Take Action With Business Intelligence

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From Google to the Grateful Dead and from direct response fulfillment to sustainability management, interactive intelligence is helping a variety of organizations and operations extend tightly stretched resources to create new avenues of efficiency and profitability. Today, many business intelligence (BI) tools offer an array of event-driven and proactive features designed to provide information and enable employees to take action.

In a world in which BI spans many industries and platforms, the concept of interactive intelligence can cover a wealth of activities, including capturing masses of data, directing workflow, sustaining corporate goals, driving real-time performance, and more. Key elements of interactive intelligence include data, workflow, rules, metrics, dashboards, real-time action-and even social software.

Capturing Masses of Data
In the healthcare field, BI can quite literally make the difference between life and death by aiding medical professionals as they work to halt the spread of a potentially deadly disease. The sheer mass of the possibly relevant content, however, can make analysis a daunting task.

The Google Flu Trends project takes interactive intelligence to the national level for healthcare professionals and their patients. Certain search terms found to be good indicators of flu activity are monitored via aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity in each U.S. state. The information, available 2 weeks faster than data from traditional flu surveillance systems, is pushed to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help that agency's investigators begin their work at the earliest stages of possible flu outbreaks. In addition, the data trends are published online at www.google.org/flutrends for access by anyone with a web browser.

Directing Workflow
The stakes are certainly high for medical professionals. But, when incorporated into workflow, BI can also aid business process management, enabling adaptive workflow modeling solutions. One solution provider, BP Logix, addresses this issue with its Workflow Director.

The new version of the program (the 2.1 update is scheduled for release this summer) will automate any business process or procedure, such as bringing a new employee on board, through the creation of automated weighted workflow models. In the case of new employee provisioning, for example, the process model would monitor the delivery of established needs such as a desk, a chair, a phone, business cards, and more.

Workflow Director 2.1 will let the user define activities with activity dependences, users to perform the activity, and more. If the delivery of the new employee's desk is held up, the program will be able to use the weighting information to proactively indicate other steps in the provisioning process that may be delayed as a result.

Dashboarding will be included in the project definition, allowing each activity to contain categories such as weighting, due dates, and other mechanisms that indicate an activity's importance within a project's framework. The state of a project or a summary of multiple projects can be graphed, using information defined by the user.

"The business rules are the piece that now triggers events or actions based on the status of a project," explains Joby O'Brien, BP Logix VP of product development. "By integrating BI-type functions into a BPM/workflow product, you can start to take action on events or conditions that meet some criteria instead of just reporting on them."

As O'Brien points out, this approach to BI provides "a leaner, more nimble, more flexible way to address business process automation."

Sustaining Corporate Goals With Metrics
The importance of environmental sustainability is now front and center in the global consciousness, due to worldwide concern about ecological economics and changes in the climate system. BI technology can play a major role in this arena to advance sustainability as a corporate goal.

By implementing sustainability management, organizations can monitor, track, and report on environmental impact measures such as carbon credits purchased and used, average water consumption by facility, and average electrical consumption by employee.

One solution specifically targeting this aspect of BI-Actuate for Sustainability Management-enables an organization to track and measure key sustainability metrics in a customizable format. The program offers a framework of metrics designed to help organizations build best practices and enhance sustainability. The application, based on Actuate's Performancesoft Suite and Actuate BIRT products, includes interactive dashboards, sustainability score cards, and strategy maps.

Actuate for Sustainability Management helps organizations identify, assess, and respond to social, economic, and environmental risks and opportunities. The application offers more than 100 built-in metrics designed to enable organizations to manage and measure key indicators such as employee satisfaction, environmental impact, access to training and education, and community engagement. In addition, the company offers custom-built metrics for specific sustainability needs. All of the measures can be tailored and scaled for employee, government, and organizational compliance units and external stakeholders.

For Seema Haji, senior technical marketing manager at Actuate, sustainability is a passion and a personal mission. "Sustainability means so much more than just going green," she says. "To make an organization truly sustainable over time, managers not only need to consider quantitative metrics like greenhouse gas emissions and water usage, but they also need to be able to identify, measure, and report on other, more-qualitative aspects of their operations such as employee satisfaction and corporate philanthropy."

Active BI can provide the analytical edge that points sustainability programs (as well as other organizational goals) toward success for the long term.

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