Recently the folks at Aberdeen Group released a report on trends in business analytics, specifically, the increasing use of a company’s stored data intelligence to help it improve business performance.
In the past, companies might have had reams of data about customers, successful strategies, successes and failures, and it would have been mostly in printed form. But increasingly today firms have within their accounting, manufacturing, reporting and other automated systems an increasing body of collective knowledge about their customers and their business.
The best companies, according to Aberdeen researchers use embedded Business Intelligence (“BI”) techniques to “drive strong analytical activity in more than six times the percentage of their workforce compared to all other companies.” That’s a striking statistic. Basically, it means that the smartest companies are empowering their staff to do more, by better utilizing the data available within their servers – by far – than their trailing competitors.
Companies are challenged to do this. The top challenges include the fact that their data is poorly integrated or widely scattered across disparate systems. They have difficulty linking their analytics with existing tools. They also cite a lack of IT expertise, as well as “usability and adoption” issues, and a lack of support resources.
As a result, Aberdeen listed a few takeaways and recommendations for companies wishing to embed BI in ways that will help them improve, given that most of their users will be of the non-technical variety. These include:
- Marshall your troops. Research shows that effective collaboration between IT and the business’ users is critical. The best scenario is where an internal executive-level champion helps get projects off the ground by demonstrating commitment to bringing the right resources together.
- Tip the odds in your favor. The best place to start embedding BI is in any area with the strongest need for analytical capability. This is typically where software usage is highest. Successes here will be magnified. Whether it’s CRM, financial management in accounting or e-commerce in operations, find the best/easiest place to start infusing analytical activity into key business processes. You’ll get the most willing users and the quickest adoption, as well as some early successes that will provide momentum.
- Treat the patient, not just the disease. Projects sometime fail because implementers “focus only on the apparent analytical need: the data needs to be cleansed, the reports are too static, or there aren’t enough licenses available.” Focus on BI tools and methods that resonate with the specific needs of a given type of user or business area, and help them gain “intuitive views of metrics that closely align to that person.”
Our translation of all the above: Find the low-hanging fruit (the areas where the most data resides and it’s most readily harvested)… look for where the business will gain the quickest bang for the buck… make it familiar and comfortable to the employee who works with the data… and use common tools like report writers and spreadsheets to mine the data for a few key difference-makers to that department.
Aberdeen’s research shows that the companies that are best at BI are more than twice as likely as others “to have a standard process in place to gather and communicate specific business user needs for analytics.” Make it quick, keep it simple.