If you pay even a small amount of attention to business news these days, it’s more than likely you’ve seen the words “analytics”, “insights”, and “big data” thrown around quite a bit. That’s all fine and great but what are the practical benefits of using analytics to get insights from your organization’s big data?
If you use a business intelligence (BI) platform, there are many. Here, however, are just five ways BI can help your business in the months to come.
Data is all around you. Literally. It’s in your website log that tracks how people visit your site and what they click on. It’s in the conversations customers have on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks about your company and its products. It’s in those years of past sales records, quality assurance information, and financial performance. Not to mention the tons of data on the economy, the weather, and anything else that might affect how your business runs.
This data is a goldmine. You just have to know how to extract it and business intelligence tools can help you do just that. Full-stack platforms let you mine your data to see which data sources complement one another. Data visualization makes it easy to see the big picture and make real-time business decisions. Augmented analytics use artificial intelligence techniques to prepare data faster and generate insights more easily, leaving you more time to apply and act on those insights. You don’t even need to be a data scientist to make it work for you.
People perform best when they can make informed decisions in their job. The old model of pushing ideas up the company tree and waiting for an answer to filter back down is fading. It’s slow, inefficient, and doesn’t make good use of the people in the nitty gritty details such as production line operators or customer sales and service teams who really feel the problem and may already know how to fix it.
Self-service business intelligence can now empower employees to explore different scenarios directly on the job. They no longer need to stand in line for an IT expert to plow through data and, days later perhaps, come back with a report. They can ask “on the fly” questions, without the need for massive system reprogramming to get the answers.
The dream of every CEO: an organization that has all departments on the same page, moving together toward goals quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, for most CEOs this dream has yet to come true because their organization is too busy fighting against siloed departments and siloed information.
With a BI solution that centralizes data, however, walls can be broken down. Offering one version of the truth makes discussions more actionable and arguments less likely. Shareable dashboards and natural language query capability boost collaboration between individuals, teams, and departments. Forget about struggling to cooperate via static reports, spreadsheets or slide shows. With live, interactive displays linked to data that everyone agrees on, you can build on each other’s work and accelerate progress toward company goals.
True, enterprises will still need to get their data governance right. Too rigid, and those silo walls will be back up again before you know it. Too light, and data integrity and confidentiality could suffer. The CEO and the Chief Data Officer will need to work together to forge a data driven enterprise that recognizes the potential in sharing and leveraging information. Business intelligence then becomes the tool to make it happen.
Don’t freak out, this isn’t about tea leaves or crystal balls! As part of business intelligence, predictive analytics lets you pick out trends and explore how they are likely to evolve. To keep it simple, it’s a way of finding patterns in historical data, referencing current data against those patterns, and figuring out the chances of certain events or situations arising in the future. Artificial intelligence techniques are important here. Machine learning, for example, lets a computer hunt out those patterns by itself. It can then analyze far more data, far faster than any person can.
As ever, practical applications are the difference between a pie in the sky ideas and down to earth business benefits. You need to focus on the business outcomes you want. Start with the important questions to be answered and only then pick the data analytics software you need for those answers and outcomes.
BI is also now being embedded directly in applications. Software developers and vendors can integrate not just interactive but also actionable reporting and analytics into specific apps and business processes. It’s an ideal way to give products and services a strong competitive edge.
To the end user, embedded BI is a simple on-screen menu item offering insights on tap. Without leaving the interface of your app, you can go from analysis to action without delay, providing your own customers with a better experience and stealing a march on your rivals at the same time. It’s no wonder that market researcher Forrester forecasts that embedded BI will become the new norm within the next 3-5 years.
Understanding your data, giving “what-if” capability to all, boosting collaboration, predicting the future, and competing like a champion. All this and more can be yours, thanks to business intelligence. Just remember, start with your business goals and problems to be solved. Then, apply BI tools and technologies as needed. And the future for your enterprise in 2018 and beyond should look bright.
If you’d like to learn more about which BI software solution will work best for your company check out our list of 15 best business intelligence tools for small and big business for some hints.
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