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Using BI To Power Jump Corporate Performance

Business intelligence has evolved over the past 10-15 years from defining an 'intelligent organisation' as one that valued collaborative sharing of knowledge to todays, integrated, highly strategic, management tool.

Business intelligence tools support every day business decisions on how to operate the business to better achieve corporate objectives. There are five key components to business intelligence :

  1. Business strategy, policies and governance surrounding both corporate data and business intelligence
  2. Aggregated corporate data stored in large databases such as the Data Warehouse
  3. Analytics application capable of analyzing large amounts of corporate data, tracking business performance, detecting patterns and trends
  4. Advanced Visualisation Tools – used to present the data in more meaningful ways using corporate and operational dynamic dashboards.
  5. Integration of business intelligence capability into operational processes

Attempting to implement a business solution without any one of these components degrades it's effectiveness.

Benefits of BI

A business intelligence solution helps organisation in :

Marketing - by helping to identify market opportunities, such as where market share is unsatisfactory. Using drill down analytics and filters, marketing can identify certain products that better meet the demographics of each area. BI tools enable marketing campaign managers to track whether strategies for certain markets or customers are working and driving business value

Financial - using BI tools can help finance better understand their profitability drivers and identify unacceptable cost areas

Sales - gain an accurate view of sale and/or distribution costs, per channel, per customer, per transaction, per day. It can also calculate sales commissions, number of sales closed, highlight good and poor performers. This also applies to clients and customers, BI can provide instant insight to the exact profit by company of each sale

Operations - use BI to recognise business areas of high performance and identify the key performance indicators [KPI's] to use to measure capability

and much, much more.


Key Steps To Business Intelligence Programs

Implementing business intelligence is not without challenges. These include:

  1. Ownership of the BI Program - this needs to be equally shared by both IT and the business
  2. Ownership of the corporate data - only the business can really interpret the meaning and significance of data, therefore data can only be owned by the business
  3. Implement a solid data and BI governance program - to ensure that the roles and responsibiilties around BI are defined, and that the data models required for BI are clearly understood.
  4. Preparation of data for use in BI environments - based on the business processes, rules and attributes defined by the business, data required for business intelligence is extracted from legacy and transaction systems, cleasnsed, validated and loaded into a dedicated database, known as a data warehouse. Data quality is THE biggest unknown quantity in preparing for a BI implementation. A standard timeline of 4-6 weeks can take over 60 weeks, where poor data management has been the norm [unfortunately, this is common in far too many companies]
  5. Skill sets and roles required for BI – skills required for BI management are outside the scope of normal IT function. IT must recognise this, and engage or train dedicated BI analysts and programmers, and data stewards
  6. Trust by the business in the use of BI tools - it takes time and patience to encourage business users to change the way in which they track and measure performance and make decisions. These changes need to be carefully integrated into all business processes and users trained sufficiently in both the use of BI tools and interpretation of the intelligence presentation formats
    Integration of BI capability with standard desktop environments.

Business intelligence capabilities such as data governance, master data management, data quality and BI tool integration is not a one time event. It is a continuous program of improvement and new upgrades as changes in the business environment drive changes in the business.

The most successful BI programs start small, with one critical area of the business that is directly related to a corporate objective. Choose an area where the outcomes can readily be monitored and reported. This program then becomes the showcase for future development.

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