BI Focus Moving From Dashboards to Data Mining

Analytics, BI Program, Data Visualization No Comments

The need for business visibility is finally leading to attention to BI in the executive suite. In a recent report by Aberdeen, it was found that 47% of BI projects are now being driven by senior executives, signalling  significant turn-around from past years.

With business landscapes changing so quickly today, business leaders are finally recognising that they can no longer rely on past experiences to make decisions. The move away from relying totally on gut feeling and supporting decisions with fact-based data is a significant turnaround – and one that is well overdue.

The window of time in which critical business decisions must be made is rapidly shrinking, and a lack of visibility into both the businesses current performance as well as the current market make decision making a risky business.

Interestingly, the study also claimed that those executives which are actively engaging with traditional BI reports and dashboards are finding that they raise more questions than answers. This is leading decision makers to deeper analytical tools – moving from a pre-defined to an an-hoc BI environment.

Aberdeen Benchmark Report – Visual Business Intelligence. Enabling Discovery and Delivery of Insight


What’s Missing From Business Intelligence?

Analytics, BI Program, BI Strategy No Comments

So often we hear about how analytics is being used in business to:

  • Improve marketing campaign ROI
  • Predict and prevent fraud
  • Improve merchandising profitability
  • Get products to market faster

It is easy to think that this is through the sheer power or business intelligence tools, such as analytics. What we don’t hear about is what is underneath these tools – and I am not talking about IT infrastructure. The real power behind BI analytics is the culture of fact-based decision making. This is the area that is not being given enough focus, in spite of many studies telling us that more than half of those who have BI tools available to them, don’t really understand how to use them.

Real returns from BI takes a change in people and process, not just technology. There is a commitment to building a fact-based decision making culture. Whether it is to identify your most profitable customers, accelerate product innovation, optimize your supply chain or product portfolio, unless you are able to identify and measure your true drivers of financial performance, you will not enjoy the full value of BI.

Two books I recommend [by Gail La Grouw] for closing this gap around business intelligence are:

Sell More And Have Your Customers Love You For It – detailing how to use analytics to power up the sales pipeline and resolve some all too common sales management issues, and

Leading With SPI : Driving Productivity and Profit With Strategic Performance Improvement

Big Data Getting Attention in C-Suite

Analytics, Big Data, Data No Comments

According to a recent survey of executives at Fortune 1000 companies and large government agencies, the C-suite has high hopes for the value that analytics on Big Data promises, but is this just a wild pipe dream?

The survey revealed that eighty-five percent of respondents expected to gain substantial business and IT benefits from Big Data initiatives, with the main expected benefits being ‘fact-based decision making’ and ‘Customer experience’. Sound familiar so far?

Whilst it is encouraging to read companies are raising their hopes of BI to have a “positive impact across multiple lines of business” the recorded constraints in Big Data Analytics are the same for any BI implementation over the last 10 years, namely: Read the rest…

Is Big Data the Missing Link in Predictive Analytics?

BI Theory No Comments

Most companies do not suffer from lack of data. They suffer from how to extract insight from data in a timely manner. As most organisations are still struggling with how to get value from their dashboards, they are now being overwhelmed with the sheer volume of data and the rapidly changing market trends.

Predictive analytics relies on certain underlying market assumptions either remaining constant or being predictable in their change. To date, we have been winging it on a wide range of assumptions in terms of where market opinion will move next.  However, Big Data has the ability to change that. Where we once relied on somewhat unreliable market surveys to predict changes in consumer attitudes, Big Data provides us with real insight into changes, as they happen. Using social data to create  ‘market state correlations’ and we can start to build up a library of more reliable assumptions that may be reused.

Mining Big Data brings us one step closer to the level of customer intimacy that really starts to work for both sides of the market. Businesses can be more targeted in their product development and market messaging, and consumers get exactly what they want in terms of product features and convenient sales channels.

Big Data and BI

Cloud BI, Data No Comments

Just returned from an Altis breakfast briefing where William McKnight was talking about technology supporting BIG data. Although I am a strategic performance consultant, I find it very important to understand both the technology options and the approaches used by IT to deliver to the business intelligence requirements of the business. As data is the foundation of performance management, every time there is a big change in data, there is a big change in both the business and technical requirements.

  • On the business side – if your competitors are accessing the insight from Big Data, you need to stay on the same playing field if you want to remain competitive in the same game.
  • On the technology sideRead the rest…

3 Considerations for Mobile Dashboards

BI Theory, Dashboard Design, Mobile BI No Comments

I was just reading an interesting article on Harvard Business Review called The Future Isn’t About Mobile, It’s About Mobility. It prompted me to remind you that if you are designing dashboards not to fall into the trap of just replicating desktop dashboard for mobile. Users of mobile dashboards are experiencing the dashboard in quite different environments, and I am not just referring to the small device screen. It’s not about making desktop dashboards mobile – it is about understanding the specific needs of users during mobility.

