Why misunderstanding of real-time information is an operational risk

This time last year, CTOs and technology leaders found themselves scrambling to respond to the pandemic, many working inside companies that faced the very real possibility of collapsing if they weren’t able to adapt to a world under quarantine.

Now, a year into the pandemic, those same technology leaders find themselves taking stock of what worked, and what didn’t, asking themselves if they’re confident they have the right tools, people and processes in place to survive another major risk event.

The pandemic laid bare a fundamental truth: Fast, accurate information is crucial during a crisis. Information security managers, corporate risk professionals and other enterprise leaders need real-time information to make informed decisions — millions of new data points every second, processed at scale by software capable of highlighting emerging risks as they occur.

A new study, commissioned by Dataminr and conducted by Forrester Consulting, finds that 44% of companies with $500 million or more in annual revenue have already adopted a real-time information alerting platform. Separately, 44% of respondents to the study said they planned to either implement a real-time information platform, or expand their existing implementation of such a platform, in the near future. Putting real-time information in the hands of decision-makers yields real business benefits.

Asked to describe the technical and business benefits of scaling a real-time alerting platform, the survey’s respondents cited:

  • Enabling an effective response (60%)
  • Speed (58%)
  • Operational efficiency (53%)
  • Business continuity (51%)
  • Visibility (47%)
  • Brand/reputation protection (44%)
  • Scalability (44%)
  • Employee productivity (43%)
  • Organisational agility (41%)
  • Access to the most advanced AI for real-time alerting (41%)

The study also found that there still isn’t a widely agreed upon definition of “real-time information” among risk and compliance decision-makers.

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Asked to define real-time information, just 16% of respondents described it as data from the past few seconds or minutes. Some 75% of respondents said they’d consider “real-time information” as data that’s a day old, or even older.

The first group — those who accurately defined real-time information as data within the past few seconds or minutes — experienced better outcomes than their peers with inaccurate definitions of real-time information.

Some 37% of respondents with an accurate definition of real-time information said they felt “very confident” their organisation had the technology to obtain an early view of unexpected events, compared to 27% of respondents with an inaccurate definition of real-time information.

The survey’s respondents were similarly split when asked if they felt “very confident” their organisation can derive insights from real-time information to make an effective response — 34% among those with an accurate understanding of real-time information, compared to 22% who didn’t.

Consider one of the most common corporate crises — a data breach, with stolen customer information. Visualise the steps needed to respond to this crisis:

  • How does the organisation first discover the data breach?
  • How does it share that information internally?
  • Which teams need to work together to manage the crisis?
  • When and how does the organisation communicate to the customers?
  • How does the organisation mitigate the consequences of the data breach, and maintain business continuity?

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Fast, accurate and timely information is crucial at every stage of a corporate crisis. However, the study found inflexible technology, and siloed processes make real-time information less accessible when it’s needed most.

Some 68% of respondents said access to real-time information is generally siloed, with one team acting as a gatekeeper, forwarding information to other teams selectively. A little over half of respondents (52%) said static technology and lack of flexibility in current tools were either “challenging” or “very challenging” to operationalising real-time information.

How does your organisation define real-time information, and how is it used internally? This study suggests that significant progress can be made on both fronts, as companies use real-time data to better anticipate, react and respond to crisis.

Written by Michael Affronti, senior vice-president of product at Dataminr

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