One of my architects asked me to validate a roadmap to go from usual batch Business Intelligence (BI) architecture to a real-time BI architecture. He has designed a high level architecture with an enterprise service bus (ESB), an extract-transform-loading (ETL) tool and so on. This roadmap was very complete, correct in terms of architecture, but to be honest, it was much more an excellent theoretical architecture than a pragmatic architecture. Especially with that kind of customer…

 – Why have you put an ESB and a so complex (and costly) architecture?

– Because the customer wants real-time BI.

– He wants or he needs it?

– …

– What is real-time BI?

– Being able to take decisions a few minutes / seconds after a transaction has been done.

– What does your customer mean by real-time?

– …

 After a short call, he came back to me, with a very surprised gaze. My customer wants real-time BI, for him, it means having the figures on Day+1 (or Day+2, Day+3)… Today he has all the figures only after a month, when all works well, very often, he has got the figures only after 1 month and 10 to 20 days.

This actual story is a good way to illustrate that real-time is only a concept, especially on BI. As for every concept, there are many ways to define it. The duration of this “real-time” may go from sub-second high constraints (like for trading) to days. For some customers, going from 45 days to 1 day is such a revolution that it is called real-time BI. Of course, later, other business needs will push them to improve once again the reactivity and will change their definition of real-time BI.

 Current technology makes performance is no more an issue; performance is only a matter of price. The faster you want a specific figure, the more you’ll pay. Advising the right architecture (technical, software and logical) means striking the balance between the business value and the implementation cost. This is also the case for Business Intelligence Architecture.

 I don’t like the term real-time BI. I’m not the only one, Teradata speaks about business time. It is better, but business time business intelligence is too much business for me. One of my customers evokes right time BI and rejects all notion of real-time BI due to the bad comprehension it may have. I agree with them and I prefer speaking about right time BI. But honestly, when looking at this concept, why shouldn’t we speak just about Business Intelligence? I guess the real-time, business-time or even right-time is unnecessary, I would even say redundant.

 And to answer the answer the question, yes Real-time BI exists. I call it just BI…