Every business has to make business decisions. Some, like operational decisions, are made daily, while others, like strategic decisions, have to be made from time to time.
In order to make a good business decision, it is important that the management relies on actual data and not only on assumptions. Business intelligence systems allow the management to have the needed data on hand so that the decisions they make are practical and well informed. Business intelligence usually includes different methodologies, applications and tools that allow the company to amass data from both external and internal sources and then prepare that same data for analysis. Then, the analysis is carried out to yield reports that are useful.
There are several benefits that an organization stands to gain from investing in business intelligence systems. Here are some of them:
- Accelerating decision making
- Making quality or improved decisions
- Enhancing operational efficiency
- Having business processes functioning at their optimum level
- Increasing new revenue
- Gaining a competitive advantage over other businesses in the same field
- Spotting problems in the business early
- Recognizing market trends
The information that the BI system collects is inclusive of historical data as well as current data, which makes it ideal for strategic decision-making. In the past, IT people, such as the DBA (Database Administrator), were the only people who could understand and use BI systems, but today, just about anybody can operate these systems. Business owners and executives are reaping the maximum benefits from these simpler and more user-friendly versions.
BI technology is great for visualization and will often include infographics and charts, performance score cards, KPIs and dashboards with the aim of giving visual data that enables one to quickly see where the business stands and where the struggles and challenges are. You can decide to purchase the technology separately from a number of vendors or you can choose to purchase the components as a unit from the same vendor.
You can expect to be able to carry out advanced data analysis by using the various features for data mining, big data analytics, predictive analytics, statistical analysis and text mining. You may need to have the advanced analysis carried out by professional statisticians if you are looking for detailed information and a more in-depth analysis of the data that you hold. However, if all you want is basic information, your BI team can easily extract that and relay it to you.
When getting a BI system, it is critical that you consider your data warehouse. This is particularly important if you have a lot of data and will be growing quickly as time passes. Prior to having your data analyzed and stored, it will need to be cleansed and then consolidated using various data integration and quality tools. The goal is to ensure that the information is both consistent and accurate for analysis. If you get it wrong at this level, then the information you receive and on which you base your business decisions on will also be wrong. That could jeopardize your entire operation.
The whole point of investing in business intelligence software is to extract from the company’s raw data the valuable information that can be used to bring to light various insights that can enable the business owners and managers to make more accurate and more valuable decisions. To be even more effective, business intelligence tools need to combine market data and internal data. This means you will need data on how the market in which you operate in is doing along with data on your operations and finances among other things, in order to get a clear picture of what is happening in and around your organization. One data source or one set of data would not be as effective in the creation of the full picture.
Most small businesses would also like to use this technology in order to know how to steer their business towards success. However, the costs of setting up the necessary infrastructure can be quite daunting. Even though there are certain advantages of having the systems on your premises, it is possible to use cloud-based services successfully as well.
In most cases, all you will need to do is pay a monthly subscription to use someone else’s infrastructure with the same results you would get if you were using your own.
Even then, there are other things that you will still need to consider before subscribing to a Cloud BI system. Since they will be warehousing your data, you might want to inquire about their security measures. Security needs to be very tight. In addition, you will need to sign some non-disclosure documentation since you do not want to have your information shared abroad or elsewhere. Inquire also about accessibility of the data. How accessible is it to you and from where? Usually with cloud based systems, you can access it from anywhere around the globe since it is web based.
The question of scalability should arise, especially if your company collects a lot of information that you need analyzed and stored. Once you have exhausted the current space allocated to you, how much more space can you get and at what cost. Again, depending on data volumes, you want to know more about the BI system’s performance. If you generally import a lot of data at the same time, you want to ensure that it does not cause delays while you are working.
The issue of user adoption is another one that must be taken into account. It is important that the system is easy to understand and easy to use. Make sure that someone is available to train your people and to ensure that they fully grasp how it works.
Remember that if the process of logging on and using the system is slow or tedious, many will give up on it and will not be willing to adopt the technology regardless of how it can improve the performance of the organization. Everybody wants to use a system that is straightforward and uncomplicated. The idea is to make life simpler and not more difficult.