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Exceeding Corporate Goals with Business Intelligence

By Daniel M. Horton, CIO, Sallyport Global

Daniel M. Horton, CIO, Sallyport Global

With the amount of data and analytics we now have available, we are in a great position to fully understand every part of what makes our companies succeed. Advances in features, data mining tools, and mobile devices have made it possible for you to have access to key information when you need it, where you need it, and in the format, you need it. That is the power of Business Intelligence. Business Intelligence is not "nice to have" but is a requirement if you want to achieve your corporate goals effectively.

The term Business intelligence (BI) refers to the tools, applications, infrastructure, and best practices that make it possible for you to access, analyze, and present information. You can use that information to inform critical decisions at every level of your business and optimize performance throughout. BI includes access to that information at any time and from any place (including mobile devices) so that you and your team can quickly act on it.

Your company cannot remain agile, responsive, and competitive without BI. BI provides you with a competitive advantage over rivals and allows your company to quickly identify and act on new trends. Smart use of BI also helps you optimize internal processes, making you and your employees much more productive and efficient. BI systems can help companies identify problem areas and weaknesses before they become serious. It is an indispensable tool in business performance management.

In BI systems, your company’s key information can be accessed not just from a desktop computer connected to the company’s internal network but from any authorized device. Reports and decisions no longer have to wait until your team is back at the office. With BI, end users can access what they need on their mobile device. A properly implemented BI system allows informed and accelerated decision-making at all levels of your company.

"Standardizing the BI system makes handling data and report generation far more efficient and cost-effective"

The information contained in BI systems can be used for statistical analysis, visualizations, data mining, reports, and interactive analyses. A good BI system also includes location intelligence where the data can be mapped over geographical areas. Location intelligence provides stunning visuals with insightful perspectives on how data is related geographically and spatially. It also includes interactive reports that you can use to support advantageous features such as time series zooming, condition formatting, and OLAP analysis.

A BI system is not just limited to new data and information. It can include your company’s historical data, usually in the form of a data warehouse. This facilitates current, historical, and predictive views of your business operations. “What-if” analysis, used to predict the results of business decisions, is another key feature in quality BI system that you can put to use. A quality BI system can connect to multiple sources of data (new and historical) to provide seamless access to the data you need to run necessary analytics.

It’s one thing to invest in a Business Intelligence system, but like any tool you need to make smart use of it if you truly want to use it to your advantage. One of the first keys is to standardize your BI system on one fully capable platform. That means that you do not deploy several BI systems under the mistaken assumption that certain departments need a different type of BI. Standardizing the BI system makes handling data and report generation far more efficient and cost-effective.

Another key to truly using BI to your advantage lies in your data. You need clean data sources, which means data that does not contain errors and inconsistencies such as misspellings, invalid entries, or missing information. If your data is dirty, then your results are going to be unreliable, much like the old adage “garbage in, garbage out.” There are methods of cleansing your data to make sure you are working with the best quality data sources. The most expensive, feature-filled BI system cannot help you compete if all you give it is poor quality data to work with.

An effective BI system will be equally accessible from a desk in the home office as from a tablet across the country. That means whatever BI system you choose must have a web and mobile interface. This allows you and your team to have seamless access to information from wherever you may be and whenever you need it. This gives you an edge over the competition as you can quickly respond to new trends, stop impending disasters, and make decisions quickly.

When it comes to ease of use, one dashboard is not going to work for everyone that needs access to the system and the data it contains. You need a BI system that allows your end-users to be able to establish and control their own personalized dashboards with ease. End-users should also be able to take ownership of the system. That means that while your IT department can assist, IT should not be in charge of owning the data. This makes it that much easier for your employees to make effective use of the suite of tools at their disposal.

When choosing a BI system, make sure that it can connect to multiple data sources. Data can be contained in flat files, databases, or web services, just to name a few types of sources. Even data from the same type of source may be arranged using a different type of architecture. To make the most of the data you have, both current and historical, you want a BI system that is able to work with many different types of data.

A quality BI system will provide you access anytime, anywhere to the information your company needs to make critical decisions. It offers powerful analysis and visualization tools, so your end-users can make informed, intelligent choices that will help your business rise to the top. Once you have a standardized BI system working with clean data, you can produce reports and visualizations to give you the edge that you need. Your employees will have access to customized dashboards that will enable them to easily track changes and trends. The information harnessed by the BI system will reveal game-changing aspects of your business, its procedures, and its clients–and even the competition. Business Intelligence is no longer an option if your company wants to remain competitive, agile, and profitable.

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