Real-Time Streaming – Actionable Insights Drive Business Responsiveness By Pradeep Bhanot February 24, 2020 If you want your business to be agile, you need to be leveraging real-time data. The environments that your businesses operate in are changing faster than ever – new competition in the marketplace, regulatory changes; operational issues; and new technology advancements are only the tip of the iceberg. If you want to survive and thrive in the fast-paced business environment, you need to be agile. To be agile, you need to understand what is going on in your environment, make quick and informed decisions, and then rapidly respond to exploit opportunities and mitigate risks. Every moment of delay is lost opportunity. If you can learn to manage streaming actionable insights effectively, you will be able to expand your company’s capabilities for real-time responsiveness and by doing so, achieve the grand ambition of business agility. Data blind-spots lead to bad decisions. The first step in achieving business agility is to collect the right amount and types of data about what is going on in your environment. Recent technology trends, such as IoT, embedded sensors, data subscriptions, and mobile apps, have greatly expanded your data collection options. These new data collection technologies enable you to monitor what is going on both inside your operations as well as in the broader business environment in real-time. They produce continuous streams of data that serve as your eyes and ears to understand what is happening and, more importantly, what is changing. If you aren’t collecting enough data, the result is blind spots. It is like driving a car; if you only look out the front window, you have a limited view of what is going on around you. Mirrors, cameras, sensors, and the habit of looking around give you a broader perspective that reduces blind spots. It’s the unknown unknowns that cause companies to fail. If you don’t recognize your blind spots, you will naively make decisions that you think are informed by data but are nothing more than assumptions and guesses. That can lead to disastrous consequences. The good news is current capabilities give you the ability to eliminate most of your blind spots and give you the insights needed to develop a holistic view of your business environment. Converting raw data into actionable insights Collecting raw data isn’t enough; you need a way to manage it and transform it into actionable insights. Streaming data is great; it provides you broad visibility into what is going on across your business. But if you don’t have the right tools and processes to manage streaming data, you will quickly be overwhelmed. The meaningful signals in the data get drowned out by the noise, and before long, decision-makers stop using the data entirely. This is what happens when big data isn’t managed – it becomes clutter. To avoid this, you need a data management process for turning streaming data into actionable insights about your operations. Converting streaming data into actionable insights is a process of incremental refinement – a value chain. Inputs are collected from many different data sources – there are the new technologies mentioned above, and there are also things like transactional workflows, event logs, social media feeds, and website interactions. The first step in refinement is to connect to all these data sources and aggregate the data streams in a common place where they can be further processed. Because the data sources you need are so diverse, many companies are leveraging an integration platform as a service (IPaaS) to help them do this. Once aggregated, the data must be integrated and organized to understand how the different streams relate to each other. This typically happens in an operational data warehouse. Modern cloud data warehouses are designed for high-performance, massively scalable data processing that is ideal for working with streaming data. After the streaming data is organized, it can then be analyzed to separate the meaningful signals from the noise. These signals may be indicators of something deviating from what is expected or a change occurring in the environment. The signals are analyzed in the context of your operations, systems, and business processes to assess their relevance and importance. Applying this information is how you build actionable insights. Once an actionable insight has been identified, it then needs to be converted to action. It does no good to identify an issue or opportunity if you aren’t going to act on it. Real-time responsiveness is achieved by getting actionable insights into the hands of the decision-makers who can use them to drive change and action within the organization. This may be strategic decision-makers in management or equipment operators who can implement tactical changes. Analytics and reporting tools, real-time operational dashboards, and alerts (texts, alarms, email, and audible messages) are universal tools for letting decision-makers know there is an actionable insight requiring their attention. The cost of delay Business agility comes from real-time responsiveness. You can’t respond in real-time if there is a delay in learning about the problem or opportunity. To leverage streaming data effectively, you need a set of systems and processes that enable you to transform raw streaming data through the full data value-stream in real-time. You can’t wait for batch data updates, latency in analytics processing, or manual integration of data. You need the entire process to be automated and optimized. Actian can help. Actian, the hybrid data management, analytics, and integration company, delivers data as a competitive advantage to thousands of organizations worldwide. Actian Avalanche is a fully managed hybrid cloud data warehouse service designed from the ground up to deliver high performance at a fraction of the cost of alternative solutions. It is the first and only data warehouse to provide comprehensive integration capabilities, including connecting to on-premises and SaaS applications as well as managing those integrations. For more information, visit https://www.actian.com. About Pradeep Bhanot Product Marketing professional, author, father and photographer. Born in Kenya. Lived in England through disco, punk and new romance eras. Moved to California just in time for grunge. Worked with Oracle databases at Oracle Corporation for 13 years. Database Administration for mainframe IBM DB2 and its predecessor SQL/DS at British Telecom and Watson Wyatt. Worked with IBM VSAM at CA Technologies and Serena Software. Microsoft SQL Server powered solutions from 1E and BDNA.