The word ‘real-time’ is used often to describe the ability to get information in the moment: A manager pulls up a sales report that shows what happened over the business day or in the past hour. Maybe the manager looks periodically at the cashier price overrides to make sure nothing is outside the norm.
Real-time in these cases means the ability to see what’s happening up to the present. No manager would stand over the cashier’s shoulder to see each override or watch each sale, so instead they look at reports and dashboards and call it real-time. This isn’t very real-time and isn’t very actionable.
But thanks to the internet, mobile and an explosion of devices and sensors that throw out data, the volume, velocity and variety of data is making this ‘over the shoulder’ view of information obsolete.
A major retailer is able to make an offer to a customer during the short span of a checkout. Behind the scenes, the system checks inventories, buying preferences and a pick list of offers in seconds. A major bank can cross sell or up sell its products offer products based transaction history at the teller window or, soon, at the ATM. Beyond customer offers, shipping choices, inventory distribution and automatic reorders are all moving to a new definition of real-time.
Because several things happened in recent years that changed everything. For one, RAM memory, the kind computers use for running an application (and not for storage), became much cheaper. At the same time, network speeds increased and Cloud became a way to distribute data and processing rather than using super-powerful (and super-expensive) computers. The net effect was that enormous amounts of data can now be held in RAM, the temporary memory where patterns can be matched and calculations performed ‘on the fly’ across multiple instances of commodity software. It represents a whole new way to sell and compete.
For some, this is ‘Big Data’, but that term is inadequate when explaining the in-the-moment computing, pattern matching and instant responses that make up real ‘real-time’. If your organization has an over-the-shoulder view of business, time to get real…time.