All businesses with a keen eye on spending will rightly ask “Why invest in Business Intelligence (BI) solutions?” Many business systems bundle some reporting capability but rarely do these provide sufficient information. It can be frustrating when a team has processes setup that are recording volumes of data which is then not available to them. This alone can be a driver for a business to start to look at what a BI solution can offer. When you do start to look at a solution capabilities, the answers for “Why invest in Business Intelligence (BI) solutions?” will stack up quickly.
Charting and visuals
It is accepted that visuals convey information faster than a wordy summary. A chart will also satisfy the current desire to receive that basic message in as quick a time as possible. A BI document gives the quick assessment needed and provides the aggregated data for further analysis and even the granular detail, when it is required.
Charting can easily:
- Enable the identification of outliers
- Show when trends are forming
- Expose inconsistencies
and generally inform the business on metrics across the organisation.
The whole story
Few, if any, businesses only run a single IT system. If a built-in reporting package is available it will only be reporting on that single system. Frequently, the Board will want a more holistic view of the state of the business. All good BI solutions will be able to load data from a variety of sources. Using data from multiple systems allows a picture of the business from different angles to be drawn up and presented together.
Historically, the measures to be monitored had to be known upfront and if these changed it was a time-consuming effort to get them changed. On the occasions when further analysis is required you want to be able to dig into the data with some freedom then and there. Having a BI tool that can enable such analysis by the users, when they need it, is a good way to empower the employees to make the best decisions, at the most appropriate time – not a few days later when the opportunity may have been missed.
Finger on the pulse
A chart or visual will give that quick answer but clearly, only when viewed. To be able to react to situations in a timely manner it is important that the information is delivered at an appropriate time. With BI tools it is possible to setup alerts that fire if a defined set of metrics are hit. This means that the business can pro-actively take measures to avoid a potential problem occurring or prepare for imminent celebrations!
Also, some BI solutions provide for the monitoring of social media feeds so that negative/positive sentiment can be picked up. By monitoring social media, the business can respond quickly to mitigate problems that have arisen in someone’s view or highlight positive feedback.
Once some BI analysis is available, the benefit of this knowledge should be spread to a wider audience. Many mechanisms for widening the audience are provided by BI tool, for example:
- As a web portal
- Distributed documents
- Self-service analysis
In addition to the business itself, customers are often keen to have access to their data and BI providers can facilitate this by exposing the analysis via company websites/portals.
If the BI analysis is to be shared some consideration as to who sees what is likely to be a factor to consider. For example, you may want your sales manager to see all the sales team’s transactions, but for each individual sales person to only see their own activity. Such column or row level security can usually be set up by the document designer.
On top of this, with the breadth of functionality that is being made available from today’s BI solutions, it is important to have control. A place to be able to schedule and automate tasks will be provided. Such facilities will allow for IT Admins to control access and determine/manage the most suitable architecture for the delivery of BI.
Scenario testing / Predictive analysis
For the most part BI is a retrospective activity however some BI solutions will provide for some forward looking. This can be in the form of predictive analysis which is using historical data to generate a model by which future predictions are made. Or parameters can be set and input variables made available so that some “what if” analysis can be carried out, for example, if fuel price changes by 5 pence per litre how would profitability be affected.
This article is a summary of the generalised benefits surrounding the introduction of Business Intelligence. Businesses will be looking for a return on investment (ROI), there is an example from LUSH on this.
LUSH deployed QlikView into its manufacturing business to keep track of stock levels, sales and freshness of product, they experienced:
- £1 million in stock loss savings within two years while significantly boosting in-store profitability
- 70% of sales staff uses Qlik daily and 100% uses Qlik weekly
“Shop managers have told us they’ve had their most profitable year ever. That’s because QlikView gives them access to all the data they need to manage their sales, stock and staffing. By gathering data together in one place for analysis, they can make smart, profitable decisions.”
– Scott Silverthorn, Head of Data Services, LUSH
Contact us for more details on what a Business Intelligence solution can do for you.
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