Real-time data for business is powerful. It lets you stay ahead of the curve, acting on insights as they occur. It gives business owners a competitive advantage, which can mean the difference between turning a profit or reporting a loss.

Take the impact of real-time data in the telecommunications industry, for example. Telecommunications is notoriously tumultuous. Customers are ready to jump ship at the drop of a hat, at the slightest whiff of a better deal. This is what’s known as “subscriber churn.”

To prevent subscriber churn, a telco must identify warning signs and cues that a customer is getting ready to leave. With real-time analytics, a telco could spot signals of customer dissatisfaction as they happen, and react accordingly to prevent losing a customer. One such company was able to respond in the moment, sending special offers, incentives, and product recommendations, to reduce subscriber churn by a respectable 17%.

This predictive quality is the real power of real-time data for business. If applied correctly, real-time data grants a level of clairvoyance, enabling truly reactive systems. It can also mean the difference between a positive customer experience or a scathingly negative review.

Introducing Real-Time Data For Business

Have you ever heard of clairvoyance? It’s the supernatural ability to know what’s going on in distant places. It’s the purview of saints and mystics. Sometimes, it’s even thought to give the ability to see the future.

Just imagine what you could do if you could see or hear things that are happening in other places in real-time. It’d be like all of those remote viewing tests throughout history coming to fruition.

As Arthur C. Clarke was fond of saying, “Every advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It doesn’t require a massive leap of imagination to compare today’s data-driven technologies to yesterday’s sorcery. The nearly limitless possibilities of today’s wireless technology could scarcely have been dreamed of, even 20 years ago.

Sources of continual data collection and transmission — such as the Internet Of Things — are still yielding fresh new surprises as we continue to explore the applications of these emerging technologies. Thus, real-time data streams are making formerly impossible abilities such as clairvoyance a daily reality.

Why Businesses Need Real-Time Data

The ‘always-on’ nature of the digital economy has had some unexpected results. Consumer expectations have increased as rapidly as our technology. Consumers used to be content when a company would answer their emails within 24 hours.

Currently, 44% of consumers expect an email reply within 4 hours or less. Social media has made customer expectations even more extreme. 50% of customers say they’d cease doing business with a company if they don’t respond to a social media query within 24 hours. They might also leave negative comments on a brand’s social media, further encouraging others to abandon ship. 62% of consumers are influenced by negative social media comments to stop doing business with a brand.

Businesses have so many moving parts, with customers and clients all over the world, involving logistics and manufacturing cycles, and an increasingly complex sales and marketing cycle. At the same time, not only are customers having higher expectations for customer service than ever before, but they’re also expecting it faster.

Real-time data streams help make sense of all that madness, making your work more focused and efficient. Here are four reasons you need real-time data in your enterprise or apps.

1. Improves Customer Service

Customers don’t like to be kept waiting. Having your sales or marketing teams hunt for data while helping your customers adds precious seconds onto that interaction. It also makes your customer service representatives seem like they don’t know what they’re doing.

A real-time dashboard could be configured to serve up important customer information, for instance. Such internal dashboards enable a support or sales team to have all pertinent information instantly available.

2. Improved Management

With so many moving parts in today’s industries, it’s increasingly complicated to keep tabs on every piece. It’s nearly impossible if you’ve got a global workforce. Real-time data solutions are vital to informing managers throughout every stage of the enterprise.

3. Enhanced Efficiency

It’s challenging to know what to improve when you don’t know what’s happening. Real-time data software keeps you alerted to every stage of an operation. You know what’s happening the second it happens.

Say you’re a manufacturer, depending on supply chain logistics to bring you your raw materials for production. A delayed shipment can mean downtime, which is expensive and inefficient. Having a heads up about that late shipment could yield big savings, in this scenario.

It’s never been more important for businesses to be efficient and competitive. Every business owner should be investigating ways to save time, money, energy, and resources. As programmers and developers, business owners are likely to be hungry for data-driven solutions such as these.

4. Increases Motivation

Real-time data can even be used to help keep employees’ informed of their performance. Rather than using this as a cudgel to bludgeon them into better performance, you could use real-time data to help encourage and motivate their performance.

Gamification is a powerful tool in increasing motivation. People love to compete, especially against themselves. Instead of threatening employees into subservience, making excellence fun and inspiring. Offer incentives for surpassing goals and excellent performance while simultaneously identifying employees who need assistance.

How Businesses Can Integrate Real-Time Data

Real-time data can be integrated into a business in numerous ways. Taken together, all the different forms of real-time data for business fall under ‘Real-Time Business Intelligence.’

What Is Real-Time Business Intelligence?

Real-time data can be created or processed in a wide variety of ways. ‘Real-time business intelligence’ consolidates the data visualization, analytics, and other data processing techniques businesses use to make sense of the vast amounts of data processed daily.

Real-time business intelligence relies upon a combination of serverless analytics and data warehouses to provide a comprehensive overview of your data at the enterprise level. It also allows users to see real-time and historical data via one dashboard.

Why Real-Time Business Intelligence Matters

Time is money, as the saying goes. Every second, a piece of data is sitting in a silo is a second of lost income. It could also mean the difference between a satisfied or disgruntled customer.

Businesses generate gigabytes if not terabytes of data every day. Certain information is time-sensitive, such as customer feedback and inventory levels. It’s invaluable in real-time but can become less-than-useless after the fact.

Real-time business intelligence also allows your customers to conduct their research and data visualizations using the real-time data stream. This will enable them to perform an in-depth analysis of current trends and can even play an essential role in predictive analysis.

