Information Delivery Systems – still relevant today

information-systemsRoll back the clock 15 or 20 years and one of the hot business intelligence topics of the day was information delivery systems. These systems enabled you to get timely, relevant information into the hands of a wide range of people across your whole organization. This meant people had ready access to information that was connected to their role, so they could make informed decisions.

These systems weren’t just concerned with getting information to senior managers. They would provide a store manager at a retail chain with daily sales performance figures. They would provide a vendor manager with information to help them evaluate supplier performance. They would share the latest information on manufacturing defects with a production manager. In short, they would ensure that everyone across the organization would have access to information tailored to their needs.

So, how do you deliver information to these people today?

Fast forward to today and these needs are as acute as they have ever been. There are still many people in your organization who don’t care about dashboards, reports or other terminology. They just know that they need information to do their job. And, they want to access that information as easily as possible.

The needs of business users like this are often overlooked. Maybe you provide them with weekly or monthly reports that are churned out by your business systems? But, for modern business users, these old style reports no longer cut it. They are too outdated. How can people be expected to make effective decisions when they are using old data? They are monolithic and inflexible. How can people hone in on the answers they need when they are forced to wade through pages and pages of numbers to separate the wheat from the chaff?

Nor do business users have time to trawl through multiple data sources for themselves and then manually stitch together the information they need. Yet, time and again, we still see business people who are forced to waste a huge chunk of their day compiling and collating data in Excel. This is because they need information to understand how their business area is performing and to guide their future action and this is the only way they can get at that information.

So, what do most business users need?

Although they don’t want to manipulate their own data, modern business users do expect to be able to interact with their information. They want to explore their data to answer daily and one-off questions. And, they don’t want to be dependent on someone else to provide those answers. They want to be able to drill, filter, switch to alternate views, pull up underlying transactions to hone in on the information that matters. But, they want to do this is in a controlled manner – so they can get fast answers, without having to learn a tool.

The foundation of a good information delivery system

This is where a good information delivery system can help. It will allow you to get information into the hands of the people who need it. And, when people have access to the information they need, it ensures your business processes run smoothly and efficiently.

At Antivia, we happen to know a thing or two about this. The team here has a long history of helping the types of business users we’re discussing here and solving their problems. It’s the same core team that founded Blue Edge Software back in the late 1990s. Then we helped Business Objects customers to deliver personalized information to the wider reaches of their organizations.

The core requirements of an information delivery systems are the same now as then:

  • Scalable. Many modern business intelligence systems are great at supporting the needs of the small number of data analysts in our organizations. And, they are good at sharing simple dashboards with a modest user community. But, when it comes to pushing information more widely into the organization, this is where the problems begin.Even if these products  have a software licensing model that is favorable to mass deployment, they need huge amounts of server hardware to scale.This is because most BI systems can only handle a small number of concurrent users per CPU-core. So, as you start deploying to 100s and then 1,000s of people, concurrency rates increase and this requires more processing power.  Throwing more hardware at the problem will often expose other bottlenecks, which need to be tackled to ensure acceptable response times for business users. Setting up and managing the hardware to support this swallows resources and puts a strain on budgets. The result is total cost of ownership surges to the point where it is no longer economically viable.On the other hand, a good information delivery system will scale to support a large audience and provide fast users response times. It will do this  from a modest hardware footprint and with a sensible software licensing model.
  • Targeted. Business users need targeted information delivered to them in bite-size chunks. This means delivering content that is tailor-made to suit people’s roles. It also mean’s personalizing that information to the viewer. So, for example, an account manager would see information specific to the customers that they manager, including order history, any outstanding invoices and any open customer support tickets.. Whereas, a customer services team leader would see information about the cases their team are managing, their current status and close rates. These two roles need two different views of information. But, they may both see some of the same underlying data where they have a shared interest in a support issue.
  • Interactive. Information needs to be interactive. Business users want to go beyond passively viewing information so they can actively dive into their data to answer immediate and follow-up questions.
  • Intuitive. Business users need to be able to consume their information without training. With a large deployment training costs can blow the budget for the whole project. And, if people need to be trained, you can be sure you’ll see lower adoption rates and yet more BI shelf-ware.
  • Timely. Information can be refreshed as often as business users need. For some data this will be daily, other data will be available near real-time. This real-time data may also be used to trigger push alerts. This can act as an early warning system to help people take corrective action before something goes wrong.
  • Fast. You need to be able to create an share new information quickly to keep up with changing business demands. This means breaking the dependency on development skills to develop new content.

We explored the requirements of a modern information delivery system, in a previous series of posts.

DecisionPoint™ – a modern information delivery system

These are the same fundamental principles that underpin DecisionPoint™ today. It’s just that the technology we used has moved on:

  • Today, we have more delivery options. We’re not just sending information to the desktop. We can also reach people on mobile or on a big screen TV
  • Today, business users don’t always need to be connected to the company network. So, mobile workers can still get the answers they need, even when they are offline
  • Today, we have richer user interfaces. This allows us to break away from the confines of the workflows imposed by the tool. It results in a polished, professional interface that reflects the customer’s brand. It includes custom workflows with pop-up views and the ability to pull up transactional level data to make it easier for people to get to the information they need.

So, is it time that you moved away from old-school reports to provide people across your organization with up-to-date information that is tailor-made for their needs?

If so, request a live demonstration of DecisionPoint™ to see how you can improve information delivery across your organization.