I first blogged on this topic back in early 2010, then later introduced it in a guest post on Steve Miranda’s Oracle Applications blog and last month I did another guest post on the subject. The latest post discusses an Olympic cycling event where pertinent information was available, but it was not relayed to the cyclists in a timely manner and so they could not act upon it when they needed to, this was part of what cost them medals (there may have been other factors too, but that is a long story).
Timeliness is one of the three key attributes required for BI to be considered embedded BI (the other two are relevant and actionable) and I wanted to give a business example of where timely is relevant. Let’s imagine I am approving an expense report for one of my overseas employees’ home broadband costs for June, July and August; I don’t know if the amount they are claiming is reasonable and I don’t recall if they already submitted an expense for June already. So embedded BI here I want is average costs of broadband in that location (from external sources, or maybe average of all employee expense claims in that location) and some information on previous expense reports, it would also be good to see that amount in US dollars too. All this information is available in my Enterprise Application and I can get it quickly, I should not for example wait until the amount is transferred to the General Ledger and converted into US dollars at my Month End rate published from my Treasury team, an approximation based on a rate from an external web service or last month’s rate will work for this purpose. If I get this information in a timely manner, it is there when I review the expense report and I can approve right away and save my time navigating to other places to research this and also avoid any late fees from the credit card firm arising from a delay in my approval.
The example above does not require aggregation of huge amounts of data in an offline data warehouse, nor does it require an eye catching 3D animated Chart; these exciting things do have their place and they are very impressive in demos but I find the simple use cases that bring real improvements to the way people work are the ones that resonate really well when I talk to Users.
Now it’s your turn to agree or disagree with my assessment of things, the comments section is right below and I would love to hear your thoughts.