Convert Real-Time Insight into Action

Earth-shattering business opportunities are at hand with an IBM framework for real-time, actionable insight

Manager of Portfolio Strategy, IBM

Today, everyone from the chief executive officer (CEO) to senior leadership to individuals across lines of business and IT are looking for opportunities to be highly innovative by breaking out of the expected modus operandi and shattering traditional business models. The goal is to enhance client service, outsmart the competition, and capture the millennial vibe. Leaders are striving to create corporate cultures focused not only on how to beat the competition, but also how to revolutionize and transform their industries. Disruptive technologies such as mobile devices, omnipresent sensors, cloud computing–based services, and social media, all powered by pervasive high-speed Internet connectivity, mean that some tried-and-true business models can turn to dust—and quickly.

For example, the on-demand streaming Internet media provider Netflix not only put a leading-edge rival out of business but disrupted the entire entertainment industry, including cable and satellite, by developing the hit series, House of Cards. The door could be rapidly closing on brick-and-mortar home movie and video game rentals. Today, many people prefer personalized entertainment from the comfort of their mobile devices.

Vehicles such as trucks hauling heavy freight, large cargo ships, emergency vehicles, and automobiles offer another example of entities rapidly becoming highly interconnected. Equipped with sensors and communicating over high-speed wireless Internet connectivity, these vehicles can talk with each other and with humans. As a result, freight carriers can now be smarter about how to deploy their fleets. If trucks 50 miles up the road have their windshield wipers on, for example, a driver could decide to pull over during inclement weather conditions to ensure safety and help avoid future, elevated insurance costs.

Interestingly, car buyers now rank connectivity—the capability to link to the Internet and connect various personal Internet-enabled devices such as smartphones to their cars—as the number-one most important feature, even ahead of engine horsepower. A generation ago, such ideas may have seemed silly or like something out of a science-fiction movie. As more sensors are added and Internet speeds continue to increase, expect even more innovation from car manufacturers. Soon, cars may even have the capability to adjust music based on the driver’s mood. The automobile will sense the mood of the driver by analyzing driving patterns such as sudden stops and rapid acceleration, for example, that may indicate anger or frustration.

Right now, connected cars can adjust airbag deployment based on a driver’s weight. For example, deployment may not be necessary for a larger driver or passenger in a low-impact collision. Perhaps sensors in the driver’s seat that are capable of detecting weight may also be able to use that information to schedule a checkup with the driver’s doctor or make an appointment with a personal trainer? Innovations are limited only by the imagination rather than available technologies.

Gone are the days when businesses needed to focus only on differentiating their products and services; today, they have to also focus on anticipating and creating new markets. Data from the Internet of Things, cloud-based technologies, and social media are providing the building blocks to help organizations transform and create innovative ways of doing business.

So the question becomes, how can organizations spot the next generation of business? 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 action that is highly automatic and dynamic. To help achieve this goal, IBM delivers a platform for real-time, actionable insight.

Four pillars for actionable insight in real time

This IBM platform is built on a foundation of four pillars to help organizations constantly sense and analyze the world around them to intelligently optimize decisions, processes, systems, and points of interaction in the business moment. Before rolling out these solutions, IBM engaged with a variety of stakeholders across industries and found gaps between the data that organizations are collecting and their ability to act and innovate. Therefore, the following four pillars of real-time, actionable insight were created: sense, orient, decide, and act (see Figure 1). For more information on some of the technologies available in this offering, see the sidebar, “Integrating Advanced IBM Tools into a Framework.”

Convert Real-Time Insight into Action – Figure 1

Figure 1. Intelligent sensing, context building, decisions, and action on an IBM platform



The first pillar, sensing events in the business environment, integrates diverse observations and occurrences as they arrive in real time and resolves entities across people, places, and things. The analytics’ power to ingest, analyze, and correlate fast-moving information as it arrives from thousands of real-time sources with sub-millisecond responses is important for successfully understanding context in the business environment. IBM technology can pay very close attention to each observation as it comes into the enterprise. Each event helps incrementally improve existing knowledge and dynamically updates an emerging view of reality to enable making high-quality business decisions.


