Information is power, and this old saying couldn’t ring any truer than in enterprise environments. The more you know and understand about the inner workings of your company and that of your competition, the more you are able to effectively put the tools in place to improve, streamline, problem-solve and push your business to a whole new level of success.
Data—the type of data that’s useful to your company– is all around us. It’s abundant. Thanks to technologies like IoT, the stream of data being delivered to enterprises continues to grow at a rapid pace. By 2025, more than a quarter of data created will be real-time in nature, and IoT real-time data will constitute over 95 percent of it, predicts IDC.
No matter what the data is or where it comes from, it can have huge implications on the health and prosperity of your organization. The challenge for many companies is finding a way to effectively and efficiently extract all of the information, organize it, and use it to your advantage. According to Forbes, 89% of business leaders believe that Big Data will revolutionize business operations just like the Internet did, and enterprises that don’t adopt a business intelligence (BI) strategy to collect, analyze and apply that data in a meaningful way will be left in the dust.
According to Nucleus Research, organizations earn an average of $10.66 for every dollar spent on deployments of analytics applications such as business intelligence, performance management and predictive analytics. They are also five times more likely to make decisions faster, says BetterBuys.com. The ability to act fast and in a well-informed manner can set your company miles apart from its competition.
With statistics like these, it’s hard to refute the benefits of BI. If you haven’t already done so, it’s probably time to look into BI for your own company.
Business Intelligence Software—From Analysis to Action
Business intelligence software is the lynchpin that bridges big data to a company’s business strategies. It enables enterprises to monitor, collect, analyze and deliver actionable insights about the company’s sales, operations, staffing, customer service and many other elements. It integrates and aggregates data, processes it, and presents it in a unified manner—as a dashboard or report – that fosters a clearer understanding of the business and helps guide a company’s decision making process.
Business intelligence solutions can pinpoint bottlenecks in the manufacturing and supply chain, determine gaps in customer service, identify untapped sources of revenue, minimize waste and overhead costs, streamline procedures, bolster new areas of growth, and more. “The ability to use this data to innovate and compete will set winners apart from losers,” says Bob Rogers, chief data scientist for IT Transformation, Data Center Group at Intel.
BI solutions come in the form of either BI software installed locally on a company’s own computers or servers or reside in the cloud hosted by a vendor’s servers and accessed via the internet—the latter approach becoming increasingly pervasive.
Important Business Intelligence Features
Some of the top business intelligence software tools identified by FinanceOnline include Sisense, Looker, datapine, Zoho Analytics, and Yellowfin, among others. The important features to look for in a software solution, according to SelectHub include:
- Ranking Reports – Ranking reports let you easily view the best- and worst-performing facets of your business, from products to marketing campaigns to salespeople.
- What-If Analysis – If you’re curious about how a future decision will affect your business, you can run a “what-if” analysis using past data to predict the potential impacts. Tools for what-if analyses give you an objective view of the risks and rewards involved in each potential decision.
- Executive Dashboards – Executive dashboards give your organization’s leaders a real-time overview of your business in the form of graphs, charts, summaries and other information reports. They allow your company’s executives to make smarter, faster decisions.
- Interactive Reports – Interactive reports allow users to condense the massive amounts of collected data into a wide variety of possible views. Users can take advantage of features like statistical analysis and regression to identify trends, anomalies and outliers in the data.
- Geospatial Mapping – Applications using location intelligence can take your information and transform it into graphical and cartographic representations, simplifying your geographical data.
- Operational Reports – At the end of each day, business intelligence features like these can provide your organization’s executives with a detailed summary of the daily events, giving them the information they need to make critical decisions.
- Pivot Tables – Pivot tables can automatically extract significant features from a large, messy set of data. They can perform calculations such as sorting, counting or averaging the data stored in one table, and show the summarized results in another table. Pivot tables are essential tools for analyzing information and uncovering hidden trends.
- Ad-Hoc Reports – Instead of burdening your IT department with requests for detailed reports, ad-hoc reports are one of several important features of BI that let your nontechnical end-users generate their own reports on the fly.
- User-Specific Security – If you need to restrict certain users’ access to particular data sets, your BI tool should allow you to personalize your BI features and applications to individuals or groups of users.
- Open Integration – Smart BI platforms will be able to access not only your organization’s own data, but information from email, social media, websites and more. For example, instead of only providing your internal sales data, your BI platform could accompany that information with reviews and comments about your products.
With so many data formats and so many applications to pull from, it’s important that your BI platform is able to integrate as many different types of data as possible under a single roof, seamlessly combining disparate forms of information into an actionable report.
Putting Data to Work
Having all of that data collected, processed, analyzed, and stored in one place is great, but the real benefit of adopting a business intelligence solution is how that information is applied. If you do nothing with the data, it’s basically useless. Putting that data to work is where the real, tangible benefits begin.
What exactly are those potential benefits?
To find out what kind of benefits business intelligence delivers in the real-world, the Business Application Research Center asked over 2,600 business intelligence users to provide insights on this topic.
Respondents were given a list of some of the potential benefits of business intelligence and were asked to indicate to what level they had achieved those benefits with BI.
The results: Above all else, IT managers see their tools and platforms as a means to deliver faster and more accurate information to decision-makers. Faster and more accurate reporting, analysis or planning; better business decisions; improved employee satisfaction and improved data quality top the list.
From the same report, benefits achieved least frequently include reducing costs, increasing revenues and reducing IT headcount.
The Bottom Line
Business intelligence software, when properly implemented and utilized, can be the turning point for your enterprise. Offering a wide range of benefits, it can provide targeted insights to various aspects of the business crucial to fast and informed decision making. Instead of guessing, crossing their fingers, and hoping for the best, decision makers can move forward with confidence, creating and deploying new business strategies that can give the enterprise a competitive edge.