Does your BI system keep up with you?

When the information you need for early discovery is drawn from multiple sources and is derived from analytical processes, the speed and accuracy of that information and the accompanying analysis are dependent on the technology that delivers it.
Written by Sarah Meyer, Attivio, Contributor
Commentary - Early awareness enables quick action. Discovering issues before they become problems and being the first to know important information is always advantageous - especially when you can intervene early or turn insight into opportunity. When the information you need for early discovery is drawn from multiple sources and is derived from analytical processes, the speed and accuracy of that information and the accompanying analysis are dependent on the technology that delivers it.

Business Intelligence (BI) and other data-driven applications have helped businesses improve transactions and manage massive data volumes. Many companies rely on BI to provide a composite view of enterprise data as a framework for making well-informed business decisions. Because of their central importance, data applications and the data structures that support them are a major focus of IT.

But as global markets move faster, data volume explodes and data buried in documents, emails, blogs, web sites, etc., becomes increasingly important, companies are bumping up against the limits of these data-centric applications, which offer limited or no access to the enormous realm of information locked in various content repositories.

Unified Information Access (UIA) is emerging as a core technology for dramatically improving the value of existing BI and data applications that rely on data warehouses. UIA, which unites textual information with traditional tabular data in a universal index, does more than incorporate documents into data applications. It also provides rich text analytics, easy-to-use search and discovery paradigms and near real-time information availability. Together, these capabilities deliver broader, deeper and more-timely insight, including trends and connections that could otherwise be missed.

UIA also includes these capabilities:

  • Unified, well-related information to drive actions and applications
  • Pattern detection and proactive analysis across disparate information sources
  • Better user experience - more than simply improved usability:
  • Access to complete, synthesized and actionable information
  • Advanced exploration capabilities – not only a simple search box but also facet recommendations, auto-completion, tag clouds and heat maps
  • The flexibility to discover answers to questions you never thought to ask
  • Complete, relevant and connected insight available on demand so you can confidently act in a timely manner
There are some powerful advantages to integrating UIA with data applications. For example, it’s not necessary to create an additional data mart or carefully design and model relationships in advance. In addition, you don't have to restrict exploration to only the possibilities considered during the planning phase because the system gains intelligence that is applied to future situations.

Here are two scenarios that show how organizations can benefit from adopting UIA:

1. When enterprises need to improve the user experience and business value of existing data applications such as BI, UIA can:

  • Integrate diverse content (website content, documents, PDFs, emails, blogs, etc.) to improve the relevancy of query results. Entities can be extracted from the content to enhance the available data.
  • Simplify discovery, exploration and retrieval by adding a search interface and advanced search methods (faceted navigation, heat maps, tag clouds) to reveal related information as users examine topics

The existing data warehouse is augmented by the UIA universal index, which allows the user to include content sources without relying on the data warehouse and without having to force the content into a tabular form. The complex ETL process required for populating BI applications is avoided because you don't have to fit the content into a predefined table structure. Instead content is indexed and entities are extracted so all relevant information is quickly retrieved in response to a query.

2. When there is a new BI project and IT needs to enhance the data mart with content from any other sources (web content, text, etc.), or when the stakeholders need deeper analytics, instead of building another data mart or redesigning an existing one, the user can use UIA to enhance the current data warehouse and quickly create a new BI solution.

The organization not only gains the flexibility, user experience advantages and inclusion of content and text analytics mentioned above, it also gets faster time-to-value and lower total cost because IT can design and build UIA applications much more quickly than creating a data mart or designing and building traditional database applications.

Companies that are positioned to take advantage of the fast-moving global economy are the ones that empower their people with the means needed to stay ahead of the competition. They do this by providing the information necessary to make timely, informed business decisions. This new level of competitiveness and confidence are fueled by the insight gained from the availability of actionable intelligence through agile technologies such as Unified Information Access.

Sarah Meyer has been the Director of Product Marketing at Attivio since 2008, where she focuses on articulating the value Attivio’s approach to unified information access brings to the challenges companies face in gaining better return on their investment in information. Besides product marketing roles, she has also been a product designer and development manager.

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