Business intelligence. What is it and why is it changing business?
By Chris Liebetrau
By 2018, Gartner predicts that half of large organizations will be using Business Intelligence (BI) and advanced analytics. It predicts that by 2020 analytics will permeate 75 percent of businesses. As businesses toil against uninformed decision-making, BI functionality is becoming more desirable.
What is Business Intelligence?
If you’re after a technical explanation, this one comes from Forrester Research:
Business Intelligence is a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information used to enable more effective strategic, tactical, and operational insights and decision-making.
If you’re after something more relatable, Maria Bogza of Bucharest Academy of Economics describes it as “getting the right information to the right people at the right time”.
She’s right. Timely decision-making is at the heart of BI. Speed-to-decision underpins the value of any analytics program an organisation undertakes.
What if your competitor suddenly dropped prices by 20 percent? How will your business respond? How can you make that decision if you can’t rapidly predict the impact to your profitability 12 months from now? BI gives you the tools to make business-critical decisions.
BI is more than just gathering and interpreting information. It’s also about the best practices that govern a BI program.
Behind-the-scenes processes, database management and business rules involve unifying data into one central repository. For MYOB client Australian Uniform Service, this means: “We now have one system that handles our accounting, payroll, HR and assets needs. The difference is huge. We have dramatically reduced the time taken to prepare management reports and have real-time visibility.”
Without a solid foundation, data cannot be trusted, and neither can the analysis. Imagine basing your 12-month plan on the wrong information? Data integrity can only occur when the right processes and procedures are in place.
Why is it changing business?
While BI has been around for a while, it has been experiencing a renaissance in the last few years.
Part of this resurgence is increasing computation power which allows us to crunch more data. Moving BI into the cloud has also enhanced its capabilities.
The cloud has simplified data warehousing to help unify data and deliver the dream of a single source of truth. Improved UX like graphical interfaces (those fancy dashboards you no doubt have seen) have improved data visualisation to make information easily digestible. Cloud technology has put more power in the end-users’ hands by enabling self-service and search-driven analytics.
BI has put the tools in executive hands to make data-led decisions based on sound information. According to a survey of decision makers, BI made positive contributions to these integral areas:
- customer support
- competitive intelligence
- sales process
- cost management
- product development
The value BI programs have delivered has helped companies achieve fantastic productivity and process improvements. The highlights include improvements in:
- data visibility
- speed to decision
- performance measurement
- knowledge sharing /collaboration
- predictive modelling
This has included identifying business opportunities, performance managing suppliers, uncovering areas for reducing costs, optimising prices, revealing inefficient processes, and reacting quickly to changes in demand.
IDC research further demonstrates this ROI. The top drivers of BI adoption included:
- revenue growth
- cost control or reduction
- risk reduction
MYOB client was able to gain valuable insights into customer buying patterns. This enabled them make more informed business decisions like changing their invoice structure which has driven a decrease in days to pay and increased their overall cash flow.
BI functionality as part of a business management system, like an ERP, yields significant by connecting business talent with relevant data. Designed and implemented the right way, BI can guide decision-makers towards their goals. In the words of Codecom: “All aspects of our business are accessible everywhere, to the staff that need it.”