Make Smart Business Decisions Through Data-driven Alerts - InformationWeek
IoT
IoT
Data Management // Big Data Analytics
Commentary
6/5/2017
09:00 AM
Daan Pepijn, Security and ERP Consultant
Daan Pepijn, Security and ERP Consultant
Commentary
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Make Smart Business Decisions Through Data-driven Alerts

Alerts fed by business intelligence are a nice fit for companies operating in today's competitive round-the-clock world.

It makes sense that businesses want to avoid rash and impulsive decisions. Good business decisions rely on facts and numbers. However, procedural dynamics still drag many organizations down, causing decisions to be made on impulse, too slowly, or based on bad information.

What’s more, issues from the ground or from the field often get filtered as they make their way through the chain of command. I see it all the time with my information security clients. A network admin notices some suspicious server queries and immediately texts management. A few calls later, and eventually I’m looped in. By then, it’s hard to tell what’s really happening, and I need to get back to the original admin to ask him for proper details before I can even think about how to help.

Among the ways companies prevent this disconnect is by reorganizing to flat organizational structures so that upper management and executives can be more accessible to staff. Another way is to invest in efforts that promote transparency through business intelligence. Indeed, BI now plays a critical role in companies’ decision making. The unbiased insights from hard numbers encourage smarter strategies.

With the faster pace of business today, it is essential to speed up the time it takes to get information, make a decision, and take action. Thankfully, technologies are now available that empower organizations to act quicker.

Alerts regarding anomalies

Any issue that arises from day-to-day operations needs to be solved quickly. But for this to happen, management can’t risk waiting for escalation and can’t rely on constantly checking their dashboards in order to find out if there is something amiss.

The emergence of mobile computing has empowered companies to do business on the go. Among the simple yet powerful functions of mobile computing are alerts and notifications. This may seem mundane in the context of the push notifications we receive when someone likes one of our social media posts. But when it comes to larger-scale business operations, being notified of an issue as it happens is critical.

For example, companies offering web apps depend on uptime in order to remain financially solvent, and these companies have to instantly know if their sites are inaccessible. Just this past February, a major AWS outage collectively cost businesses hosted by the service an estimated $310 million.

System administrators aren’t the only ones who need to know of such outages as they happen. PR and marketing may have to prepare a statement to reassure customer confidence. Support staff has to be on the ready to address customer concerns. Services like Pingdom address this need. The service monitors if a website is up and sends alerts if it is inaccessible so that businesses can react quickly. For consultants like myself, a system like this enables us to be on top of things rather than being relegated to late reactions.

Automating tasks the smart way

Many businesses have turned to automation to speed up their processes. The fact is, common and uncomplicated tasks that do not need management decisions and sign-off can be automated in order to save time and resources. Imagine having to deal with trivial concerns throughout the day. Management always has bigger fish to fry.

Digital marketing is one area that many organizations are now deciding to automate. Several services are now offering events driven and rule based solutions that significantly trim down on the effort required to connect with customers.

Marketing automation allows businesses to set up rule-based marketing workflows to address the various scenarios that they may encounter. For example, cart abandonment is a common issue for many e-commerce sites. With this service, businesses can set an event such as an abandoned cart to be a condition to trigger actions that might include sending a follow-up email reminding the customer about the purchase, or even send out a discount coupon to encourage would-be customers to complete the checkout process.

Simple automation tools may not be enough for critical decisions that require insights and authority. This is where BI is supposed to come in. BI technologies have evolved to a point that businesses can get speedy insights using massive amounts of data. The rise of self-service BI has enabled any member of an organization to access data and review dashboards.

The use of BI insights as basis for alerts and automation offers tremendous benefits. This is why cloud-based BI service Sisense recently rolled out its Pulse feature, a notification service based on important business events. Pulse supports what the company calls the “Pulse Feed,” which sends out a stream of notifications when user-determined KPI rules are met, and “Smart Alerts,” which push still more notifications when Sisense’s machine learning algorithm identifies noteworthy anomalies. These alerts can be sent as email or as pushes through the Sisense app, so decision makers can readily take action as soon as key conditions are met.

Alerts and automation tools help get things done, but it’s important to consider if the actions businesses eventually take are smart informed ones. Data-driven alerts from BI allow business to make timely decisions and even integrate them to their enterprise solutions for smarter automation.

The applications are limitless. R&D organizations can act quickly based on spikes in bug reports or e-commerce ventures to automatically manage inventory based on interest from certain products.  Most importantly, BI alerts ensure that these actions are based on sound data and not just on impulse.

Daan Pepijn is based in Tel Aviv where he works as a freelance information security consultant. He currently is involved with a few enterprise resource planning projects for various enterprise-level software companies. He also consults for a number of local players on web security, including Imperva and Incapsula. He holds an ME in Systems Engineering from Technion -- Israel Institute of Technology.

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