Here are my top 4 considerations when designing mobile dashboards:

  1. Lighting conditions – vary considerably and this can be especially difficult for those starting to feel the effect of aging eyes, where the range of light in which they have clear visibility is far narrower than for someone without presbyopia. Design dashboard backgrounds and fonts for fast reading. This is often completely opposite to what one considers ideal design for desktop dashboards. Viewing white letters on a black background is often easier in bright light, than black letters of a white background – but in desktop we use the exact opposite. Subtle colors get washed out in bright lights – but are ideal for desktop etc
  2. Time constraints – often users have just a moment to quickly glance at a dashboard – they don’t have time to dig down three levels to get to the combination of information they need. I read recently [I would credit the source if i could remember] a great description of the difference between mobile and desktop dashboards where mobile dashboards are for leaning out [just glancing], whereas desktop dashboards are for leaning in for analysis
  3. Security – think carefully about storing data locally on mobile devices. If you remember the above, that mobile dashboards are not a lean-in activity, there is little reason for cached data. Doing so creates a security risk worthy of close consideration.

That’s it for me – there are many other considerations, but the main one is to not be tempted to just replicate the desktop to the mobile. As the HBR article says, its not about mobile, it’s about mobility.

Business Intelligence Back to Top of CIO Mind

BI Strategy No Comments

A recent survey by PC World shows that Business Intelligence [BI] is once again ‘top of mind’ for CIO’s. After slipping down to the number 2 spot below virtualization it seems BI has bubbled back up to the surface. Whilst the survey editorial acknowledges that this may be purely because most server virtualization has now been completed, it also alludes to the lack of ROI on BI programs being the cause for the drop.

Personally, I see virtualization and MDM programs as part of the BI strategy in making good quality data available at high performance levels. Rather than being separate, competing initiatives, they are merely projects along the BI continuum.

However, I do believe that insufficient thought is given to education in BI strategy and dashboard design. Both of these factors lead to significantly lower value outcomes for investment in BI.

A couple of resources to help remedy that:

For those of you earlier in the BI intiative and need a full guide across all elements of BI, including strategy, data, software selection, and how best to use BI tools in your business, then The Logical Organization is the full strategic guide for you.

What are your thoughts on how well BI projects are performing? Please add your comment below.


BI Helps Overcome Fear of Failure

BI Theory No Comments

Fear of Failure is often cited as the reason for not extending ones reach in both personal and business feats. In the case of an employee, the fear of failure is really little more than fear of criticism or blame – they personally don’t take a financial hit if the product is wrong or the launch campaign isn’t as effective as planned. So how does BI help? BI puts the analytics, the rationale and logic behind a decision out there for everyone to see – everyone to accept – and everyone to share the blame. It takes the onus of decision making off a single person and spreads it across the business. It provides a fact-based, rather than person-based foundation for decisions.

Getting away from the blame game, gets your business away from the lame game, and gets it competing with more focus, more knowledge and more confidence. It opens your business to becoming more remarkable. Staying safe, playing within the lines is not the way to grow a business – growth requires risk, calculated risk. The very best outcome will be one that most people love and some people hate, but at least you are pushing the barriers and getting noticed. Getting noticed today is a major goal of any business – getting noticed profitably is the ultimate agenda.

Playing safe and staying the same as your competitors doesn’t get you noticed, and doesn’t get you ahead of the pack. As businesses start to stretch out again following the recessionary shrink, caution will be a common call. Only those with the tools to analyse their options in a rapid manner, thus avoiding paralysis by analysis, will lead the charge in the post recessionary wave.

It’s your choice to ride the wave, or wave goodbye. It’s your choice to go it alone or lean on BI.

Choosing the Right Format to Display Your KPI

Dashboards, Data No Comments

In determining the best format for displaying a KPI on a dashboard you need to understand your data – its format and the profile of performance.

There are three types of data display:

  1. Raw – is purely a snapshot of what has happened in the past reporting period. This is suited to performance that is chunky [occurs without predictable frequency] and has high variability in data value. This KPI type is typically presented using bar graphs.
  2. Change – Often we are not interested in the actual value; we only want to know the percentage change. This might be an indication of growth rate. Using an above:below graph, with the horizontal axis set at 0; positive values above the line, and negative change values below.
  3. Trend – the most telling type of KPI graph is the line graph. This shows the trend of performance and is a greater indicator of whether action is needed than either raw or change representations.
Whilst I personally prefer to have all data in a trending style – this is often not appropriate or possible, based on the format of the data and the profile of the performance.

The Perils of Self Service BI

BI Infrastructure, BI Strategy, on Demand BI 1 Comment

Self-service BI is becoming the holy grail of business intelligence in its big promise to break the reliance of business users on IT to create their reports. With self-service BI, business users get the information they need, when they want it, how they want it. However, its not quite as simple as it sounds. For most business users, the BI tools are too difficult to use.

So what’s the solution – in-business power users. Power users are technically savvy business analysts that work within business teams to provide reporting. Adding BI to their suite of tools will replace a lot of very shaky complex pivot tables, and provide a much more insightful set of outcomes.

The big win is getting report production out of IT – away from IT deadlines and out of the hands of those who have no added business value into the process. Business power users are in touch with the business on a daily basis, as such they have more insight into the types of problems that the business needs to solve and the insight [data] needed to help make decisions around solving that problem. Read the rest…

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