Instant information is integral to a company’s success, from customer experience to business transformation, yet companies struggle to access the right information at the right time.
The pandemic made everything virtual, instantly. However, not everyone was ready. Unfortunately, information flow was not necessarily on par with the needs of businesses to accommodate this instant change. Many organizations struggled to provide their teams with up-to-date customer trends or to give customers an accurate look at what was in stock. Bottom line: Business executives discovered just how valuable real-time data is to our increasingly virtual world. It makes companies nimbler and more resilient.
IT teams are facing more real-time projects than ever before. While setting up such applications might appear challenging, it can be easier to achieve, especially with new low-code tools. If you haven’t focused on real-time capabilities yet, the first step is identifying where real-time will be the most impactful.
Identifying real-time opportunities
Think of real time as not siloed applications by themselves or a category. It’s a best practice pattern and capabilities to meet specific business needs. What determines whether a real-time capability is needed or not is the level of decisions that the company can make with the information. In today’s fast-moving business environment, most applications can benefit from such capabilities.
For example, the traditional closing of books previously required quarterly data processing to provide the information needed to analyze financials. With the move to subscription-based revenues, quarterly information would be stale if churn information is not acted upon in days instead of quarters. This new finance model demands real-time capabilities.
In addition to traditional intra-enterprise financials reporting, B2B transactions between major suppliers can also benefit from real-time capabilities. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that keeping track of supply chains for life-essential items — whether PPE equipment or vaccines that need specialized time-sensitive equipment — cannot operate without near real-time capabilities.
To identify other opportunities, review where you need more timely responses, whether internal or external. For instance, this could be a chatbot on your website. On the other side of the application, you might currently have a general customer service expert who needs to process and route the request. Instead, you could deploy real-time natural language processing to automatically route the inquiry to the correct person, saving time and increasing efficiency and productivity.
It might be hard to identify all of these opportunities for real time on your own. In that case, connect with other lines of business departments to see what they wish could happen faster or what opportunities they’re missing out on because of stale or slow data.
The foundation to real-time readiness
Much of the data required for real-time applications often already exists within a company — it’s just siloed. In turn, there’s also a suite of applications for each step in the development process, whether it is the ability to identify data, transform it, integrate processes, perform machine learning, expose APIs, etc. The challenge is in connecting and integrating these applications as each technology in the chain increases in complexity.
The key to success is to have a well-equipped team to handle these technologies.
This might mean having experts for each technology needed or upskilling your team so they can use the different applications. I’ve found it’s even more important and more practical to equip your team with the right tools — with some of the more mature low-code tools today. You don’t need a Ph.D. to deliver a real-time solution.
Low-code tools can reduce the hassle of integrating disparate applications. It can also lessen both the time and effort required by teams to put together real-time capabilities.
Steps to building capabilities
Becoming a real-time enterprise requires the instant transformation of massive quantities of data into material information. This can be a daunting task, but the steps to developing this data, once your team is properly equipped, are uniform and straight forward:
- Identify, aggregate, and consolidate or discard data from various systems/devices. There is a need to identify the “dark data” that exists in your ecosystem. Tools such as data catalogs and master data hubs can help here.
- Cleanse, integrate, and analyze the selected data so they can be securely exposed and fed. Tools such as data preparation and data quality applications (e.g., address validation) can help here.
- Leverage the right technologies to minimize heavy lift and perform data management, integration, and rapid information delivery. Low code development tools can help with abstracting out some of the fast-changing technologies.
- Expose the data securely and feed it to applications that can utilize the real-time data. API gateways can help secure the information flow, and EDA tools can help with the delivery of data in real time.
Real-time capabilities have never been more important, yet they can be hard to implement due to the numerous skills needed to connect disparate apps. However, companies can leverage developing and maturing low-code technologies to simplify it.
The challenge is well worth the payoff. With real-time capabilities, your company can provide up-to-date customer experiences, adapt quickly to market trends, and have access to the latest in timely and relevant data, all of which are necessary for a modern company to thrive in a digital world.