Take Action on Big Data With Actian's Action Apps

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http://www.actian.com/
Actian’s strategy is to enable companies to develop Action Apps. Action Apps are lightweight
consumer-style applications that automate business actions triggered by real-time changes in data.
Action Apps will unleash the next level of business innovation and competitive advantage currently locked in the endless streams of data flowing through organizations and the industry. Action Apps are easy to build, require no training and provide value far beyond traditional business intelligence applications. Action Apps will be developed, managed
and shared on the world’s first Cloud Action PlatformTM from Actian.
It is Time For Action Apps
Over the past decade, most innovation in software has been in the consumer market.
Think about the way you use technology in your personal life today. We all enjoy small, light-weight, big-value apps on the smartphones and tablets we love. These consumer
apps help us do practical things like pay bills, book flights and taxis, and do fun things
like connect and share with friends. It’s never been more effective and fun.
Compare this to the experiences we have at work, where we are forced to use monolithic, hard-to-use, and harder-to-manage enterprise software. Actian’s mission is to enable users, developers, and Enterprise IT organizations to embrace and build consumer style apps to unleash a new level of enterprise productivity.
Whether it’s monitoring a particular company’s stock prices, keeping tabs on your competition’s
sales data, or watching your prospects’ credit ratings rise and fall, every Action App
is customized to meet the information needs of your particular job or workflow.
Action Apps are designed to constantly scan and probe a wide variety of disparate data sources, from highly structured corporate CRM and ERP systems to software-as-a-service offerings like salesforce.com, and even unpredicted unstructured twitter feeds, LinkedIn updates and Facebook posts. When the Action Apps data probes uncover important
information, they fire triggers which signal the appropriate business user and either
communicate, or cause an action to be taken as a result.

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Take Action on Big Data With Actian's Action Apps

  1. 1. WHITE PAPERTake Action on Big Data With Action Apps A WHITE PAPER FROM ACTIAN
  2. 2. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action AppsContentsExecutive Summary 3The State of BI 4Timing Problems 4Management by Exception: Context is King 7The Actian Strategy 8It is Time For Action Apps 8Action Apps Drive Action 9Action Apps Benefits 10What Are Action Apps and the CloudAction Platform? 11How it Works 12
  3. 3. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action AppsExecutive SummaryThere is a great opportunity—and challenge—available in today’s fast-pacedworld for a nimble and agile business to be able to react faster than itscompetitors. Doing so will allow you to seize market share, increase revenue,reduce costs, and produce more satisfied and engaged customers.But the pace of change is relentless, and the deluge of data is only increasing (by 44-foldby 2020, according to analysts IDC1). The problem of figuring out where the specificopportunities lie for you in your market becomes one of gathering the large quantitiesof data required, analyzing it effectively to turn it into useful insights, and thenacting on it.The rewards for doing this effectively and efficiently could be huge. According to the 2011McKinsey Global Institute Report “Big Data: The Next Frontier for innovation, competition,and productivity,” taking action on big data can yield more than $2 trillion in businessvalue in economies as a whole. The report states that taking action can yield up to $300billion in health-care value, 60% or greater increases in margin for the retailer, and upto a 50% decrease in product development costs in manufacturing.But business intelligence (BI) today is broken, in terms of the business benefits thatthe $8-billion-per-year investment in this area has delivered. The value chain shouldbe simple:But somewhere along the way, this chain is broken and the value never arrives.What if you could take better decisions about where to focus your business, and rapidlyturn those decisions into actions? What if you could take those actions at the time theywould be most effective—as events are unfolding—instead of merely seeing them on achart after it’s too late to affect the outcome?This paper explains why BI is not performing, and explains a new approach to theproblem of how to optimize your business to take advantage of market opportunitiesand to minimize threats.1 IDC: The Digital Universe Decade—Are You Ready? May 2010. 3
  4. 4. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action AppsThe State of BIBusiness intelligence is broken. Most people don’t get value out of the BI they alreadyhave, because BI systems are just aimed at delivering insight, and insight is not enough.You have to be able to take a decision and then act on that insight in order to get anybusiness value. BI systems today can’t do that.The BI Survey #9 (http://www.bi-survey.com) from the Business Application ResearchCenter (BARC) confirmed that many of the major vendors of BI applications are ratedpoorly by their customers for delivering business benefits. Also, that same surveyestimates that on average less than 15% of employees in companies have access toBI tools. Another survey conducted by Actian Corporation found that even among thepeople who do have access to the tools, most spend less than 5% of their time usingthem. So even when you do gather intelligence, it’s not being used.And yet, events happen every day that businesses should pay attention to—events thatare internal to the company, such as changes to sales and