I still find that many people find the whole question of Business Intelligence and Analytics hard to grasp and a bit dull, but I would argue it is anything but. To illustrate that this is really not about technology, but is all about business, I am looking to find excellent examples to illustrate the richness and capability of well thought out and designed analytical applications, and how they enhance the ability of business to achieve goals without the need for arcane skills and technical wizardry.
OpenLink have developed a family of products through both organic growth and acquisition that covers trading across financial markets through commodities and trading, with energy now representing the most significant element. The OpenLink suite is designed to integrate the front with the back office, support all aspects from the physical through to the financial, covering things such as inventory, logistics, compliance, risk, and forecasting in an open and extensible framework. All of that is familiar to people who are used to seeing integrated functional suites, but the real coup de grace is that OpenLink also have within their arsenal of components their CubeIntelligence offering.
CubeIntelligence is based on the proven Microsoft OLAP technology. OLAP is the building of cubes of data which can be sliced and diced using the various business dimensions such as product, region, product, time period etc to discover patterns, and to drill down from the cube into the millions of rows of supporting data to find the instances of interest.
So, from source, including the many components of the OpenLink suite, the data is extracted, transformed and loaded into the cube structure for analysis. To give an appreciation of the scope of the source components that the OpenLink family consists of, if we take RightAngle, the commodity trading and risk management suite they acquired when they purchased Solarc, the component parts consist of Risk Centre, Credit Centre, Logistics Centre, Lease Centre, Accounting Centre (all fairly self evident) to more specialised components such as Voyager View (a marine transportation scheduler), Taxing Engine, and Rack Marketing, which supports pricing, invoicing and the integration of terminal automaton systems. RightAngle includes Compass, its own dashboarding solution to integrate and display the data readily, and, with the integration of an OLAP component, you can not only have a dashboard to show how things are going, but also OLAP analysis to find out why things are going well, or badly, and highlight the actions required to undertake the appropriate next step.
The ETL can handle far more than just the OpenLink component data, so external data can also be drawn into the analysis. The result sets can be exported into Excel for people to utilise in their familiar desktop applications. The product comes with many standard services preconfigured to speed delivery and aid with self-service, all of which makes for a very compelling solution.
Such functionality was at one time the preserve of the big-ticket suites such as SAP and Oracle, but as OpenLink is showing, this intimate integration of rich functional capability with advanced analytical capability to support decision-making throughout an enterprise is now becoming an imperative for companies to manage themselves and remain competitive in fast moving global markets.
Owned by leading private equity investment firm Hellman & Friedman, OpenLink is a global software and services business that has grown both organically and through strategic acquisitions, to achieve revenues in excess of $300 million. The company serves over 500 clients, including 12 of the world's largest commodity and energy companies, 9 of the largest financial institutions, and 11 of the largest central banks. OpenLink has 1,300 employees in 12 global offices on five continents, with headquarters outside New York City and field offices in Houston, London, Berlin, Vienna, Toronto, Moscow, São Paulo, Singapore, Dubai, and Sydney.
Interestingly, for a software company, although 50% of their income is based on license fees the other 50% comes from professional services, both implementations and upgrades, and I suspect that that level of customer involvement is one of the reasons they understand why analytics is such a critical component in helping companies to manage risks and compete.