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Combat IT complexity with operational intelligence

A Quocirca report says that businesses cope better with IT complexity and intensive security when they integrate BI and analytics tools into operational processes

A report from analyst firm Quocirca, commissioned by Splunk, says that integrating business intelligence and analytics tools into operational processes helps companies to cope better with IT complexity and more intensive security measures.

The report, Masters of the Machine II, reveals that European businesses’ security concerns have risen by 25% since 2013. And security is not the only worry: data chaos and poor customer experience concerns are also up by 22% and 21% respectively compared with the 2013 figures. 

Matt Davies, Splunk’s EMEA director of product marketing, is convinced that “analytics has changed over the last 12 months, with clarity over different classifications of analytics”. He cites ITOA (IT operational analytics), security analytics and customer experience analytics as examples.

Security has become the biggest and fastest-growing IT management concern among the 380 companies in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands questioned. Davies says that operational intelligence could play a key role in meeting those concerns by offering a means of detecting, responding to, investigating, analysing and protecting organisations from cybersecurity threats.

While it is true that those with the highest operational intelligence commitment are the most likely be concerned about security threats anyway, that is also because they see the big picture and identify a need to improve capability further. Davies says: “With external attacks, phishing, malicious insiders and increasing levels of fraud, OI enables a company to take a real-time analytics-driven approach to security with the perspective that all data has the potential to be security-relevant.”

Effective customer journey modelling

The Quocirca research also points out how 68% of organisations with a ‘high’ or ‘medium’ reliance on the cross-channel experience have to deal with increased volumes of data from those channels, including mobile apps, social media and sensor-based devices.Businesses with a weaker OI capability struggle to know what is going on in the new media channels.

Often the customer experience is hindered by silos of data, applications and channels. “By breaking down these silos to have a fabric of easily accessible data and self-service analytics, customer experience can be improved with OI,” says Davies. This manifests itself in the form of effective customer journey modelling, a 360-degree view of the customer, ensuring omni-channel customer service.

He cites the example of John Lewis, which is using OI to model the customer journey, inform marketing behaviour and get real-time checkout analytics.

For organisations with complex networks and infrastructure this challenge is even higher. Quocirca consultant Bob Tarzey says the financial services sector is the most advanced with OI implementation, followed by telcos and retail.

Manufacturing and commercial lag behind, with less pressure than direct service providers. “However, they could benefit from better OI capability as they have the same challenges as others to deal with,” says Tarzey. Those challenges include growing IT infrastructure complexity, managing multiple communications channels, outsourced infrastructure and applications, and complex supply chains.

Cloud as machine data

Since most organisations are becoming more hybridised, with more heterogeneous and complex IT platforms, they are turning to operational intelligence to provide the necessary management insight. This is key to coping with IT emergencies, such as system downtime, which was the number two overall IT management concern after IT security.

The report findings show that about 30% of organisations have no real coping strategy, even though most maintained the ability to respond in-house. These cases reveal a considerably lower operational intelligence index; a higher operational intelligence would allow them to understand what issues might occur, what issues have occurred, and work out how best to respond to them while minimising the impact of the system downtime on the business.

Tarzey says that nearly 75% of organisations are now using cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, with a similar number using infrastructure or platform-as-a-service (IaaS/PaaS) to deploy applications that run in third-party datacentres. That would not be a problem for operational intelligence tools, which “can be used on-premise, as SaaS or a hybrid of both”, points out Davies. He says an operational intelligence tool can deal with data regardless of source, be it on-premise or cloud, because “it is just machine data” to the tool.

According to Davies, these tools can bring a number of benefits in a dev-ops environment, such as the ability to find and fix issues quickly during development and testing, to deliver code to production faster, and to gain insights into application usage and user behaviour.

More about operational business intelligence

  • Operational business intelligence enables businesses to make decisions based on the real-time data they generate and use it on a day-to-day basis
  • Operational business intelligence often requires a rethink of how BI systems are designed and deployed
  • In this Q&A, consultant Rick Sherman discusses operational business intelligence and how companies can use it to manage their operations more effectively


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