Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

Experience and curiosity. That’s what led former United States Air Force instructor, John Boyd, to his greatest intellectual achievement: The Observe Orient Decide Act (OODA) Loop. The first of its kind for the USAF, this concept completely reshaped how pilots confront and analyze aerial combat. In theory, Boyd’s concept states that pilots should:

  1. Observe what is happening in real-time;
  2. Place the observation in context of other situational factors that are known to be true;
  3. Make a decision based off of that context;
  4. And finally, take action.

In practice, observed information allows a pilot to perceive what maneuvers an enemy can perform and decide how to counter those maneuvers, using contextual knowledge of the aircraft and the environment. With every decision, the loop begins again as new observations are received. Boyd’s concept revolutionized aerial warfare and etched his name into the history of great military intellectuals.

What he did not realize at the time, however, is the lasting effect he would have on the business world and the foundation his ideas would lay for operational intelligence.

What is Operational Intelligence?

As we look at the current age of Operational Intelligence it’s fascinating to see how Boyd’s military theory has blossomed into an interconnected web of business intelligence and strategy.

Operational Intelligence is a category of business intelligence where data is generated and examined in real time–often with visualizations and dashboards–for immediate use by relevant employees.

In today’s global marketplace, operational intelligence is used just about everywhere in one way or another.

  • Online marketers use OI to analyze clickstream data, email opens, and website traffic to better target campaigns to their end consumer.
  • Business development teams use OI to track key performance indicators, quarterly quotas, and up-to-date transactions.
  • Logistics companies use OI for delivery route optimization.

These examples are the product of business intelligence breakthroughs, made possible by real-time data analysis.

OI for Mobile

With the emergence of smartphones and other mobile devices, the world has seen an increase in mobile workforces. Thus, creating a new demographic of IT workers who require OI to perfect their craft. Mobile intelligence isn’t necessarily new but it is gaining momentum quickly, and as workers move out of the office and into the field it is more important than ever to monitor performance and deliver results quickly, addressing issues like:

  • Mobile security threats
  • External network overages
  • Connection loss

With the improvements in operational intelligence, IT departments can now monitor device locations, bandwidth usage, and troubleshoot issues in real-time. These features create a transparent view of the entire mobile deployment and provide concise data that can be analyzed by IT staff. OI tools can help companies reduce help desk tickets, manage security risks, identify network blind spots, and cut costs.

The Future of Operational Intelligence

Since the early 1960’s, operational intelligence has come a very long way. I very much doubt John Boyd could have predicted that his aerial combat theory would slowly mature into an essential technological cog in the corporate world. But I fully expect that OI will continue to grow and shape business technologies for a long time to come.

Because if the last 50 years have taught us anything, it’s that knowledge is power.

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