inventory data, and events thatare external to the company, such as the publication of competitor news and industry news.The trouble is, many businesspeople are too busy fighting fires and dealing with day-to-day concerns to keep a close watch on significant events that could present opportunitiesor threats. The result is that opportunities get missed and threats that could be avoidedthrough early intervention turn into tomorrow’s fires.Traditional business intelligence systems attempt to solve this problem in part by gatheringdata about (mostly internal) activities and presenting that data in the form of lots of nonactionable charts and graphs and dashboards. But how many busy businesspeople takethe time to do a careful analysis of what those charts and graphs could tell them?Timing ProblemsIn addition to this problem of information formatting and how to sort the wheat from thechaff, there’s another problem: timing. Frequently, BI systems don’t describe the thingsthat are of the most interest anyway, because they quickly get out of date as the businesschanges around them and the IT department doesn’t keep up.Traditional BI is run by the clock—producing reports or dashboard updates to a fixedschedule, perhaps hourly (if you’re lucky) but more likely daily, weekly, monthly, or evenquarterly. The data is often presented long after the event took place, leaving very littletime to do anything that can make an impact. You might be lucky enough, though, to havea dashboard available on demand that refreshes with live data as soon as you ask it to,giving a better handle on unfolding events. 4
  5. 5. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action AppsBut if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and if you’re like most of us, you’re usually too busyfighting fires to take the time out to find the bookmark that will show your updateddashboard.SpeedHowever, even if you do get to your live dashboard, the BARC survey reported that oneof the biggest problems is that the things are just too slow. Business decision makers arejuggling too many different issues to be able to sit idly by, twiddling their thumbs whilewaiting for a query to execute so that a graph can be drawn, or even to spend an hour ortwo trawling through those graphs to figure out the nuggets of insight contained withinthem. Results have to be fast and easy to consume, and they have to fit into your workflow.In order for this to happen, calls to action need to reach you wherever you are, even ifyou’re not sitting at your PC. The only way to deliver these calls to action is through amobile device. Morgan Stanley reports2 that the mobile internet is growing at 8 timesfaster than the original PC-based internet did, and many decision makers in businesswould rather lose a limb than their Blackberry or smartphone. Increasingly, all enterpriseIT systems will be available to mobile devices (sometimes to tablets instead of smart-phones, for screen size reasons).Current DataBut there’s another timing problem: how up-to-date is the data you are looking at?Static reports can only, at best, produce a backward-looking view of what was happeningsometime in the past.But that’s the best you can hope for. More often, the data is out of date because thebusiness has changed around a system that is unable to move fast enough to keep up.There are various possible reasons why this might be the case: › Your IT department might be understaffed, overworked, or generally doesn’t understand the business issues well enough to know when a report or chart should be updated.2 Morgan Stanley, Mobile Internet Report, December 2009. 5
  6. 6. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action Apps › BI systems often require complex data models and software infrastructure. In order to pull information out of transactional systems and be able to run a report in a reasonable amount of time, star schemas and OLAP cube will often be invoked. These add no business value, but take time and effort to set up and hence slow down the rate of change. However, they are complex pieces of technology that have to be tended to by a small number of skilled experts from IT, and McKinsey estimates that by 2018 the demand for analytical talent in the US could be up to 60% greater than the supply. › Business users don’t have enough direct influence and control over the systems and support that they really need. Explaining your needs to someone else for them to write down and misinterpret and have you fix again is a tedious process at best. › Lots of current information is stored and analyzed in Microsoft Excel, because it’s the only way savvy businesspeople can take control of their own destiny and get things done at business speed, not IT speed. But these silos of information don’t make it easy to pull together reports that cover multiple areas, because the spreadsheets have to be emailed around from one desktop to another, and you’re often not certain if you have the latest version.The value of information declines over time. What you want is to look at current data thatrepresents the events that are taking place right now, but the only place where that exists isin your ERP system, and once again, access to that is throttled and controlled so you can’tquickly get what you need when you need it. 6
