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Key Performance Indicators provide enterprises with the much needed insight to understand the health of their organization and enable them take necessary steps to overcome the bottlenecks. Traditionally, the source of data for these KPIs has been either from a data warehouse or a data mart reflecting the concept of traditional BI as discussed in my previous article, Operational vs. Traditional BI: Context Matters.



From a strategic point of view it may have sufficed where the involvement mainly has been by the top executives and thus the KPIs have been more aligned to reflect high level metrics required from a strategy perspective.

With Operational BI gaining acceptance by enterprises as they are beginning to understand how the organization as a whole and individuals at various levels can help the organization to be more successful, the KPIs need to also reflect the same thought process. Say a planner (manufacturing) would have a KPI such as "requested date of arrival of goods" based on which they will provide the production schedule to the shop floor.

A line of business representative, who is directly dealing with the customer, would have a KPI such as "goods delivered on time (by shipment #)," "delivery delayed." On the other hand, the finance would probably have a KPI something like "shipment delivery note received" and "payment received (by shipment/order)" -- this will help them to raise the invoice and track the payment. From a top management perspective they could then use all these KPIs to create their own set of KPIs to understand the current business situation and act upon it.

Here, KPIs can be rolled up just like services from an SOA perspective thus highlighting the fact that KPIs can have granularity (business KPI) and will be more effective. This would reflect a realistic hierarchical KPI tree representing the kind of information an organizational hierarchy is interested in.

Also, the data in question would be more up to date as it would reflect transactional data from the data source applications themselves, though it would be important to understand how the data is acquired from these disparate applications. Here, I strongly feel SOA will play a key role in fetching the data in a standardized format and possibly use service definitions to standardize the KPI format and define them.

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