How smart is smart? Business intelligence in general and data mining specifically require the capability of closing the loop – of enabling business action on decision support information – to be effective. You have a data warehouse that enables business intelligence; however, intelligence is not worth much unless one is able to act on it! If your organization has not yet begun an initiative to create an operational data store to enable real-time decision making, there is no time like the present. Despite our economic woes, there are many reasons to take advantage of the situation and enable operational action based on analytical information; in fact, there are at least 10 of them! The following are my top-ten reasons (in reverse order) to use the downturn to benefit that initiative – now!

10. If you need hardware/servers to implement your operational data store, you can now pick up some used servers – cheap! Companies going out of business will have hardware assets that may be available at a very reasonable cost – if you can find the right equipment for your needs. It's worth checking. If you prefer to buy new equipment, hardware vendors will be very motivated to make their sales numbers, which may translate into very real price reductions for you.

9. If you need people to attend meetings, everyone is available. Remember the time when you had to look three weeks or more into the future to find free time on schedules of the people you need to make aware of, or get buy- in from, for your previous projects? With many organizations cutting out all but the most pressing initiatives, people will be available to meet about this real-time decision-making initiative. In fact, you could probably find time on everyone's calendars tomorrow!

8. If you need to add staff, it's easy to recruit people. There are lots of people looking for jobs. Try some dot-com alumni. There is real talent out there looking for a home. Look for those motivated to utilize skills and make a difference in your organization. Experience related to real-time decision making or operational data store implementations is a plus!

7. If you want to use consultants instead of adding permanent staff, professional services are more available. With many companies cutting back on professional services – some even cutting them out entirely – consulting providers are eager to do business.

6. If you need tools, tool vendors should be willing to negotiate on price. Just like the hardware vendors, tool vendors will not only return your calls, but also be amenable to discussing a "deal."

5. If you're worried about the net effect of what you're about to do, you can't get in as much trouble as before because you won't have as much money to spend. Risks are always present. However, even if the worst of situations occurs and the project fails, you will have spent less money than in the old days when project dollars were flowing freely and you could get into plenty of trouble! (This isn't to say you won't get in any trouble, just that it will be less trouble than with a larger budget and the potential for a larger write-off.) Remember that the worst situation rarely occurs.

4. If you don't invest in the future now, it will just take that much longer later. Consider the total time to market your company needs to enable operational action taking. If you start now, you will be further ahead than if you wait for the economy to improve.

3. The need has never been as great as it is now for real-time decision- making information. The need doesn't stop when the economy takes a dive; in fact, it increases. Your customers will applaud your steps toward making their lives easier.

2. When the economy picks up and you're able to capitalize on your company's strengths, you'll be a hero. You'll be down the implementation road with the infrastructure in place to take advantage of the situation, while others will be scratching their heads and saying, "How do we get this operational data store started?" People will say, "Whoever had the foresight to push this effort forward during the down times deserves a raise!"

1. Your company will have a leg up on many other companies who are afraid to invest when times are tough. The net result will be the ability for your company to gain competitive advantage which is, after all, the name of the game. There has never been a better time to take steps toward implementing the ability to take operational action based on analytical business intelligence. Smart is determining how to use tough economic times to your company's advantage. Now is the time to close that loop!

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