  7. 7. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action AppsManagement by Exception: Context Is KingWhat you really need is to manage by exception. You want to know about the exceptions asthe events happen, so you can intervene and do something about it before it’s too late andit becomes just another statistic on tomorrow’s graph or another fire to fight.But to manage by exception, you need to be able to say what is exceptional and what isroutine, and doing that requires context. Context comes not just from looking at a singledata point, but taking into account other factors. How does this event relate to yesterdayor last week or last month? Is it in the top 10% of the normal range of values, for example?Is this customer one of our biggest revenue earners? Do they have a contract renewalcoming up soon? Have they just had a credit rating downgrade? Are there takeover rumorsswirling? Have they just replaced their CEO? Have they just reported poor financialnumbers to the market?To gather that context, you can’t just gaze inwardly, but you also have to look outward atthe world around you. These pieces of information exist out there in the world, but youshouldn’t have to rely on a chance conversation in the hallway or an overheard snippet ona news bulletin to put the pieces together. This process needs to be consistent, systematic,comprehensive, and repeated—every day.The other part of presenting information in context is that you have to make it easy toconsume. If you have to switch among several different apps in order to see the big picture,that’s too much work and you probably won’t take in all the factors. The different sourcesof data all need to be gathered together into one place for you, to minimize the contextswitching that kills your train of thought and your productivity, and the result delivery needsto be focused and succinct. You don’t want to have to spend a long time analyzing chartsand graphs to work out what’s going on; you want the information presented in a clearand concise way that you can act on quickly. 7
  8. 8. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action Apps The Actian Strategy Actian’s strategy is to enable companies to develop Action Apps. Action Apps are light- weight consumer-style applications that automate business actions triggered by real-time changes in data. Action Apps will unleash the next level of business innovation and competitive advantage currently locked in the endless streams of data flowing through organizations and the industry. Action Apps are easy to build, require no training and provide value far beyond“Actian is turning big traditional business intelligence applications. Action Apps will be developed, managed data into big outcomes and shared on the world’s first Cloud Action PlatformTM from Actian. for our customers with Action Apps. More than It is Time For Action Apps $8 billion a year is spent on business intelligence Over the past decade, most innovation in software has been in the consumer market. to generate piles of Think about the way you use technology in your personal life today. We all enjoy small, historical reports and light-weight, big-value apps on the smartphones and tablets we love. These consumer no action. Actian picks apps help us do practical things like pay bills, book flights and taxis, and do fun things up where BI falls short like connect and share with friends. It’s never been more effective and fun. by arming customers to take instant actions Compare this to the experiences we have at work, where we are forced to use monolithic, the second something hard-to-use, and harder-to-manage enterprise software. Actian’s mission is to enable users, changes in their data.” developers, and Enterprise IT organizations to embrace and build consumer style apps to unleash a new level of enterprise productivity. – Steve Shine CEO, Actian Whether it’s monitoring a particular company’s stock prices, keeping tabs on your competi- tion’s sales data, or watching your prospects’ credit ratings rise and fall, every Action App is customized to meet the information needs of your particular job or workflow. Action Apps are designed to constantly scan and probe a wide variety of disparate data sources, from highly structured corporate CRM and ERP systems to software-as-a-service offerings like salesforce.com, and even unpredicted unstructured twitter feeds, LinkedIn updates and Facebook posts. When the Action Apps data probes uncover important information, they fire triggers which signal the appropriate business user and either communicate, or cause an action to be taken as a result. 8
  9. 9. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action AppsAction Apps Drive ActionThere are a lot of business opportunities and challenges that Action Apps can help solve.Here are some examples:Just-in-Time Discount CouponsYou are a multi-channel retailer executing a social-buying strategy to generate incrementalrevenue and compete with social couponing offers. You provide an Action App for consum-ers that enable them to choose products they want to monitor (the probes), set the priceat which they would bid or buy (the triggers), and commit to a range of bids or automaticpurchases if the price hits a certain threshold (the actions).Sales ManagementYou are a sales manager selling high-value products to other businesses. You want to keepon top of the forecasts from your sales team, and make sure that you respond quickly if itlooks like something might upset your forecast. So you set up an Action App to watch yourlist of top prospects (managed in Salesforce.com), match these companies up against astream of news reports and stock market updates, and then do some keyword lookups onthe news. You get alerted whenever one of your top 10 prospects by value for next quarterissues any kind of statement that talks about results or profitability, or whenever there’s achange in their executive team as reported on LinkedIn, or if they have a credit ratingdrop. When this happens, you call up your Account Manager for that customer to workout a response to the news.Price OptimizationYou are a retailer who wants to make sure that you are regularly updating your prices when-ever your main competitors update theirs. You find a data provider to provide a feed of priceupdates from these competitors, tagged with location data for the outlets that those pricesare available from. You take this data feed in real time and match it up with the prices youare charging in your outlets that are nearby If the conclusion is that you need to changeyour price, then you call another web service to action this change automatically. 9
