With the general uses of business intelligence (BI) shifting, achieving operational BI is becoming more realistic. Mass deployments and embedding BI within daily operational processes are becoming the goals of many organizations that are ready to move beyond online analytical processing (OLAP) and ad hoc reporting. Additionally, with a number of newer entrants to the market that focus on embedding analytics on top of operational solutions or that offer mass deployments at a fraction of the cost of leading vendors, the ability to deploy these solutions is within an arm’s reach of many organizations that wouldn’t have considered it a possibility before.


As solutions become more diverse and the range of deployment options increase, organizations can develop a pick-and-choose approach and adopt near real-time data capture to develop a forward-looking view of performance within the organization. This increases the ability of organizations to see what is happening within the organization, to measure performance in relation to internal targets and market considerations as well as plan future initiatives and set goals.


Operational BI Inroads


Operational BI is being pushed on the market to increase the overall use of BI within the organization. This occurs through the expansion of BI across various departments and embedded within business processes. Additionally, BI for the masses is taking shape as BI gets deployed to multiple people across the organization. Beyond actual adoption, industry experts and vendors are pushing this concept on organizations to enable them to move beyond the traditional model of BI that is essentially a data warehouse, OLAP and reporting model. Although the BI market has moved beyond this approach, in many cases, organizations are stuck using either spreadsheets or this traditional approach to drive their analyses. This differs from implementing an operational solution that can identify what is happening now and help decision-makers take action.


Solution expansion and the ability to take advantage of technology advancements and newer niche vendors entering the market make it possible for organizations to implement a more up-to-date approach to BI. With new entrants to the market, the ability to find vendors targeting specific enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer resource management (CRM) solutions to be embedded on top of the daily operational applications becomes easier. Additionally, vendors develop applications that are integrated with these operational solutions and are easier to deploy.


BI Expansion


Once BI is implemented within the organization, various departments begin to see the benefits of its use. This coupled with an existing framework and general architecture creates an environment where BI can be expanded upon without initial rework. For organizations, the ability to use one platform may be beneficial, providing disparate departments are open to sharing data. In some cases, information is deemed confidential and not willingly shared across the organization, creating silos. However, for organizations where this is not the case, sharing data across departments enables a broader understanding of trends and performance to take place. In addition, the ability to collaborate across the organization enables actual operational BI to take place.


By expanding data sharing and collaborative efforts across the organization, there exists the ability to integrate BI use into existing processes and to identify where BI might fit within overall business processes in general. Organizations looking at operational BI for the first time may look at solution providers focused on embedded analytics, whereas organizations with mature BI environments are more likely to extend using their current platform and expand their current use other areas within the organization.


BI for the Masses


Depending on the type of deployment, expanding BI use to multiple end users may be more likely. With traditional licensing structures, the per-user license pricing can seem exorbitant creating an environment where only a few users at a time may end up using the solutions available to them. However, with more options existing at different price points, it is possible to deploy a solution to multiple end users without breaking the bank. In addition, with more end users accessing BI applications and BI’s extended reach toward multiple decision-makers, organizations begin to take a more forward looking approach to BI and, more importantly, to organization-wide decision-making.


When looking at a BI for the masses approach, the question becomes “What is the best manner to deploy this type of expansion?” The problem with many traditional BI solutions is the inability to use them without training and some general technical knowledge, for instance understanding how different sets of information interrelate.


Where to Start


Most traditional BI vendors tout their ability to support operational BI initiatives. Also, a number of vendors have either entered the market or are positioned for mass deployments across the organization. In either case, organizations should be aware of what their end goal is. When deploying an operational BI approach there are different considerations. Looking to expand a current solution to include a BI for the masses approach may extend BI’s reach, but it does not necessarily achieve actual operational BI. This only occurs when BI tools are expanded and used within business processes themselves.

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