Context must be automatically evaluated against new observations to determine relevance and insight. Building the appropriate context also means purging incorrect conclusions. Context can be derived from nonobvious relations, temporal and spatial reasoning, and correlations. For example, in the sense-making phase, organizations can identify an end user on his or her website. In the context-building phase, they can determine whether the end user is a new client, repeat client, or suspicious user—possibly a hacker.


Based on complex event processing (CEP) and business rules integrated with descriptive and predictive models, organizations can make data-driven decisions. A well-suited decision is based on prediction and descriptive models built by analyzing both data at rest and data in motion.


Following from the decisions made, organizations can then take action. For example, if an organization determines that a legitimate customer is visiting the website, it can deliver an appropriate pop-up advertisement or service it knows the person may likely purchase. If it determines the website visitor is instead a hacker, the organization can immediately alert security staff as required or possibly quarantine the malevolent user. A key part of taking action is the ability to see its result and make further action or refinement.


Integrating Advanced IBM

Tools into a Framework


The IBM platform for real-time, actionable insight includes several technologies, including the following that are integrated into the framework:

• IBM Analytical Decision Management: This business analytic solution automates and optimizes transactional decisions before deployment to consistently maximize outcomes.* It combines predictive analytics, local rules, and scoring to deliver recommended actions in real time. This software can help guide employees and systems to make the right business decisions every time.
• IBM Operational Decision Manager: This development environment wraps business rules, events, and predictive analytics capabilities into a single, easy-to-operate, integrated, elastic platform.
• IBM® SPSS® Modeler Gold data-mining workbench: This technology integrates predictive models, local rules, optimization, and high-speed scoring designed to deliver recommended actions in real time to applications and operational systems on local, departmental, and enterprise scales.
• IBM InfoSphere® Streams stream-computing platform: This platform enables analyzing data in motion with sub-millisecond response times.
• G2: This offering integrates diverse observations—data—as it arrives in real time and resolves entities across people, places, and things.** It also integrates new observations to help determine relevance and insight.
* IBM Analytical Decision Management website.

**G2 | Sensemaking – Two Years Old Today,” by Jeff Jonas, an information management and privacy in the information age blog, January 2013.

An opportunity for innovation

The four pillars of real-time, actionable insight are designed to help organizations break out of the normal business mode and create new opportunities. Consider a scenario for applying this platform to a new drive-by customer marketing opportunity for a gourmet grocer. Though a grocery store may not come immediately to mind when contemplating leading-edge innovation, it nevertheless serves as an appropriate use case for deploying a framework that offers the capabilities for an organization to sense, orient, decide, and act.

Mobile devices generate a stream of data including time and geospatial location, and this data can be used to sense potential customers. The grocer can then add context to learn not only who is driving past the store, but also when the person is driving by. Add powerful analytics integrated with business rules and models into the mix, and the grocer can identify which offers to send to customers.

For example, the grocer could offer a 25 percent discount on a chicken dinner and the trimmings such as wine and even a movie (see Figure 2). These drive-by customers may otherwise be missed when using traditional marketing and decision management. Some grocery store chains still rely on humans holding a sign or a wind sock blowing in the breeze to promote such limited-time offers.

Convert Real-Time Insight into Action – Figure 2

Figure 2. A business rule powered by streaming data analytics

The real-time, actionable insight approach enables the grocer to capitalize on new technologies and embrace a radical new business model. The grocer can use real-time geospatial and time data distilled, aggregated, and analyzed to help drive enhanced marketing campaigns in real time. Thus, a new opportunity emerges—the drive-by customer.

Knowing the customer is nearby is not enough; the grocer needs to tie the location and timing information to the appropriate discount and send the right surround offers to effectively tap into this space. IBM technologies also build visualization into this real-time, actionable insight platform so the grocer can quickly spot on a map where the offers were sent (see Figure 3). Accepted offers are dynamically added to the models and business rules.

Convert Real-Time Insight into Action – Figure 3

Figure 3. Visualization built into the real-time, actionable insight platform

Rapid, repeatable execution

Real-time, actionable insight helps organizations optimize decisions and implement repeatable business outcomes across all data, systems, policies, and processes. And it uses context accumulation and real-time, predictive analytics to detect business opportunities across a broad spectrum of interests. The IBM platform that is designed to deliver these capabilities also provides an appropriate technology stack and integration to enable rapid and repeatable execution.

Please share any thoughts or questions in the comments.