Operational intelligence

Operational Intelligence (OI) is a new form of real-time dynamic, business analytics that delivers visibility and insight into business operations. Operational Intelligence solutions run query analysis against live feeds and event data to deliver real-time, actionable information. This real-time information can be acted upon in a variety of ways - alerts can be sent or executive decisions can be made using real-time dashboards.



The purpose of OI is to monitor business activities and identify and detect situations relating to inefficiencies, opportunities, and threats. Some definitions define Operational Intelligence an event-centric approach to delivering information that empowers people to make better decisions[1]. OI helps quantify:

  • the efficiency of the business activities
  • how the IT infrastructure and unexpected events affect the business activities (resource bottlenecks, system failures, events external to the company, etc.)
  • how the execution of the business activities contribute to revenue gains or losses.

This is achieved by observing the progress of the business activities and computing several metrics in real-time using these progress events and publishing the metrics to one or more channels (e.g., a dashboard that can display the metrics as charts and graphs, autonomic software that can receive these updates and fine-tune the processes in real-time, email, mobile, and messaging systems that can notify users, and so on). Thresholds can also be placed on these metrics to create notifications or new events.

In addition, these metrics act as the starting point for further analysis (drilling down into details, performing root cause analysis — tying anomalies to specific transactions and of the business activity).

Sophisticated OI systems also provide the ability to associate metadata with metrics, process steps, channels, etc. With this, it becomes easy to get related information, e.g., 'retrieve the contact information of the person that manages the application that executed the step in the business transaction that took 60% more time than the norm," or "view the acceptance/rejection trend for the customer who was denied approval in this transaction," "Launch the application that this process step interacted with."


Different Operational Intelligence solutions may use many different technologies and be implemented in different ways. This section lists the common features of an Operational Intelligence solution:

  • Real-time monitoring
  • Real-time situation detection
  • Real-time dashboards for different user roles
  • Correlation of events
  • Industry-specific dashboards
  • Multidimensional analysis
    • Root cause analysis
    • Time Series and trending analysis

Technology components

Operational Intelligence solutions share many features, and therefore many also share technology components. This is a list of some of the commonly found technology components, and the features they enable:

Operational Intelligence is a relatively new market segment (compared to the more mature business intelligence and business process management segments). In addition to companies that produce dedicated and focussed products in this area, there are numerous companies in adjacent areas that provide solutions with some OI components.

Operational Intelligence places complete information at one's fingertips, enabling one to make smarter decisions in time to maximize impact. By correlating a wide variety of events and data from both streaming feeds and historical data silos, Operational Intelligence helps organizations gain real-time visibility of information, in context, through advanced dashboards, real-time insight into business performance, health and status so that immediate action based on business policies and processes can be taken. Operational Intelligence applies the benefits of real-time analytics, alerts, and actions to a broad spectrum of use cases across and beyond the enterprise.

One specific technology segment is AIDC (Automatic Identification and Data Capture) represented by Barcodes, RFID and Voice Recognition.

Comparison with other technologies or solutions

Business Intelligence

OI is often linked to or compared with Business Intelligence (BI) or Real time business intelligence, in the sense that both help make sense out of large amounts of information. But there are some basic differences: OI is primarily activity-centric, whereas BI is primarily data-centric. (As with most technologies, each of these could be sub-optimally coerced to perform the other's task.) OI is, by definition real-time, unlike BI which is traditionally an after-the-fact and report-based approach to identifying patterns, and unlike real time BI which relies on a database as the sole source of events.

Systems management

System Management mainly refers to the availability and capability monitoring of IT infrastructure. Availability monitoring refers to monitoring the status of IT infrastructure components such as servers, routers, networks, etc. This usually entails pinging or polling the component and waiting to receive a response. Capability monitoring usually refers to synthetic transactions where user activity is mimicked by a special software program, and the responses received are checked for correctness.

Complex Event Processing

There is a strong relationship between Complex Event Processing companies and Operational Intelligence, especially since CEP is regarded by many OI companies as a core component of their OI solutions. CEP companies tend to focus solely on development of a CEP framework for other companies to use within their organisations as a pure CEP engine.

Business Activity Monitoring

Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) is software that aids in monitoring of business processes, as those processes are implemented in computer systems. BAM is an enterprise solution primarily intended to provide a real-time summary of business processes to operations managers and upper management. The main difference between BAM and OI appears to be in the implementation details — real-time situation detection is a feature that only appears in OI and is often implemented using CEP. Furthermore, BAM focuses on formally modelled processes whereas OI instead relies on correlation to infer a relationship between different events.

Business Process Management

A Business Process Management Suite is the runtime environment where one can perform model-driven execution of policies and processes defined as BPMN models. As part of an Operational Intelligence suite, a BPM Suite can provide the capability to define and manage policies across the enterprise, apply the policies to events, and then take action according to the predefined policies. A BPM Suite also provides the capability to define policies as if/then statements and apply them to events.


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