Subtle, meaningful differences in right-time and real-time analytics

The differences between right-time and real-time analytics are subtle, but the technologies used and the actionable results could prove monumental.

Enterprises have long turned to their Oracle databases for a variety of purposes -- everything from order processing to inventory control to customer service has its roots embedded deeply in an Oracle platform.

A fairly recent development that increases the value of those huge Oracle databases is analytics, which is driven by the quest to uncover tidbits of actionable information buried in the relationships between data sets. No one can deny the value of analytics, but a debate still rages on. It can be summed up as real-time analytics processing vs. right-time analytics processing. The differences between the two are subtle, but the technologies used and the actionable results could prove to be monumental.

Real-time analytics creates actionable information

Many businesses are looking to push business intelligence (BI) into new and exciting areas with real-time analysis. Oracle shops can lead the charge, thanks to Oracle's real-time analytics processing capabilities. A case in point is Oracle's RightNow Analytics Cloud Service, which captures, organizes, presents and disseminates real-time actionable knowledge to decision makers.

Some might ask about the benefits offered by an instant-gratification model of analysis, and question the value of real-time analytics compared with its cost, as well as the accuracy of its results. Others might wonder if analysis is even needed on the spot for most operations. There are no simple answers, but perspectives may change once real-time analytics is placed into the proper business context.

For example, traditional marketing elements, such as customer trends and analysis, might not benefit from real-time processing -- normally, the BI generated for those use cases is based on specific processing and procedures, which are garnered from a reporting process. In other words, instantaneous decisions are not normally a requirement of marketing BI.

But things change rapidly in other contexts. Take, for example, analyzing customer sentiment and satisfaction. Here, the quicker you can identify a problem, the faster you can take action to resolve it. For many organizations, real-time capabilities lead directly to happier customers and more add-on sales. Other examples abound, such as feedback monitoring, outreach scenarios and knowledge bases -- all of which can be improved by deploying real-time analytical processing.

Oracle has several services underneath the RightNow Analytics Cloud Service umbrella. One is Feedback Cloud Service, which allows BI and analytics managers to listen, monitor and act on customer feedback across Web, social and contact-center touch points, then quickly identify unhappy customers and prioritize them for follow-up. One of the service's key elements is its ability to automate much of the process -- creating a real-time interaction with customers while automatically involving the appropriate people.

RightNow's Knowledge Cloud Service brings a different context to real-time analytics, mostly in the form of support. Designed as an automated service to give answers as quickly as possible, it specializes in increasing customer satisfaction by enabling customers to discuss, rate and subscribe to any answers in a knowledge foundation. The product accomplishes that by turning a typical knowledge base into a rich, dynamic source of information, combining both corporate and user-generated content.

The primary advantage of such a service is that customer insights and knowledge can be leveraged throughout the support ecosystem, allowing businesses to highlight recent or popular posts and search results, which in turn can increase support agent productivity by putting up-to-date answers and collective insights at their fingertips.

Another offering is RightNow's Outreach Cloud Service, which is a product designed to create proactive, relevant communications based on complete customer histories. The service gives internal agents knowledge of outreach campaigns and customer activities. That information is built on a complete, consolidated view of all customer activities, and provides full visibility into campaign performance across all marketing and outreach channels.

Of course, there are other scenarios to which real-time analytics can be applied, and businesses are coming up with new cases all the time. But that raises the question, Why not use real-time analytics processing for every BI function? The answer to that is simple – its cost. Real-time analytics usually requires massive amounts of processing power, in-memory processing capabilities and a substantial storage environment -- all of which can add up to significant costs.

So, before venturing into the world of real-time analytics, one must ask several questions: Will real-time processing bring any additional value to a given analytics task? Is the technology affordable enough for deployment and is it cost-effective? If the answer to either of those questions is no, then IT management should consider what analytics that aren't real-time can offer.

Right-time analytics delivers information when it's needed

Real-time analytics might work for most BI processes, but is it necessary for the process at hand? Take, for example, yearly trend reporting or quarterly transaction reporting. Does the BI processing for either require instantaneous processing? The answer obviously is no. Those analytical reporting elements are based on business schedules, and the required dates are known well in advance. Simply put, the processing can wait until a due date -- no decisions need to be made while gathering the data.

That simple revelation leads to a concept called "right-time analytics," which can lower costs and the processing power needed to achieve actionable results. It all comes down to delivering the information when it's needed, not when it's requested, thus creating an appropriate window of processing time to garner results.

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Oracle has approached the right-time analytics market in several ways: Some products are based on traditional BI systems, others leverage on-site appliances and still others rely on in-house software. Regardless of the methodology behind right-time analytics, there's one thing they share -- they eliminate the need for instantaneous answers to queries. Of course, right-time analytics can be applied to many business cases, including customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning and sales.

Naturally, Oracle isn't the only player in the field. Others offer systems that can deliver analytical data in an acceptable amount of time. The big question is how well the system can leverage Oracle databases and platforms. Oracle offers Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus, a suite of BI products based on a Web-services-oriented architecture.

This product suite includes interactive dashboards, report generators, what-if processing, online analytical processing analysis and other capabilities that support drill-down into data and the ability to mine relationships and uncover trends. The major difference here is that the suite is designed for processing analytics based on historical information, while the RightNow Analytics Cloud Service works with current data and presents information immediately.

The argument about real time vs. right time is still heated, but the decision comes down to reaction speeds: If a business process is customer-facing and requires an immediate reaction, real-time analytics could hold the answer. But if the process is for internal proactive planning, right-time analytics -- with its reduced expenses and lower maintenance costs – presents the most value.

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