  10. 10. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action AppsAction Apps BenefitsUnlike traditional BI products that end-users find difficult to learn and use, Action Appsare extremely user friendly: › They operate like the consumer apps that business users interact with in their personal lives, so the learning curve is virtually non-existent. › They are supported on most popular devices including smart-phones and tablets, as well as traditional laptops and desktops. › A selection of pre-built apps will be available through an app store. Alternatively, companies can choose to create customized Action Apps that address their unique information needs and business workflows.Key benefits of the Actian strategy: › Providing you the information to act on insight into your data. Just insight is not enough to get a business benefit. › Ability to intervene “live” as the event is happening, not read about it in a report a week after it’s all over. › Controlling the solution, rather than waiting on IT for changes. › Context from both public and private sources, which could be either structured or unstructured, to be able to make good decisions and take the right actions. › Accessing internal enterprise systems (e.g., SAP) and external data sources (e.g., Twitter or public geolocation services). › Ability to filter out the routine data so you can focus just on the exceptions. › Insight, context and action all accessible from a mobile device so you can take action when it counts, not when it’s too late to matter. › Easy to use. You can’t afford to spend large amounts of time figuring out how to use the system or you’ll forget why you wanted to use it in the first place.Action Apps and Actian’s Cloud Action Platform deliver on this vision. 10
  11. 11. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action AppsWhat Are Action Apps and the Cloud Action Platform?The Cloud Action Platform from Actian is a simple and efficient way to build small, easy-to-use, consumer-style apps that can probe disparate data sets and trigger the right Action atthe right time.Developers will be able to use the Cloud Action Platform to create Action Apps in threeeasy steps: › Set “Action Probes” to watch and analyze data from a variety of data sources › Define “Action Triggers” for priority data events and thresholds › Automatically deliver “Business Actions” when data events occur 11
  12. 12. WHITE PAPER Take Action on Big Data With Action AppsThe Cloud Action Platform provides all the design and runtime infrastructure that allowsan Action App to work. The platform takes input feeds from data probes (which are dispa-rate data sources, both structured and unstructured data and both internal and externaldata sources), and then reacts to conditions that you have selected by triggering theActions that you have specified. The collection of data probes, triggers, and actionsmake up an Action App.The Cloud Action Server is the enablement technology behind the Action Apps. Unlike atraditional BI system, it is designed to make it simple for business users, not IT, to set upthe streams of information they want to watch, filter out irrelevant information, and thentake action on the important things that remain.How it WorksThe Cloud Action Platform takes data feeds from disparate data sources and organizesthem into ‘Data Domains’. These domains are logical groupings of all the informationsources relating to a particular area of interest. Data Domains can include both structuredand unstructured content, as well as internal and external data sources. Each Data Domainhas a Data Probe inserted into it to monitor one or more fields in the data source. The DataProbes constantly scan data sources for specific, pre-defined data items. When particularitems are uncovered, triggers fire actions that take place in an Action App.Today, custom Action Apps are being developed using the real-time insights gained fromVectorWise, the industry’s fastest data analytics engine. VectorWise will also be the founda-tional technology for developing Action Apps on the Cloud Action Platform.To find out how you can take advantage of Action Apps and the Cloud Action Platform,please visit actian.com. 12
  13. 13. About Actian: Incite Action Actian Corporation (formerly Ingres Corp.) is the first to unveil a cloud development platform for building Action Apps. Action Apps are lightweight consumer-style applications that automate business actions triggered by real-time changes in data. Actian products incite action at more than 10,000 customers worldwide by driving their mission critical workloads and providing rapid action insights to their data. Actian is headquartered in Redwood City, California with offices in New York, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Melbourne.Actian Corporation Actian Europe Limited Actian Germany GmbH Actian France Actian Australia500 ARGUELLO STREET 215 BATH ROAD OHMSTRASSE 12 7C PLACE DU DÔME LEVEL 8, SUITE 1SUITE 200 SLOUGH, SL 1 4AA 63225 LANGEN IMMEUBLE ELYSÉES LA 616 ST. KILDA ROADREDWOOD CITY UNITED KINGDOM GERMANY DÉFENSE MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, 3004CALIFORNIA 94063 PHONE: +44 (0) 1753 559500 PHONE: +49 (0) 6103.9881.0 92056 PARIS LA DÉFENSE AUSTRALIAUSA CEDEX PHONE: +61 3 8530.1700PHONE: +1.650.587.5500 FRANCE PHONE: +33 (0) 1.72.75.74.54 ACTIAN.COM FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT ACTIAN@ACTIAN.COM PS-415A ©2011 Actian Corporation. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. Actian, Cloud Action Platform, Ingres, and VectorWise are trademarks of Actian Corporation. All other trademarks, trade names, service marks, and logos referenced herein belong to their respective companies.

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