Conducting Better Business Through BI
Excel spreadsheets may capture data, but they certainly can’t help a company make educated business decisions in a timely manner. Eager to gain a perspective of what is happening across their businesses in real-time, companies are turning to business intelligence (BI) tools that enable them to delve into stored data, ask questions, learn trends and improve operations based on data culled from transactional systems.
In the past, companies would apply BI to their static, collected information; however, too often it was still difficult and too complicated to make time-sensitive decisions that is able to impact current business performance.
By leveraging newer actionable BI tools and reports, companies can set up processes to be presented with information – rather than dig for it. Being an integrated solution, users can manipulate and act on data in a centralized location without leaving the application or recording the action in a separate interface.
"Enterprises need actionable information to make daily decisions, and all industry segments can benefit from it," said Jeff Buck, CEO and co-founder of Atlanta-based business intelligence company QuantiSense.
- For companies that may still be a little gun-shy on how to get started, the following are a few tips on how to evaluate and implement a BI solution and engage actionable information.
- Partner with a company that has deep domain knowledge. For BI to be most useful, analytics solutions must be in tune within the context of the business they are serving. As a result, technology providers are delivering more vertical solutions that expertly address how specific businesses function.
- Embrace the process. Companies that engage in the discipline of the solution, and are willing to believe in the actionable information it produces, will also garner more insight and make better the decisions to apply to their business operations, Buck said.
- Find a user-friendly solution. If multiple people in the enterprise will be using the solution, the key is to choose a broadly deployable architecture.
- Consider open-source solutions. Open-source BI (OSBI) is essentially free, as those vendors charge for support, documentation and code that's been fine-tuned for specific implementations rather than sell traditional software licenses. Solutions are generally bundled, and include reporting, online analytical processing and data mining software, dashboards and data profiling tools. While the solutions generally attract the attention of larger enterprises, OSBI vendors are catering to smaller businesses by packaging the code in all-encompassing software suites that include expanded functionality, technical support and training.
While OSBI is still an emerging trend, usage is on the rise. In fact, adoption is doubling annually because the application can be applied to many routine processes and operations, according to a recent report by Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc.