What Fighter Jets Can Teach Us About BI Modernization

Sam Osborn's picture
Sam
Osborn
Head of Content
December 15, 2016

Business is War. And just like today’s battlefields, the modern business landscape is more crowded, competitive, and lethal than ever. In both arenas, it’s no longer just survival of the fittest; it’s survival of the smartest. Success depends on using every ounce of information and intelligence at your disposal to make smarter decisions and take actions faster than your opponent. So what can a next generation fighter jet teach us about BI Modernization? As it turns out, a lot. Each relies on advanced, intelligent data management to deliver unprecedented levels of efficiency and effectiveness. And both have the potential to completely revolutionize the way things are done.

Military aviation is a lifelong passion of mine, so it’s been with great interest that I’ve followed the development of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. And while that program has seen its fair share of challenges, the F-35 packs some undeniably revolutionary technology that gives it critical advantages over every other fighter on earth. The F-35 isn’t revolutionary because it flies faster or maneuvers better than previous generations of fighters (side note: it doesn’t.) It’s revolutionary because it completely shifts the paradigm of how it does its job, to the point where it simply doesn’t have to compete against legacy platforms on their same terms. The F-35 achieves this next-generation performance through a concept called Sensor Fusion, where information from multiple sensors is combined with advanced cognitive processing to allow F-35 pilots to see a clear picture of the entire battlefield environment in real time. In short, the F-35’s technology gives its pilots the capability to detect a threat, orient their plane to the optimal tactical position, and then decide to engage or avoid that threat before their opponents even realize they’re there.

So what does this have to do with BI Modernization? In business, as in aerial combat, mission planning and intelligence is as vital to success as execution. The faster you can paint a picture of your operational environment, identify obstacles to success, and take action to overcome them to achieve your objectives, the better. The F-35 paints this picture with sensor inputs while BI tools rely on various data sources, but in both situations it’s not the data inputs themselves but how that information is processed that makes for new levels of performance.

Rather than having a complex cockpit crammed with disparate displays from each sensor (which places an immense workload on the pilot who has to process, analyze, and prioritize this data) the F-35 integrates all this sensor data into one location and then uses its advanced processors to prioritize threats and fill in any missing gaps so the pilot is presented with a clear, actionable course of action. This is the same goal of BI Modernization. While there are a plethora of BI solutions that provide analytics and reporting, most are not designed to cope with new formats and higher volumes of data. Simply put, the amount and variety of data available to business users is outpacing their ability to distill it into actionable insights. What is needed is a “BI F-35;” a solution that replaces the overly complex BI “cockpit” of the past with a platform that leverages advances in cognitive processing to deliver the ability to take data from myriad sources and distill it into clear insights that inform tangible actions.

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