I first starting thinking of the need for every company to have a BI infrastructure when I moved from a large multinational who utilized SAP extensively to a smaller ‘Mom Pop’ business where I work in Digital Marketing. Company B was able to see Booking Sales data through a ‘Read Only’ setting however they were unable to export data and run pivot tables against it.
They could only see what time a booking came in and the retail value of it and any analysis undertaken was actioned on a Manual basis (which completely blew my mind). As a new person on the team ( who was reading Tim Ferris’s 4 Hour workweek), I had an unbiased eye onto how we could improve the business. I suggested that that at present we had only received Data however little valuable Information could be gleaned from it. Ideally I would like to integrate our Online Booking system with a CRM system and our Digital Marketing Analytics so that we could have a one stop shop to supply our information requirements.
Business Intelligence is often misused as a catch all term, but what exactly is it ?
Mukhles Zaman describes it as defined business intelligence as: “…neither a product nor a system. It is an umbrella term that combines architectures, applications, and databases. It enables the real-time, interactive access, analysis, and manipulation of information, which provides the business community with easy access to business data”.
BI analyzes historical data generated through transactions or by other kinds of business activities- and helps businesses by analyzing the past and present business situations and performances. In Summary Business Intelligence is the collective information garnered from your customers, competitors, external business partners such as Suppliers and internal operations in order to be able to make Data based decisions’.
BI has a symbiotic relationship with big data, both technologies developed at the end of the 198Os, Business Intelligence took over from OLAP Reporting. While Data Warehouses provide a one stop shop for data driven insights , Business intelligence extracts this data and presents it in a more usable format. The beauty of BI is that it can extropolate information from many different formats
- Excel reporting deliver tabular information including new tools such as Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Man along with the Data Mining Add ins to do BI.
- Dashboard offering a combination of tabular and visual information on screen. Idea of getting an over view and then performing a deep dive.
- Increasing use of Map based visualisation e.g. Fusion Tables where information is presented in a geographical format.
Information is made available for reports and dashboards to turn raw data into information that could be easily accessed. Enterprises collect data at a more granular level therefore generating more results, number of tweets per day. Business Intelligence caters for different type of Users in the Analytical environment Decision Makers, Operation Users and Analysts and Specialists. Operational Users are the largest group, they are the front line staff who need fast access to the information. They have the lowest access clearing which may only involve access to look up screens. The Analysts and Specialists are a step up and support the Decision Makers in the organisation, they have access to detailed data across the Business including as hoc query tools. On the top of the access pyramid lies the Decision Makers including Business Unit Leaders who need fast access to KPIs and click and point reports based on their interests.
At its’ kernel, BI offers allows companies to draw critical insights from Data to get a competitive or knowledge advantage by :
- Empowering people to make Data Driven Decisions through the delivery of meaningful analysis and reporting
- Simplify collaborating and sharing information by providing the ability a single source for information which will benefit all aspects of the business including operations and financial sections.
- Allowing the end customer to gain insights to understand and analyze your business performance and opportunities on a deeper level which may throw up some surprises (i.e the customer that you devote most time to may not be the most profitable.
- Sharing information efficiently and effectively with people across your organization. BI applys a slice and dice mechanism so information is not inefficiently replicated across the business.
- Providing a solution with the scalability and flexibility to grow and change as your organization does.
In order for a BI project to succeed the following steps must be put in place
- The Business Users and the BI technical team should work closely together, the primary stakeholders from different levels of business must come together to scope the project and to track the progress. Business Intelligence requires cross functional data e.g. to accurately measure the ratio of customer profitability to employee incentives, by business unit, by region would require customer information, financial and business performance information and employee information so involvement from IT, Sales, HR, Supply Chain Functions would be required.
- It should enjoy a high level of C – Level support. Change management is a skill in itself and many people are naturally resistant to the idea of change. Change must be adopted from a top down format and a ‘scrum leader’ appointed to break any impasses to the project. Every group believes their project is the most important so Prioritizing the BI initiative is vital to keep the project on track, (Tip Top repeat “Out of scope’ ad nauseam, it might be worthwhile to compile a thesaurus of different ways of saying ‘Excellent idea, however it is out of scope of this project !!) BI initiative should be prioritized based on Return on Investment, Strategic Importance and Ease of Execution.
- Appropriate resources to support the project. BI projects represent a huge commitment in terms of money and time so it is vital that adequate resources are dedicated to bringing the project across the line.
I found the topic of BI fascinating and I believe that critical thinking , problem solving and the desire to succeed is one of the most important attributes that any organisation can have. Deployed correctly, Business Intelligence will save money by decreasing costs and increase sales which is at the kernal of all things Business Related .