In business, no matter the industry, there are a lot of moving parts at play. Each transaction, each call, each item that leaves the warehouse, each person that clocks in, each impression on social media and everything else in between is data that the businesses can use to optimize their workflow and bottom line.
It would take many tens of manpower to analyze all this data and many more to translate them into actionable data that the business can use to make decisions. Instead of taking that inefficient route, it would be a much better idea to use business intelligence (BI) tools and services to make this process easier, quicker, and more cost-effective.
Later in this article, we will explore some examples of how adopting a business intelligence strategy can optimize the decision-making processes in various operations of an enterprise (HR, executive management, sales, etc.). But first, let’s discuss what kind of tools and services BI entails.
What are business intelligence tools?
Business intelligence is an umbrella term. This means, there is no end-all-be-all solution that does everything BI-related. Business intelligence tools are a vast array of services that fall under the umbrella of BI, including but not limited to: predictive analytics, dashboarding, reporting, visualization, data mining, trend analysis, etc.
The platforms that carry out these analytical tasks come in many different forms, each with its own flavor that cater to different types of enterprises depending on their needs. Some are presented in the form of software that can process data locally for extra security while some run on the cloud for better ease of access or even the option to run on smartphones with little processing power. Others might have better visualization for users who are not experts in data analytics. Another platform may focus on collaborative tools as their main selling point.
Each business intelligence service specializes in some of the aforementioned business intelligence services or others not listed here. Once you find what service is most important to your business, you need to do your research on the existing BI platforms and find out which one or which ones work best for you.
Size matters not
When looking at smaller businesses, it might seem like they don’t need business intelligence systems because they have less resources to manage, making it easier for them to keep track of all of them. That is not entirely true. Increasing efficiency in resource management and market trend analysis alone justify small businesses investing in a BI platform, not only to manage and monitor their resources more efficiently, but also to be on top of the current trends in the business they are in.
Nothing remains trending for too long on the Internet. In fact, usually not more than a few days. In a market as dynamic as the one enterprises are dealing with today, always staying on your toes and keeping up with consumer/business trends is crucial. You can only rely so much on a market researcher to stay on top of things––they are bound to slip. With the help of a BI platform, however, your market researcher spends less time trying to keep up with the trends just so they wouldn’t fall behind, and more time thinking and analyzing the data that the BI platform has given them. Doing this means during the briefings with executive officers, your market analysts will be more insightful as they can afford to have a bird’s-eye view of the trends instead of spending so much time just to keep up with them.
Since we mentioned the use of business intelligence software in market research, let’s use it as a segue to discuss various departments and positions that can really benefit from BI services.
Areas in which your business can benefit from business intelligence tools
Resource management in production
In the new landscape of production, outsourcing has become incredibly common. Businesses have a lot more opportunities to collaborate with multiple resource suppliers for maximum efficiency, but a big reason for outsourcing is obviously cutting costs. But in doing so, keeping track of all these different suppliers and the resources an enterprise has in different places (perhaps managed/overlooked by different people) can make monitoring them a bit of a mess. BI can help make overlooking all the different resources and supplies of an enterprise a lot simpler and remove resourcing bottlenecks.
Suboptimal resource utilization is only the physical aspect of resource mismanagement, but business intelligence software and tools can also help manage other resource bottlenecks such as lowered productivity of workforce or production line, shortage of skill, frequent staff overturn, etc. But how do business intelligence techniques help with all this? By providing real-time insight into all the metrics that are important about said resources, whether the metrics concern inventory or skill.
For example, visual graphs can allow you to monitor the performance of your suppliers, based on how many times there have been delays in the supply chain. If the delays go beyond an acceptable number, to the point that the minimum expected supply in a quarter isn’t met, the graph goes red. That way, making the decision to cut off that supplier from your chain becomes as simple as looking for the number of red dots in an easy-to-understand graph.
It should be obvious that customer experience and satisfaction is one of the primary reasons for the success of companies. Even still, there are many cases where customers report dissatisfaction with the services they receive from companies. A reason for this oversight by said companies could be a lack of business intelligence systems used in their decision-making regarding customer experience (CX).
