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Ventana Research was the first analyst firm to cover operational intelligence, and a while back I wrote how the products of Vitria support proactive customer service by using event data to anticipate likely impacts of operation issues on customer service. Our research into the use of analytics shows that while more mature companies have begun to adopt OI, they are mainly early adopters. In an effort to speed up adoption, Vitria has developed what it calls operational intelligence apps and it has opened up a trial program for companies to explore how they can help improve their operations using these new applications.

The tools to build the apps and share the outcomes are designed for business users. The first step, which probably will require support from IT, is to register the targeted data sources, which can be anything from structured sources such as CRM to unstructured sources such as social media or events from, let’s say, a network management system. This procedure allows business users to see the structure and content of the data sources and then, using collaborative tools, to drop and drag these into a template that defines the key performance indicators (KPI) they want to monitor. The tools allow users to pull in and aggregate data from multiple sources as input for calculating a KPI. Once set up the system continuously monitors the data sources, captures changes and produces near-real-time analysis of the KPIs. These results can be visualized in a form of the user’s choosing such as charts, line graphs or heat maps, and they can be shared with other users on their desktops, tablets or other devices. The displays can be current values, trends or predictions, and users can point and click anywhere on the display to see the underlying data. These capabilities allow users to spot hot issues or trends outside the norm, drill down into causes and take immediate action. For example, in one instance of an app, users can pull data from social media sites, analyze customer comments and identify early product or service issues to act on before they escalate.

Vitria also announced new developments to support big data. This is one of today’s hot topics, as one of our recent blogs discusses. Big data is not new to contact centers, which are used to dealing with large volumes of data – millions of call records, hundreds of thousands of call recordings, emails, letters and now millions of social media interactions. To support customer-facing activities the most important thing is speed and currency of information, because the quicker companies can determine current and likely customer behaviors, the quicker they can address potential issues before customers defect or go viral with their views. To meet this demand, Vitria has developed a two-way interface with Hadoop, the big-data technology, that can pass event or other data into Hadoop for faster analysis and then include the outputs within the applications. The event data is one of the top five big data types according to our benchmark research. In a similar way, the interface allows the two-way flow of Vitria-generated queries into Hadoop for processing, with the results flowing back for further processing. This speeds up the analysis of large volumes of data, which Vitria calls “big data in motion,” and provides user with up-to-the minute analysis of customer KPIs.

I see operational intelligence as a key component of customer-focused analytics. We are benchmarking the importance of events and operational intelligence if you want to participate or learn more, I have written several times about companies needing a complete, 360-degree view of the customer, and they must include event and operational information to reach this goal.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Vitria is one of a small group of vendors offering a type of analytics called operational intelligence. The term is not widely known, although Ventana Research has defined and tracked this market for many years and researched. We define operational intelligence (OI) as “a set of event-centered information and analytics processes operating across the network that enable people to take effective actions and make better decisions.” For its part Vitria defines OI as “a new type of real-time, dynamic analytics that delivers visibility into business operations.” Marry the two and you begin to see what differentiates OI from other forms of analytics. 

Most analytics products work on transactional data, such as invoices, payments and debits in an ERP account, customer records and service cases in a CRM system, call recordings in a repository of recorded calls, or surveys in a text file. The last two are examples of unstructured transactions that some analytics products now can access and analyze; even newer examples are text messages, chat scripts and social media entries. Most analytic products typically work on historical data, but a few can work on new transactions as they are posted to a file. OI differs because as well as using transactional data, it includes event data. An event can be many things, for example, an alarm that a server has gone down, an alarm saying a network is congested, a warning that a step within a process has not been completed by the target date or time, a notice that a cell within a cellular network is down, an alarm that too many customers are being held in a contact center queue; the list is endless.  

Events have two unique characteristics: They happen in real time, and timing is key. The Vitria M3O Operational Suite is designed to collect events from multiple sources, record the time when they occur and combine them with transactional data; the aim is to deliver insights into business operations and the likely impact on customers and other aspects of running a business. The product does this using complex event processing (CEP) techniques that can identify in real time the correlation between an event and likely outcomes, for example, predicting a high volume of complaint calls to the contact center if a cable is cut in a cable TV network. 

The product supports similar capabilities to monitor business processes. The suite includes a tool that allows users to create process maps and then create “rules” so that if an event doesn’t occur within a set time frame, an alert is raised, for example, if an action cannot begin until a document is posted to a file and the posting doesn’t occur within a set period, then email could be sent to a designated person to investigate what is holding up the production of that document. 

The outcome of the analysis can be presented in many forms, including all the normal forms of graphs and charts plus maps with flashing alarms, real-time and historic displays, and process maps. 

The full set of Vitria’s tools supports the Ventana Research performance management cycle of understand, optimize and align; Vitria calls it “visibility, insight and action.” In either case, the process requires accessing historic and real-time data, analyzing the data to understand and visualize root causes, trends and correlations between events, raising alerts or using workflow to ensure corrective or improvement actions are taken and repeating this cycle on a continuous basis. 

This brings me to the theme of proactive customer service and how OI can enable it. To achieve it requires linking processes within processes, analyzing the impact that an activity or event in one process might have in another process, and being able to initiate another process to mitigate the likely impact. For example, in my earlier example of a cable being cut in a cable network, the product could capture that event, identify which customers might be impacted – including what customers were watching at the time of the failure – and generating an apology to each customer by their preferred channel of communication and giving each customer watching a program at the time a credit to their account. How would this type of proactive service be received by your customers? Please tell us your thoughts and come collaborate with us. 

Regards 

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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