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Making it actionable with EDM

(Posted by guest blogger, James Taylor)

The Performance Guys had a post today titled "But is it "Actionable?" in which they discuss the general trend towards what is called "pervasive Business Intelligence" - that is, BI everywhere and for everyone. They note that the critical issue is not the user interface, browser-based or install or any of the other near-religious issues that come up when talking to BI vendors but the actionability of the insight delivered by the tool. As they say, the users "need it to help them solve the problem in front of them".

This is a point of view with which I agree strongly. I would go on to make two additional observations, however. First, many of the people in a organization who need help to solve problems have neither the time nor the skills to use business intelligence tools well. They are not knowledge workers with complex, iterative problems but front-line staff with very specific, very repeatable problems. Second, any modern organization has lots of actions that are taken by systems rather than by people. Systems running in the back office, self-service applications for customers, automated links to suppliers and more. In neither case are BI or performance management tools going to be able to do much to help with "action".

It is here that Enterprise Decision Management, EDM, comes into play. EDM is focused on the automation and improvement of decisions - making a system decide what action should be taken and then taking it - not on the support of manual decision making. As such it is both inherently actionable - as it is all about actions - and ideal for delivering those actions to front-line staff and systems. Instead of focusing on actionable insight, you could say that EDM focuses on insightful action.

As the Performance Guys noted, when thinking of BI or Performance Management tools it is not data, not information, but information that can be acted on that matters.Where EDM adds value is in those circumstances where the person seeing the insight may not understand or feel authorized to take the action or where these is no person to take action at all, such as in a web or self-service interaction. EDM is action-centric and uses the data you have to take more appropriate actions (by integrating predictive analytics into your business rules). If you think about the spectrum of BI from informative to actionable then EDM is the next step beyond actionable and into "acted upon".

This is important to remember as far too many people, and vendors, are talking about operational BI as though improving performance, reducing latency and putting the same old BI tools in the hands of more users will get it done. I think that operational BI is (almost) an oxymoron as there is a yawning gap between how most modern organizations handle their operations (e.g. using systems) and the idea that there will always be someone to read the reports or use the analysis tools. The drivers for operational BI are real but the delivery requires new tools, new approaches, a new mindset. It requires EDM.

I often write on this topic on my various blogs and you might enjoy these posts and articles particularly:

Finally you might enjoy this white paper I wrote called "Smart-Enough Customer Decisions"


Visit my Smart (Enough) Systems Blog(RSS) or my ebizQ blog (RSS). Buy the book or visit the companion wiki.

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