Company leadership can utilize the data collected and analyzed by BI tools to stop implementing policies that they think the customer wants, and instead respond by implementing what the customers truly want. By creating a data driven culture about customer behavior, you will be able to pinpoint what actions of the company are most effective in bringing in and satisfying customers, or which product or which branch of sales is performing the best. Through visualization of data, you can make much more informed decisions that are less based on guesses and feelings are much more rooted in facts.
The data you collect through CSAT (customer satisfaction scores), customer surveys, and social listening can give you so much to work with and business intelligence tools can help you visualize all that data into actionable pieces of information.
For example, business intelligence and analytics can create a visual graph of the number of customer visits to your various retail stores, which can help you determine the impact your staff and store design in each brand has had in attracting customers. This way, you can pinpoint which branch has been performing the best and try to implement the same strategy in other branches.
Another example involves customer experience in an application. You can monitor how different sections of your mobile app have been performing by looking at a visual heatmap of the number of clicks each section has gotten. If a section isn’t getting many clicks, you may choose to hide it from view to create a more simple-to-use, easier-on-the-eye experience. The applications for business intelligence and analytics in customer experience are numerous.
Business performance assessment
The performance of each department needs to be assessed by looking at different metrics. The keyword here is metrics, as in measurable and quantifiable input. If it’s quantifiable, it can be run through business intelligence systems.
Analysis directions take different forms based on the department in question. For example, you can monitor traffic to your online store as well as your retail stores and put them in a chart for a better outlook on the numbers through visualization to understand which platform brings in the biggest sales numbers.
To get deeper into the above example, suppose you have different categories of products that you sell. In the same graph, you can pinpoint which categories are doing better numbers on the online store and which ones are performing better in the retail stores. For instance, if you happen to be an IT retailer, you may find out that products in the gaming category perform strongly in-store, whereas USB cables and hubs perform the best online. Such actionable data will offer you the information you need to focus on the product categories that are proven to do better on each respective platform, resulting in better resource management and time allocation.
Human resources management
No matter the size of your business, human resources is a department that will surely benefit from business intelligence tools. For small businesses, ensuring maximum yield from every employee might be the reason to use BI. In larger ones, performance, risk, and job satisfaction assessments also come into the picture more prominently. Adopting a business intelligence tool helps in all the various tasks covered by any HR department, including hiring, firing, organizing events, staff training, and the like. Let’s go over some scenarios to see how exactly business intelligence and analytics can offer solutions for the multi-faceted role of HR manager position.
During the hiring process, the first step is to identify the type of skills necessary for the position you want to fill. This includes business intelligence tools rummaging through data from similar or the same position in other companies and combining that data with your internal information and requirements to offer you a reliable list of skills/requirements to look for in your next hire. When it comes time to look through applications, you can filter out the skills you previously realized to be imported using business intelligence techniques with the help of digital scanning. All of this will save time, and by extension, resources.
In terms of performance evaluation, business intelligence software can help sort through your new hire’s daily reports and compare the performance in intervals to highlight progress. For long-term employees, you can still use business intelligence techniques to track their progress and compare it with the data that business intelligence tools can gather through analyzing other employees working similar jobs in different companies. This puts your employees’ numbers against the standard in the field, which would clearly show executives if an employee should be rewarded, on watch, or terminated.
Many other HR duties can also benefit from business intelligence tools––such as CSR (corporate social responsibility), internal work culture, and staffing needs––in ways that go beyond the scope of this introductory article to business intelligence.
How business intelligence works
Big Data collection
Simply put, to get actionable readings of the company’s data, you must have data. Practically, any company generates loads and loads of data. Let’s look at a simple example: the impressions, click-through rates, engagement, and the like are only a few of the metrics that are generated at any given company’s social media alone. Without analyses, this data is practically meaningless. The collection of all the company’s data is almost always going to be a substantial amount, hence the name Big Data.
The raw data that is going to be used in the analytics needs to go through a data management system that turns the data ready for use by business intelligence software and tools. Data warehouses perform queries and analytics that are done through a large amount of data logs that can go back for quite some time. It is said that the records that are generated as a result of data warehousing are considered the “single source of truth” in an organization.
