Business Tips | Data Strategy

Imagine you’re the leader of a battle-hardened military unit. To reach your next objective, you’ll have to hoof it through hostile territory. It’s perilous terrain. Danger could lurk around any corner.

In this scenario, what would you find more valuable?

  1. A satellite photo showing where the enemy was two weeks ago
  2. A drone video showing their exact position today

The answer is obvious, and the analogy underscores the difference between business intelligence and operational business intelligence.

Operational business intelligence is defined as real-time business intelligence derived from ongoing business operations. In other words, it’s business intelligence that fuels daily (or thereabout) decision-making. Regardless of your position or industry, having to make decisions informed by stale data is an enormous roadblock to success.

Long-term trends shape high-level strategy, but when it comes to day-to-day execution — the very lifeblood of any successful enterprise — immediate feedback is priceless. McKinsey has found the average executive spends nearly 40 percent of their time making decisions. Faster data leads to quicker, more confident decisions.

Do you want to spend less time guessing and more time boldly driving change? Start by assessing the capacity for operational business intelligence inside your business or function.

Operational Business Intelligence: A New Frontier in Decision-Making

Most modern companies leverage some sort of business intelligence. Far fewer utilize operational business intelligence, making it an area you can gain a real advantage for a significant performance boost.

If traditional business intelligence (or BI) is a snapshot of previous outcomes, operational business intelligence (or OBI) is more like a live stream of current performance.

OBI platforms are essentially “always-on” and track key data points as they occur.

These data points could be anything from finished parts coming off an assembly line to the number of calls currently on hold with a customer service department —  really any variable important or critical to the everyday operation of your business or function.

Antiquated BI systems often force users to manually extract reports, a cumbersome task that can require dozens (or even hundreds) of man-hours per week. Even with the data in hand, a follow-up meeting is often required to interpret the findings and decide upon an appropriate course of action.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

Traditional BI tools can help teams identify broad trends and work off a single source of truth. Yet the more that truth ages, the less relevant it is to ongoing operations. Flying blind can cause opportunities to go undiscovered, minor issues to intensify, and significant revenue to leak out of an enterprise — all unbeknownst to management.

Operational business intelligence, meanwhile, can empower rapid course correction at every level of an organization. This democratization of data has the potential to:

  • Align and inspire efforts to optimize the most important tasks in your business
  • Deliver the clarity needed to weed out inefficiencies or correct errors before they can entangle essential processes
  • Increase company-wide motivation and enable managers to monitor execution both on-site and remotely

Traditional business intelligence is akin to the road atlas books we once relied on to get from point A to B. They got us to our destination eventually, but often led to a few wrong turns, and perhaps a stop to sheepishly ask for directions.

OBI platforms like iDashboards, on the other hand, are akin to Waze or Google Maps.

They’re a modern solution that not only gives you instantaneous feedback on your route, but can alert you to potential shortcuts (opportunities) or traffic jams (issues) along the way. These operational business intelligence platforms serve as enterprise information systems that sit on top of all your existing and future data sources to provide real-time insight — no matter where you are or which device you’re holding.

business professionals discussing vital KPIs and reviewing data in real-time

Creating a Culture of Operational Business Intelligence

The average small or mid-sized business is drowning in an ocean of data. Attempting to make decisions based on all that information, even with a lag, can be overwhelming. Attempting to do so in real-time on top of that is all but impossible.

Utilizing operational business intelligence represents a relentless commitment to the key drivers of your success.

What new information defines whether it was a “good” or “bad” day for your business or function? Identifying the 5-10 KPIs that define your performance (as well as desired benchmarks for daily performance) is the first step to operationalizing your business intelligence.

Simply ensuring all stakeholders know these KPIs are the KPIs can be a powerful force for alignment.  For example, an Operations Executive in a manufacturing business may focus on throughput, units produced, cycle time, active machines, scrap rate, production vs. waste, etc.

After you’ve pegged your critical needle-movers, it’s time to consider data visualization.

Data visualization refers to the visual format of your data. The longer it takes to interpret a piece of information, the less operational that info becomes — and the more likely a user is to either misinterpret it or ignore it altogether.

Finally, consider access. How can you make your “daily win” metrics immediately accessible to those who have the most influence over them?

Experi-Metal, a manufacturer of special metal parts for the automotive and aerospace industries, installed OBI wall displays in crucial workspaces to great success. “[For my team], it’s like looking at their scorecard,” says Dave Maschke, General Manager at Experi-Metal. “They can quickly assess, ‘Did we win yesterday? Do we need to do something different today?’”

While the concept of OBI is simple enough, delivering that type of digital transformation demands a special kind of solution. Operational business intelligence requires a platform that:

  • Seamlessly tracks metrics critical to day-to-day execution and performance in real-time
  • Leverages a proven visual format that gives stakeholders an immediate pulse on the business
  • Delivers widespread, immediate access to important and strategic operational data

iDashboards is an Operational Success Platform that equips leaders and enterprises with the information needed to make better decisions.

Our custom-built and flexible data visualizations deliver real-time insight into the heart of your operation. Whether you seek to improve the efficiency of a warehouse floor, a sales bullpen, or a life-saving hospital unit, iDashboards solutions make operational business intelligence a true part of your culture.

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Joe Bucci Marketing Manager @ iDashboards

Joe joined the team at iDashboards in 2021 and leads the marketing efforts for all industries and operating divisions. Joe loves building systems that help people make better decisions, so he fit in perfectly from the very beginning. When he's not helping executives pursue operational excellence, you can find him working on his truck, camping, or reading about neuroscience.


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