Main Uses Of Real-Time Business Information

Real-time business information is infiltrating every aspect of digital business. Here are some common ways that it’s being used to optimize the business cycle.

Customer Relations Management

Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are making use of real-time data to provide the best possible customer service. CSRs can assess customer’s preferences quickly to offer the most comprehensive personalized services possible.

Supply Chains and Logistics

Real-time data is completely overhauling the supply chain, workflow, and logistics. Say, for instance, a shipment may be delayed due to inclement weather. Having this information in real-time makes it possible to consider alternate shipment routes. It can also allow business owners to alter their production schedules, to reduce downtime.

The real-time business information in supply chain and logistics illustrates the powerful money-saving capabilities that streaming data can provide.

Inventory Management

Inventory management is another area that can significantly benefit from real-time data, saving precious time, money, energy, and resources in the process. Real-time business intelligence alerts business owners when their stock falls below a certain amount, letting them know it’s time to re-order.

It can also let inventory managers when they’ve got a surplus of stock, so they don’t accidentally order an excess of products.

Real-time data also makes it possible to determine historical trends, making it an essential aspect of predictive analysis. With enough data, the business owner can even automate ordering, saving even more time and money.

Product Manufacturers

Product manufacturers can collect real-time data from their machines as well as their supply chain to assess both performances as well as their status. This helps prevent costly downtime due to malfunctioning equipment or supply chain shortages. It also helps reduce wear-and-tear of the production machinery, helping to prevent expensive equipment malfunctioning before they occur.

Risk Assessment

Any industry that relies upon accurate risk assessment can benefit from having a real-time data feed. Having a continual stream of accurate data lets insurance agents, loan officers, and other financial institutions make the most informed decisions rather than relying on outdated data.

Real-Time Business Information Best Practices

As with anything having to do with Big Data, knowing what data you’re looking for is imperative. Otherwise, you may be left with a firehose of useless, irrelevant, or just plain inaccurate insights.

Here are some real-time business information, best practices to keep in mind.

Have A Data Infrastructure In Place Before You Begin

Your data needs to be cleaned, parsed, and stored once it’s been collected. You’re going to need a well-organized data warehouse and a clearly defined data flow before you set up your real-time data streams.

Know The Value Of Your Data

You should conduct some form of cost/benefit analysis to determine the potential worth of your data. Try to figure out how much value your data loses when it’s left to sit. This allows you to optimize your business information tools to show you the most critical data first.

Get The Right Data

Nowhere is the “garbage in, garbage out” maxim quote so relevant as in the realm of Big Data. When you’re dealing with billions of data points, even the slightest inaccuracies in your data collection methods can render the entire collection obsolete.

You’re going to have to a bit of a data scientist to determine which data is most relevant to you and your clients. Try and identify which data points are actionable, offering financial or productivity insights, for example.

Sources Of Real-Time Data

Are you thinking of designing your own real-time data app or API? There are numerous sources of free real-time data streaming for you to experiment with.

Some real-time data APIs for your consideration:

Environmental APIs

Thinking of building a weather app? The Weather Underground API offers real-time weather data from major cities around the world as well as highly localized weather reports. DarkSky is a weather forecasting API that’s available to try for free, as well, if you’re looking to predict weather conditions or create cutting-edge forecast modeling.

You’re not limited to Earth’s environment, either. NASA’s Open API Universe shares real-time as well as historical data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s 100 year history.

Flight-Tracking API

Real-time flight-tracking data could be useful for a wide array of applications, from being alerted to delayed flights to analyzing flight costs to monitoring airplane performance. Flightstats is a real-time data API for flight information with a free trial, allowing you to create your own flight tracking apps and APIs.

Social Media APIs

A truly staggering array of data is created via social media each day. Real-time data streaming from some of the most popular social media networks could be used in all manner of creative ways. Twitter offers two different streaming APIs for developers. The ‘statuses/filter’ API lets developers call up to 400 keywords; 5,000 user IDs; and up to 25 locations.

The ‘PowerTrack’ API offers similar features but at an Enterprise Level. The PowerTrack Twitter API allows developers to use up to 250,000 filters per stream, with up to 2,048 characters per filter.

Facebook also offers real-time data streaming API. As does Foursquare.

Real-time Website Traffic API

If your website’s registered with Google, you can access a Google RealTime Analytics API to get traffic updates as they happen.

Finances

Real-time financial data is one of the most promising, and potentially lucrative, applications of real-time data streaming. If you’re interested in monitoring blockchain transactions as they occur, an API of RealTime Bitcoin transactions has the potential to be quite valuable. Same for a real-time StockMarket API, now that there’s pretty much always a stock market open somewhere.

Real-Time Data Brings Clairvoyance to Enterprise Tech

Real-time data streaming is ushering in a new age of nearly magical technology. Science fiction is quickly becoming science fact, as our technology becomes more linked up.

Real-time data promises to completely overhaul the way we conduct business, from top to bottom. This is good news for tech-savvy business owners who are ahead of the curve. The time is ripe to get in on the ground floor of emerging new technologies ahead of the competition.

If you’re a developer constructing real-time data apps or APIs, you can use these insights as selling points for new customers and clients who might be still on the fence about real-time data streaming for business.

J Simpson

About J. Simpson

J. Simpson lives at the crossroads of logic and creativity. He writes and researches tech-related topics extensively for a wide variety of publications, including Forbes Finds. He is also a graphic designer, journalist, and academic writer, writing on the ways that technology is shaping our society while using the most cutting-edge tools and techniques to aid his path. He lives in Portland, Or.