What exactly is the difference between business analytics and situational awareness?
All businesses recognize the need to invest in data-driven technologies that can deliver new insights about their business both at the level of day-to-day operations and that of big-picture decision-making. But when it comes to understanding where and when to implement which methods and practices, it can get a bit confusing.
To that end, we’re covering the difference between two crucial data-driven disciplines: business analytics (BA) and situational awareness (SA). In each case, data is collected and analyzed, only for slightly different purposes. However, they perform best when working in tandem to create a complete, holistic view of organizational performance.
The key difference between these two kinds of solutions is that business analytics deals with historical data, while situational awareness (also called operational awareness) deals with real-time data. BA is primarily used to review past decisions while SA empowers real-time decision-making both for employees at headquarters and the edge of operations.
Situational Awareness & Real-Time Data
Situational awareness relies on real-time data. To bring situational awareness to team members on the ground or at the edge of operations, they’ll need access to up-to-the-second information coming in from IoT sensors and other tech assets around the premises. A good situational awareness platform must be constantly organizing and analyzing large volumes of data, turning it into actionable insights, and delivering it to the right people at the right time. In other words, situational awareness is about taking Big Data and turning it into small data, making it concise and accessible for those who need it most.
For example, consider how this might work from a public safety standpoint. Today’s police officers require the aid of technology to effectively identify, locate and respond to threats in real-time. If a gunshot goes off at a city park, situational awareness technology such as gunshot sensors, camera feeds and access control systems can be used to identify the location of the gunshot, alert the nearest officer, plot the officer’s most direct path, and activate lights and cameras in the relevant areas.
In the field of transportation, situational awareness technology provides real-time data visibility to all stakeholders in the supply chain. Data from traffic monitoring systems, geolocation sensors, and on-board truck diagnostic systems can dynamically re-route drivers away from traffic jams, update retailers on expected delivery times, and alert fleet managers to the need for truck maintenance. The result is not only safer and more empowered drivers but greater cost-efficiency for suppliers and faster delivery speeds for customers.
By contrast, business analytics relies on historical data, compiling hours, days, weeks, and years of information to identify patterns that can inform future decisions. BA helps business leaders make both small adjustments and large strategic shifts.
To return to the public safety example, let’s say there was an ongoing increase in the number of shootings in city parks. BA would look at the historical data from relevant departments to identify trends in, let’s say, crime and homelessness, and then compare that information to police staffing levels and other societal factors.
The transportation industry, on the other hand, relies on business analytics to measure traffic patterns, driver performance, and fuel economy over time. BA provides reports, trends, and analyses that can be put to future use, enabling managers to plan ahead, staff accordingly, and develop proactive strategies.
Keeping It All Connected
Business analytics is about looking to the past to predict the future — uncovering the problems and opportunities that we tend to miss in dealing with our daily responsibilities. Situational awareness is about helping us understand our environment in real-time so we can take the most appropriate actions right now. But the two aren’t entirely distinct from one another — historical data might demonstrate how best to distribute the cameras and sensors that enable SA, while SA is providing much or all of the data that BA is evaluating. Together, they can create a single view of critical business information that is useful for every member of an organization.
But doing this requires that an organization’s respective data systems are properly connected to one another. Situational awareness technology helps organizations by taking huge volumes of data and distilling it down into small, actionable insights. This means employees only receive the information they need according to their role and location. By the same logic, business analytics isn’t going to be effective if the information isn’t properly organized and continuously updated.
To reap the full benefits of these two technologies, organizations must build applications that allow BA and SA to work in tandem. When properly implemented, the result will be a robust common operational picture that both empowers employees at the edge of operations and provides the kind of insights that leaders need to make big decisions.