Act: Responding to opportunities in the business moment

Manager of Portfolio Strategy, IBM

In this, the fifth and final post in our real-time actionable insight series, we explore several case studies where real-time action improved business outcomes and mitigated risk.

On the edge of a revolution

The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in human history. Spanning from the 18th to the 19th century, it had a profound impact on our world, including socioeconomic and cultural conditions. Major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transport and technology ensured that almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way.

graphic for post 5.jpg

Today, we are in the midst of the next revolution, the Technological Revolution. In honor of the 2014 Labor Day holiday, NPR aired a one hour program about how technology will redefine the culture of work. The analysis highlighted the IBM supercomputer Watson as a turning point in the Technological Revolution. It demonstrated that machines can not only process and manage data, but can use judgment and even beat competitors to the correct answer—and fast. In the business realm, data crunching has typically been handled by machines, with the judgment and action usually coming from a human.

Another intriguing point was raised by Robert Reich, former United States Secretary of Labor and Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, when he spoke on the importance of seeing and understanding data as the key to being able to discover unique and important patterns. In other words, sensing and orienting your business in a world of machines.

To help your business keep up with the Technological Revolution, IBM has created a four pillar approach: Sense, Orient, Decide and Act. In our previous blogs, we discussed Sense, Orient and Decide—now we turn our attention to Act, arguably the most important of the four pillars. Simply understanding the world around you, orienting to the time, place and business moment and making a decision on how to respond isn’t enough—you need to act on this insight. This is especially relevant now, on the cusp of this new Technological Revolution, where opportunities appear in real time and we have to move quickly before the opportunity is gone, forever.


Talking with clients and prospects, I have observed several changes in the way that organizations are working with big data and analytics:

  • Organizations are recognizing the time value of data. Most data is relevant for a very short time and the value declines over time. For example, if you know your client is purchasing a new home, the window to offer a great deal on a mortgage is limited. Or, if you are in insurance, you need to know exactly when and where dangerous weather will strike so you can adjust rates and policies accordingly.
  • We are moving from a world that cares about managing big data to a world that cares about how to make sense of big data and act in the business moment. For example, one client I spoke with installed 40,000 sensors on their mining equipment, but analyzed and captured data from less than 400 of them. This demonstrates the desire to gather the data, but the difficulty in aggregating it and analyzing it in a consistent and valuable way.
  • Organizations aren’t necessarily getting smarter with the influx of big data. While organizations may now have more data, their ability to make sense of that data is declining.
  • The amount of connected machines is on the rise. Today about one percent of machines are connected, by 2020 we expect this to be about 40 percent.
  • Data privacy is not optional. Ignoring privacy costs $40M, cost of data breaches up more than 15 percent in 2014.

So the question becomes: How can organizations respond to these changes? The answer is to act on real-time insight and analytics. Collecting data or investing in big data analytics isn’t the goal; the goal is highly automated and dynamic action.

Real-life use cases

The good news is that many successful organizations are taking meaningful action in the face of this new revolution:

  • Dr. Timothy Buchman creates the ICU of the Future: The Emory University Hospital ICU is using a new patient monitoring system that allows clinicians to acquire, analyze and correlate medical data at a volume and velocity that has never before been possible. Thousands of data points are analyzed per second and, based on this analysis, diagnoses happen in real time. In fact, Computer Scientist Sharath Cholleti of Emory University was recently named an IBM big data hero.
  • Another trailblazer is Dr. Paul Vespa from the UCLA Medical Center who is actively creating the brain trauma unit of the future. Dr. Vespa has developed a revolutionary predictive alarm system to help doctors understand, forecast and proactively prevent health risks resulting from brain injuries. 
  • Of course, in healthcare, privacy concerns are a top priority. So, as healthcare providers deliver life-changing medicine, they need to be confident that fast data technology also protects sensitive data and enables secure sharing across healthcare providers. IBM’s approach is to deliver privacy by design and data privacy solutions for Hadoop.
  • Customer engagement is stepping up to meet the needs of the Technological Revolution. Celcom uses data and analytics to drive customer engagement and market leadership. Celcom needed to market to the segment of one and create offers through the right channels. The results of deploying IBM’s “Sense, Orient, Decide and Act” methodology speak for themselves: campaign launch time improves by 80 percent and performance of the campaigns increases by more than 70 percent. The best results? Happier clients.
  • Saving the planet with Astron: Astron needed to develop a resource- and energy-efficient way for astronomers to analyze an unprecedented amount of unstructured data from what is designed to become the largest radio telescope ever built. Astron built a streaming analytics platform that runs on energy-efficient exascale supercomputing technology. The solution also accelerates the identification of relevant images and data by approximately 99 percent, making the information available to astronomers for analysis in minutes instead of days.

talking chicken dinners.png

What’s your story?

Hopefully you are now convinced that big, bold action is possible. Whether your action is to sell more chicken dinners, optimize financial investments or keep citizens safe, its time to think about real-time actionable insight. Now is the time to move from acting based on a hunch to acting on a foundation of reliable analytics.

Did you miss any of the earlier posts? Look back to get the full story and engage with us on twitter using #IBMchickendinner.

For further reading