6 challenges your Operational Intelligence solution should address but doesn’t. Part 1

In this six part series, we explore how Operational Intelligence Centre (OIC) implementations can be complex and often fail to address the challenges they initially set out to solve. Here are our 6 top OIC challenges:

  1. Complex Business Processes
  2. Vendor Protectionism & the Platform Approach
  3. Complex IT Landscapes
  4. Messaging <> Collaboration
  5. Genuine self-service is rarely delivered
  6. Business Intelligence sits in chairs, not spreadsheets

1. Complex Business Processes

Whilst every organisation has it’s own complexities, within the process industries the business processes can be unusually complicated given the nature of production, focus on health and safety and importance of regulatory compliance.

A typical business process which shows at a high level the exchanges of information that occur when transferring a petrochemical product to a ship. Even this simple process shows how various communities of users both inside and outside the enterprise are involved; production planning, operations, mass balance, logistics, regulators and so on.

Complex Business Process

Of course, third party organisations, represented in the diagram on the left within clouds, have no direct link to the source data. They rely on emailed copies of the data and any discussion is done via personal emails.

As with any reasonably complex system, feedback loops, delayed response and out of date information are a fact of life. The systems architecture that supports this process is equally complex as can be seen by simply superimposing the data source for each key interaction onto the diagram as shown below.

Systems Supporting Complex Process

It’s clear that users have to be familiar with many different systems in order to get the data they need. Once the user has the required data there is a significant amount of manipulation needed in order to make the data relevant, as is seen with the large quantity of MS Excel spreadsheet and MS Access database work. Once the data has been manipulated, the user has only email as a method of transfer – effectively a non-contemporaneous ‘snapshot’ has been taken. The data is already out of date. This process produces a large amount of end-user computing and duplication of data. It’s very difficult to find the accurate, current data unless the user who created it can direct others users to it.

Each interaction – and therefore the business – is slowed by a process of snapshot, process, email, await response and finally respond. The cycle runs something like this:

  • Snapshot – extract the data required from the source system
  • Manipulate – import into spreadsheet/database, transform content as required
  • Email – attach spreadsheet/database to email
  • Wait
  • Process Response – discuss, re-snapshot, re-manipulate or otherwise act.

When the impact of this is considered across multiple actors within a business process as shown in the diagram below it’s easy to see the where delays are incurred.

Daisy Chaining of Delays

Whilst a CIO will often rightly point to their ERP or MRP system as the tool of choice for all business processes, such systems usually do not cover ad hoc processes, or those perceived as low financial risk or financially irrelevant, e.g., providing data to regulators, shift management, production monitoring. An OIC that doesn’t address the way in which users exchange data should be regarded as basic; it’s simply BI over real-time data. Users remain stuck with email as their tool of choice – particularly if the users in question work for different organisations. Clearly, an OIC not addressing these problems is an OIC ignoring significant obstacles to increased operational efficiency.

Missed a part of this series? Get the previous posts here:

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