational systems • Federated reporting from operational systems • Process Intelligence • Inline integration • Sensing applications • Decision services • Real-time BIOperational BI is an oxymoron because BI is the discipline of gathering, transforming and integrating data from diverse systems, cleansing it and storing it for long-term analytical and reporting purposes with tools. That's "BI tools," that are designed for report development and distribution, interactive data analysis and automated visual alerts and displays. This process lacks three essential characteristics to be termed "operational" - Real-time capabilities - Direct, programmatic links to the operational systems that initiate actions - Process Intelligence, understanding the steps in a process, not just the data it generates A serious drawback to most data integration approaches is the inability to unwind the process and follow the thread back to the source systems. Once data is extracted, transformed and loaded into a data warehouse or mart, that lineage, though perhaps documented in the metadata, is essentially dead. It can't be operational if it can't interact with the operational systems. Data warehouse/BI industry figures are scampering to align their stories with this topic, but in protecting their turf, they risk diluting and obfuscating the idea completely. Front-end BI vendors are actively pursuing the operational BI opportunity, but most of them are poorly positioned to exploit it. Their product architectures are based on a certain degree of latency, on the existence of a read-only data warehouse and on a great deal of interactivity, so much so that a significant portion of their engine functionality is geared toward the User Interface. Operational decision-making deemphasizes the UI and focuses instead on speed, intelligence and cooperation with other systems through automation. Database and middleware vendors are more properly positioned for operational BI, including incumbent vendors and a promising batch of newcomers, both standalone databases and appliances. Integration technology that can cross the barrier between operational and analytical processes is already in place, with real-time capabilities. Of course, the recurring issue of what does the data mean and how do we integrate it is still looming, with CDI/MDM solutions only offering a partial solution, and not a particularly original or appealing one at that, but more on that later. Neil Raden is the founder of Hired Brains, providers of consulting, research and analysis in Business Intelligence, Performance Management, real-time analytics and information/semantic integration. Neil is co-author of the just-released book "Smart Enough Systems," with business rules expert James Taylor.There is a lot of conflicting information about the term "Operational BI." We need some research to sort out the jargon and propose a clear definition for the term... Operational BI is an oxymoron because BI is the discipline of gathering, transforming and integrating data from diverse systems, cleansing it and storing it for long-term analytical and reporting purposes with tools.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Agile Archive
The Agile Archive
When it comes to managing data, donít look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts, and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Nov. 10, 2014
Just 30% of respondents to our new survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.