OLAP (online analytical processing)
Data from data warehouses are cleansed and are turned into data cubes. The dimensions of these OLAP cubes are relevant data that we want to co-analyze because we believe they have a cause-and-effect relationship. Through various OLAP methods, we can verify the existence of a cause-and-effect relationship.
Think of one dimension of an OLAP cube being the price, the other is sales based on geographic location, and the last one is a given time. These dimensions are populated with actual logs of prices and names of places and a time period such as a month. OLAP processes can identify where these dimensions intersect and give us insights such as all the goods sold in a certain region within a certain price point in the month of July. This type of data can be of a lot more use when market researchers want to analyze a company’s sales and how well they did where and when.
The reporting interface is simply how the business intelligence software or tool allows you to interact with it. It must be efficient and simple to use so that you wouldn’t need to have a degree in data science to operate it.
There are other steps to this process and even other ways of categorizing the different steps in business intelligence. There is hardly a wrong way of describing the process as there is many and processes have relatively different beginnings, middles, and ends. This was an introduction to the process so don’t be shocked if you find another article that has flipped all these steps upside down.
Still not convinced?
If you are not yet certain of the increasing need and prominence of business intelligence strategy in your business, some facts and figures might help you see why you should!
- Way back in 2015, the global business intelligence industry was valued at $16.4 billion.
- In 2021, that number rose to around $24 billion.
- It is expected that the global market value of the industry will reach $43 billion by 2028.
- Bad data (which includes inaccurate, missing, false or duplicate) damages the US economy $3.1 trillion annually.
- 97% of data gathered by organizations are left unused.
- 52% of software companies and 50% of finance companies (companies most reliant on data analytics) are already using BI tools.
If these figures weren’t enough, you should also know that your employees are not enjoying working with raw data that they must analyze. In fact, 74% of employees that do that, feel overwhelmed and unhappy.
Is delaying adoption an option?
The short answer is: not really. Delaying the adoption of business intelligence software and tools in the workflow of your enterprise only serves to slow down your growth. An enterprise already creates huge amounts of data; whether that data goes to waste is up to the managers.
There are hurdles that bar enterprises from getting into BI, such as low data-literacy rate among employees, bad experience with business intelligence tools as a result of software complexities, lower-grade and non-actionable analytics stemming from service limitations, traditional data infrastructures that bottleneck BI workload, and others. But some of the things you can do to start adopting more and more BI in your enterprise are listed below:
- Switch to a modern cloud analytics stack and ditch the traditional ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines. This allows on-demand complex analyses through a streamlined data pipeline that takes advantage of the immense power of cloud computing.
- Use an easy-to-use analytics tool that doesn’t require the business user to be a data analytics expert. The interface and user experience are crucial in bringing data analysts and market researchers to adopt BI tools.
- Promote a culture of data literacy. Even using the simplest tools will not take your business too far if the user doesn’t have data literacy skills. Through training with the help of experts in the field and other educational/promotional programs that increase data literacy and teach the ins and outs of BI, the adoption rate will quickly go up.
The importance of raising awareness
Among the points mentioned and the steps that need to be taken to increase BI adoption, an awareness of its importance and a desire to learn about BI can be seen as primary. If managers or executives at a company are aware of the importance of BI adoption and its inevitably in the realm of business, they would surely jump at any opportunity to promote literacy on the subject to their employees.
One of the great ways to raise that awareness is to participate in events that discuss business intelligence with business-minded people in an educational and collaborative setting. An upcoming event that has all those features is GITEX 2022.
Business intelligence at GITEX 2022
The Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) is one of the best places to be if you are into technology or business. If you are looking to use technology in your business (i.e., business intelligence tools) then there is no better place to be in than GITEX. The expo is where some of the greatest minds of the business world converge and share their thoughts and experiences about all things business and, perhaps more importantly, they outline the direction that businesses are moving towards.
If you attend business-focused conferences, you will be sure to hear about the latest advancements in the field of business intelligence and be sure that you will have access to information from trusted, reputable sources that can boost your business forward. GITEX will be held in Dubai starting October 10 for its 42nd edition. Stay tuned for the details right here on Newcom’s website.