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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Push Intelligence -- Delivering Success in a Digital Age

Digital business thrives on the effective use of information, but analysis is only part of the equation. The right information must reach the right decision makers in a timely and effective manner to drive business success.

The era of digital business is rooted in a key principle: business success depends on mastering information and applying it to make decisions that drive competitiveness. To achieve this, businesses bring in highly paid data scientists to perform complex harvesting and analysis that turns data into useful information.

After all this work, however, the analysis is useless unless it can get into the hands of key decision makers who can use it to effect a tangible competitive advantage. This is where push intelligence comes into play.

Getting Started with Push Intelligence

Many available analytics platforms are heavily focused on pull intelligence, meaning that an end user has to enter a portal and pull the analyzed data on demand. Push intelligence is slightly different; it occurs when information is delivered directly to the end user, preferably giving them what they need, when they need it to make decisions.

Companies developing push intelligence generally start by taking existing pull intelligence and scheduling it to be delivered at a predefined time. This is a good beginning, but in advanced push intelligence, the data analysis itself identifies the information that needs to be delivered to each person and the right time to deliver it.

This requires building much more intelligence into the scheduling mechanism than a simple predefined time period. The system should identify specific events or combinations of events that trigger intelligence delivery to an end user. When information is delivered at just the right time, it can have a much more potent impact on the decision-making process.

Once the scheduling mechanism is determined and the events are identified, the next step is to determine the delivery medium.

Email Delivery Pros and Cons

The easiest method is to deliver the content via email. With support for HTML and attachments, email messages can deliver highly formatted information in large quantities. The challenge with email is that it is a noisy medium.

End users have overflowing inboxes, and only some of those messages are actually important. Sending push intelligence through email requires the decision makers to cull through all this noise to surface the critical information delivered to them.

Text Messages Pros and Cons

A secondary communication medium is Short Message Service (SMS), more commonly referred to as text messages. This has a much higher open rate and tends to get a user's attention more quickly, but the amount and format of content that can be delivered is very limited.

Text messages are designed to support a limited number of characters and be only text. As the name implies, they are intended for short messages. This means that the most cogent points of the analysis must be summarized into a succinct message. URLs can be included to direct the user to additional content, but even these are often shortened to reduce the size of the message.

With SMS, there are two main methods of automating the process. The first is the traditional long code. These are similar to any cellphone user sending a message to another cellphone user. The sending number is a full-length phone number. The limitation of long codes is they are structured for individual messages going out one at a time, not for bulk messaging. Long code numbers are regulated by the number provider, and if too much traffic is detected on these long codes, the provider will block the number from future traffic.

An alternative is a short code. These are usually 5 or 6 digits and are designed for higher throughput messaging and marketing messages. They are much more expensive to acquire but do not have the same throughput issues as long codes.

Both of these solutions are monitored and managed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and have regulations associated with users opting in and opting out of receiving messages.

Apps and Services

A third alternative is a direct push notification to a cellphone as part of an installed app. As the app is installed, it registers itself with the phone operating system's messaging service.

With this registration, it is possible to send messages directly to the phone, bypassing the SMS infrastructure. This provides more flexibility in the flow of information but has a serious limitation: an app has to be built and installed on the recipient's phone.

Finally, there are services that will take the information and convert it into an automated voice message. These services will dial the target number and relay the information upon connection. This requires that the information be formatted in such a way that it can be understood when read aloud.

Can You Reach the Right People at the Right Time?

With each of these delivery mechanisms for push intelligence there are pros and cons. The goal is to select the right medium for your audience and for the infrastructure available.

As companies take delivery of analysis to the next level, there is a much higher likelihood that the information that has been collated, analyzed, and prepared will make it into the hands of key decision makers who can use it to drive business decisions. This is why push intelligence is becoming a key capability for successful business in the digital era.

About the Author

Troy Hiltbrand is the senior vice president of digital product management and analytics at where he is responsible for its enterprise analytics and digital product strategy. You can reach the author via email.

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