Improved customer relations, increased employee productivity, new revenue streams — there are big benefits for those who integrate and upgrade their business intelligence strategies.
What does business intelligence mean to you? Many organizations believe that “business intelligence” is simple statistical summaries in mundane, dated reports. But beneath BI’s boring surface, powerful insights await — especially for those willing to update and upgrade their business intelligence strategy to tackle the kinds of issues forward-thinking organizations are already addressing with modern BI.
Whether you are looking to implement a new BI tool or get more value out of your current BI setup, you will find some promising ideas here, as we recount how companies are using BI to improve customer service, employee productivity, revenue growth, and more.
1. Know the difference between BI and business analytics
Unfortunately, user understanding is often a challenge in the success of any data reporting activities. Most users do not completely comprehend the many differences between business intelligence and business analytics, simply put, BI looks at current and past business actions, while business analytics looks at what could happen in the future.
Business analytics asks the questions, what does this data mean? And BI looks at operational efficiency, via pre-collected data.
2. Building real-time BI into your customer-facing services is top-priority!
At the speed with which data is being made, it has become mission-critical for your systems and processes to satisfy your customers’ needs. This is the reason so many top-tier companies are integrating a little real-time BI into their services? A great example is Rackspace, a web hosting company, they have really taken this to a new level!
“To enable businesses with real-time data and analytics, Rackspace has moved away from providing customers with stale data (i.e., data that is more than 24-hours old) whether it is operational or server resource utilization data. Over the last few years, the lower cost of processing power and availability of more tools in the market has made it easier for building a business case for real-time analytics and making those business decisions,” explains Gina Murphy, senior vice president and general manager of Rackspace’s application services unit.
Ms. Murphy’s comment highlights the power of BI and that BI use is no longer limited to internal business users. In fact, combining the BI data on the disparate systems is gradually becoming a vital part of the enterprise strategy. If your IT team has been looking for a way to add more value to the business, this company’s development suggests one approach. Build BI into customer-facing reports and products.
3. What to do with unstructured data?
In the past, unstructured and uncontrolled data was not easy to contain. The processes to which information was accesses and analyzed was inefficient, even in situations where the data was structured and data was accessible, it was not easy to compile.
Companies have looked to analytics tools to help; “Aflac acquired the Hadoop Appliance to be able to compile the data from the siloed systems. We wanted to utilize Hadoop because it provides the BI capabilities to process and handle unstructured data. This technology is new for Aflac and provides the ability to cross-reference many data points,” comments Julia Davis, senior vice president and CIO of Aflac.
4. A clear strategy for data storage to ensure clean data!
Data governance is one of the most important tasks an organization has. Developing a clear strategy for data storage is crucial in maintaining successful BI processes. The plan should be explicit in data governance regardless of whether it is stored in a warehousing solution or not.
Establishing the value of the data could influence the development of new products and services and greatly impact the decision-making process for senior IT leaders.
It’s important that the data is free from any manipulation and contains little changes. Keeping the data clean is very important.
5. Increase workforce efficiencies and reduce wasted time
Tracking and understanding the big-picture of what your organization is producing is often an arduous process, it is often marked with end of a quarter or end of month analytics reports that are shared via Excel files. It is such a common practice that you may not think it is a problem. And the problem may be on the data collection and hygiene end. Thankfully, many BI tools are being created to help with that.
Daily updated data is often accessible real-time. In the past, these reports were only available on a monthly basis because it took multiple hours to assemble the data and validate it. Now, that prep time has been eliminated, often companies can quickly track profitability and identify positive or negative trends in real time versus on a monthly basis.
6. Improve your customer service capabilities
The always on, always knowing world we live in today, unhappy customers do not stay quiet for long, a problem can compound as it is amplified through social media. If customer dissatisfaction can be detected early through business intelligence, the problem can be addressed before it spreads widely.
Many companies are using analytics to help determine benefits of investing in product improvements by looking at warranty claims. They have first-hand knowledge of issues with their products and services by analyzing the text descriptions of the problems to highlight problems our customers are reporting, and determine the frequency of occurrence. Data-mining from these communications is key to discover what customers/users like about products and what they want us to improve. This can be a market separator with competitors.
Understanding what your customers like and dislike in real-time and fixing and improving the product or service can directly lead to increased orders and growth.
IT teams can add value to these thoughts by evaluating data quality and building easy-to-use BI tools for end users, especially those that may incorporate sentiment analysis of social media trends around your brand.
7. New revenue has the best ROI
IT can help the sales function by providing the proper BI tools to aid in sales decisions, it can even help sales teams focus on what sales people and their managers can do to improve revenue predictability and which clients should be taken on.
The latest “what if” analytics tools are in their infancy. There are a few companies who are using mobile apps to predict the revenue a certain person/entity can bring to a company. They needed a tool to process all the necessary data to compile the data to give a good estimation of how much revenue would be generated. The data sources include social media stats, vertical growth rates, fixed and variable infrastructure costs and historical data of launched apps. This could also be used with standard enterprise data to determine is a leadership change is needed, but accessing the statistics of the company to determine a good fit.
8. Embed BI into all your platforms increased efficiency
What should you do to ensure you are getting the best, most up-to-date data? Embed the BI tools into each of your applications or platforms. In the past BI tools required specialized expertise and applications, but you now the ability to embed BI directly into each platform.
Knowing you want to have the data accessible allows you to plan for the applications/products to have the BI tools embedded directly and access to the data in real-time. The next benefit would be for each of the platform BI tools to be able to compile and work together to see the entire picture of the enterprise.
9. Forecasting and budgeting automation options
The spreadsheet has been the go-to document for financial management, but moving away from spreadsheets to specialized tools can make a major difference in your whole business.
No longer is it acceptable to look at past statistics to make decisions about future plans. Budgeting is no longer a siloed process, it should include and involve the entire leadership team. Using the latest tools to give inputs and to see where the organization’s goals are in real-time is more helpful to the planning process. This collaborative, real-time forecasting and budgeting process makes the data available any
10. Great benefits from analyzing your data in real-time
Every organization must understand their financials to succeed. Financial professionals can benefit from more efficient data collection based on the real-time business analytics that the latest tools can provide. The right tools can help access the data that the finance team needs with all the calculations; operational reports and general ledger info compiled into one easy to read report. This would allow for better insight into the business finances and less time spent on actually compiling the data.