Call it pervasive business intelligence, active data warehousing or even IT-enabled synchronicity. It’s an enterprise-scale information infrastructure built on a central data warehouse, and it delivers credible intelligence to a company’s operational front-line employees, partners and customers in real time. It makes your front-line employees and associates 10 times more productive and prepared to drive profitable performance. And it is becoming a core IT-enabled competency for cutting-edge businesses.
Let’s call it pervasive BI, because it delivers relevant insight everywhere, across the company and beyond. It is an information system that can drive profitable multichannel personalization in customer communications, prevent supply chain disruptions, optimize inventory, catch fraud as it happens, track packages in transit to monitor environmental changes, and better serve individual passengers as they travel-and all in fractions of a second. An Active Data Warehouse (ADW) is the term for database platforms which support a pervasive BI system.
Rather than elaborate in detail on the technology architecture, let’s look at some real-world examples of things companies can do today using pervasive BI. The following are 10 ways companies can be much more effective using pervasive BI:
1. Smarter inbound call center agents
With “Do Not Call” lists in many countries preventing outbound calls, inbound callers represent the best opportunity to sell new products and services from the call center. Studies show they are 10 times more responsive because “people do not hang up on themselves.” But how does a customer service representative know what to offer? Does the customer service representative know that the caller was on the corporate Website today, browsing but not buying? By having data available and delivered in real time through pervasive BI, the customer service representative can make relevant offers that will more likely result in sales.
2. Personalized next-best-offer on the Web
On the Website, there are only a few seconds to find the “next best offer” for a consumer and try to get them to buy. This requires data-a lot of it. The Website needs to balance the latest marketing campaigns, the consumer’s preferences dating back a year or more, and any consumer interactions with the Website the same day. Optimizing all of this in real time to close more business is an automated form of pervasive BI.
Consistent Multichannel Marketing
3. Consistent multichannel marketing
Banks have dreamed for years of having “one voice to the customer” though the branch, Website, call center, ATM, etc. But stovepiped databases and applications make this nearly impossible. With pervasive BI, the bank Website could offer a “Wealth Management Planning Checkup” for customers, with recent major decreases shown in their portfolios.
Even the ATM can be customized to support this campaign. This can be done using a special screen on the ATM targeting any customers who did not already react to the Web offer (that is, the offer that had asked them to come into the bank for an appointment with an available wealth management specialist).
4. Optimizing customer service under intense pressure
In many cases, it is not sufficient to only optimize assets. Since not all passengers or freight are equal, factoring in customer satisfaction, past experiences and possibly other aspects of the current experience (for example, “You will make it home on the flight but your luggage may not.”) again uses up-to-date information to provide optimized passenger handling lists that can be used by gate agents and call centers.
Or, instead of the nonsensical question, “Would you like to stay home from one to five in the afternoon to wait for your appliance delivery?,” more precise delivery estimates can be provided in real time. Putting these together provides optimal asset allocation along with preferred customer analytics and actions in real time. With active warehousing, you don’t lose valuable customers or money either. You can also build in complex conditional triggers and algorithms so that customer lifetime value is a critical factor.
Real-Time Fraud Detection
5. Real-time fraud detection
In tough economic times, all corporations should look at fraud because that loss comes right off of the bottom line: profit. The best way to stop fraud is not the next day but while it’s happening. It’s tough to get the money back from a con artist a week after the crime, even if you can find them.
Innovative retailers are using pervasive BI right on their cash registers to detect fake receipts or probable fraudulent behaviors. The minimum wage retail associate doesn’t need to make tough decisions; the ADW tells them, “Yes, this is a valid receipt” or “Pass this to the supervisor immediately.” The best way to save money is to never lose it.
6. Automating manual processes
One way of driving out costs in any business process is to automate some of the process, reducing the need for human labor. With an ADW, coupled with embedded process rules, some tasks that previously required complex human decisions can be automated. For banks, this can mean automating the granting of credit-even mortgage loans-through their Website instead of the more lengthy, labor-based process of consumers filling out paper forms, then mailing them to committees and so on. Insurers can automate the quoting of personalized prices on the Web, limiting their dependence on the actuarial staff.
Similarly, an insurer can automate the processing of claims with rules, data mining and BI embedded in processing steps. In all of these cases, the majority of routine situations are automated with an ADW and business rules, but a small percentage of loans, prices or claims are still assigned to people when the decision appears risky.
Near Real-Time Dashboard Reporting on Fresh Data
7. Near real-time dashboard reporting on fresh data
There are always dozens or hundreds of operations managers trying to stay on top of demands. Unfortunately for them, working with reports built on data from the previous night is like watching a rearview mirror-it’s not where the action is most of the time. With an ADW, the operations managers can have up-to-the-minute reports and analysis of operations.
For example, regional retail store managers can “see” whether promotions are unusually successful, requiring quick actions to avoid out-of-stocks. Or perhaps a high-volume commodity is not selling at the forecast velocity in two of ten stores, significantly affecting profit margins. Another example: unsold seat tickets for tonight’s show could be given away to induce loyalty at gaming establishments.
8. Business activity monitoring and alerting
Dozens of business processes need daily alerts to advise when something really good or bad has happened. Perhaps interbank settlements are somehow congested today and penalties will accrue. Or maybe a manufacturing line is drifting out of tolerance, causing potential defects or quality control issues downstream. Whatever the alert, it’s not enough to know the “fire alarm” rang. An ADW provides the analytic answers to guide both the front-line employee and the back office in responding to alerts.
Often it works both ways: the front-line employee may detect a problem and the back office may quickly investigate to do triage. Or the back office may be notified that there is a problem and then work with the appropriate front-line groups to fix the issues. In either case, ADW technology provides the pervasive BI to align recovery and improvement actions.
Consumer Self-Service Portals
9. Consumer self-service portals
Consumer self-service can improve customer satisfaction while lowering call center demand. Via the Web or even the call center Interactive Voice Response (IVR) unit, customers can easily access data about insurance claims (for example, “Did you send my disability check?” or “Do you have all the medical information you need to process my claim?”), or about their package’s shipment status (“Where’s my package?” or “Where’s my box of raw materials?”).
10. Supplier and partner portals
Real-time data shared with upstream suppliers, agents and partners can not only improve relationships but it can drive the partner to higher efficiencies and better support. A simple real-time dashboard with detailed data drill-down can help manufacturing partners know faster which of their products are selling, where goods are in the supply chain and what their on-time or incomplete shipments “score” is.
Shippers can track goods delivery, responding to delays sooner. Armed with this knowledge, the partner can enhance their deliveries, manage inventories and production, and focus their employees on significantly better performance.
David Schrader is a Director of Strategy and Marketing at Teradata Corporation. He joined Teradata (formerly a division of NCR Corporation) in 1991. David held various positions in Engineering – Advanced Development until 1998 when he moved into Marketing. David has published widely in the areas of customer management, and presents talks worldwide on how companies can get a competitive edge from using technology. David holds a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Purdue University. He can be reached at [email protected].
Dan Graham is a Senior Marketing Director at Teradata Corporation. He began his computing career as a field engineer and systems programmer with UNIVAC. In the 1980s, Dan was assistant vice president of database administration at California Federal Savings and Loan. Dan joined Teradata as its senior marketing product manager of the DBC/1012 parallel database computer. Dan speaks frequently at international conferences on the topics of data warehousing, parallel processing and real-time business intelligence. He can be reached at [email protected].