Once you’ve decided your business needs a business intelligence solution, one of the first things you’re going to have to do is procure a tool to actually allow you to implement that solution. Many companies go to venders and they get lots of presentations, although this approach can be productive in giving you a good general knowledge of business intelligence, many businesses find they can get confused and end up focusing on the specifications and applications of the tools they are looking at rather than the over all results and benefits these tools can provide for their business.
Many organizations have large IT departments which have many of the skills required to do business intelligence, but because you’re mixing raw data with high business requirements, IT departments can sometimes struggle to deliver the solutions. Good resources and good people are needed to implement business intelligence in order to have a good knowledge of the technology. Not only do they have to know the business, the tools and the data, but as it’s quite fragmented so they need to know everything from databases to data mining, performance tuning, business intelligence tools development and then presentation layout, how to format good information so people can make better decisions.
It can be very hard to advise on the first type of data an organisation should look at as this will vary depending on the organisation and what your requirements and needs are. As a very general rule of thumb, the finance area is a good place to start, as the data quality in finance is normally very good, it’s well understood and it’s easily accessible. It may also have a lot of your master data, including customer data, your products and the internal organisational structure of your staff. You’ve then got sales information, which again is a fairly easy area to analyse but it adds more value now because you’ve got more customer and contractual information, you’ve got pipe lines and you’ve got activity in your CRM system. Then you may have a separate sales system which may be combined with finance, and you’ve got your operational systems, which are normally more time based like supply chain management and can be more challenging to analyse. To get real value across the enterprise and bring all that information together is where the longer term challenge comes in, you start looking at profitability and what operational activities are taking place and the costs associated by them to what sales revenue you’re generating to what revenue you’re booking and recognising in finance to get customer product profitability.
If successfully implemented, business intelligence solutions should go on indefinitely. If you give out more information to the business, and you make better decisions the business should evolve, which means you will then want different information, and be looking at different things to make the business go even further. However, in reality an open ended solution wouldn’t be feasible, so an average time frame would be three months to deliver the first information to business users.
With the progression of technology and computers getting faster more and more data is being produced, which in turn means there’s a tendency to get more value from analyzing that data. Speed of thought data analysis and visualisation techniques are evolving all the time this means, unfortunately analyzing the data produced from business intelligence is one area most companies fail at, because most people are going to be too busy actually doing their jobs rather than analyzing the influx of data they’re receiving. Business intelligence can actually get the system to do some of the analysis for you, with predictive analytics and data mining the computer can take some of the rules and the logic a human would use to do data analysis and actually analyse it for you and just alert you to the exceptions.
Another area business intelligence is heading towards is capturing more and more through unstructured mechanisms, for example you may have a blog on a website or a complaint management system online, or emails coming from customers through your service centre and all that data is textually based and has some value in it but is not structured, business intelligence can take that data, give it structure and put it along side your other structured data, which then gives that communication additional value and can contribute towards making your data more profitable for your organisation.…