Business always comes includes a never-ending series of questions and decisions-making; this is what a business intelligence or BI tool comes into play. BI tools are designed to retrieve and store data from multiples sources, transform it into understandable reports, and analyze it to generate patterns and insights. Business intelligence gives you a deeper level of understanding your business by giving answers to business questions – what your data says, where you went wrong in the past, what customers need, where the problem is how to reduce costs and many other queries. To effectively use BI, the only business skill you need to master is asking the right questions. Here are the questions you should be asking and the different ways a BI tool can answer them.
What can your data tell you?
Big data is a collection of business information that has extremely large volume, flows with unknown speed and comes in different sizes and forms. This collection is too complex to be understood and analyzed in traditional ways. At first glance, it would seem more like a problem than an asset. But there is treasure in big data. Or, at least, that’s what companies think. And that’s what a BI tool will find for you. Here’s more to what your data can tell you. (83/0)
How can I understand my data?
A BI tool offers several ways in delivering information in presentable visuals that allow you to easily understand it and present it to others. Here are different ways you can get your data delivered.
- Reports – All other ways of information delivery in this list can be considered a subset of reporting. Business intelligence reporting is the merging of big data from different sources and reclassifying it – presenting it in concise and efficient visualizations.
- Dashboards – Here’s a popular BI tool element and one of the things people highlight when making reviews of BI tools. Dashboards give real-time report of performance metrics, stats, insights through interactive visuals – charts, graphs, lines, tables and other creative diagrams.
- Ad hoc report – A Forrester research shows that 64 percents of professionals face problems when their question or problem does not relate to the reports available. In ad hoc query, you identify a certain problem in the business. Then you formulate specific questions that are not answered by the dashboard. While this feature is case-dependent, it actually requires effective analyzing capabilities from your BI tool. However, another problem revealed in the same Forrester study is that experts struggle with creating questions they don’t know how to formulate.
What can I get out of this?
From this large dump of information, you see patterns – the mistakes you kept on making, the decisions you were right to make, the reasons behind the sudden turns of business, etc. These are just examples of the specific questions you get answers to. How much did you spend before and how much cost can you reduce in the future? Why did that project take too much time and how can you save more time? Why did they like this product and how do you improve it? Where did you go wrong and how can you make it right?
You get that information from just looking at the visual presentations a BI tool makes so you can understand the data. If you dig deeper using advanced analytics, you get deeper insights. You might discover that the big downfall you hit last month was due to a mix of small mistakes. You understand customer behavior. Big data lets you calculate the risk before taking it.
Is my data secured?
Security should be one of the main factors you weigh before deciding the best BI tools for your business. According to a study by Forrester Consulting, around 35 percent of business and technology professionals find BI privacy and security of data to be challenging. Data is continuously growing and a BI tool should be able to catch up. Usually, you will have a data warehouse where everything is stored. However, for most companies, this isn’t enough. More and more users are relying on cloud storage – a virtual storage space – to carry the volume burden. This cloud storage offers flexible, scalable and expandable room to house all information. Cloud is also less costly than traditional storage. However, a Gartner report shows that cloud storage offers security risks. Few of the things a BI tool must have to be secure are password-protected system, network firewall segmentation, updated security patches and reliable security management services.
What are your customers’ needs?
A BI tool reports and analyzes customer behavior – a wise guide in decision making and strategic planning. Today, technology continues to affect everything. According to a ClickFox survey in 2011, 73 percent of respondents used a mobile to make a purchase or assist them in busying decisions. The social media and smartphone hype has changed the game. With too much factors affecting people’s decisions, marketing needs a BI tool. The information you get from social media data tells a lot. For every Facebook post or tweet related to products and services, businesses get a glimpse of who their customer is – their gender, how old they are, what they do and how much they earn. Then a BI tool connects all this data to the dashboard elements such as financial reports and inventory.
What do I do with this customer information?
- Customer Demand – By studying patterns, you get to see the ups and downs of the sales. You know which items would be best to put on display this season and when to expect orders to drop.
- Marketing Campaign – A marketing campaign would be more effective if you plan it around business intelligence reports. A BI tool can analyze which methods of marketing have been the most successful. With an efficient plan, you can cut back on unnecessary marketing costs.
- Behavior Influence – If you already know what your customers need, you don’t have to tiptoe around the information. You can also plan strategies and campaigns to change it, tweak factors that influence them and get the odds in your favor.
Who uses BI tools? (240/200)
Big data is not only for the big companies. There are also types of BI tools for small and mid-sized business. Data doesn’t have to be big in order to be useful. All the information only becomes valuable when put to good use. The same Forrester research shows that 35 percent of professionals find the lack of alignment between information technology and business to be difficult. Also, 34 percent struggle with the lack of adequate user training.
What can my department get from this?
Almost all parts of a business can improve with the use of a BI tool. Finance experts can generate reports much faster. Marketing strategists can plan effectively. The sales department gets better ideas on how to turn prospective customers into regular ones. Business intelligence should fit every part of the company. The key to successful business intelligence is proper getting the proper BI tool and integrating it, letting the company’s system completely adapt to it. In order to maximize the use of your software, you must be ready to invest in user training.
How can I get my employees involved?
Business intelligence is slowly gearing towards mobile use. According to an Abardeen survey on 277 companies called Decisions on the Move: Mobile BI 2013, the number of employees engaged in business intelligence doubled when mobile BI tool was introduced. Another report – Mobile BI: Actionable Intelligence for the Agile Enterprise – discovered that companies could make decisions for your business 6x faster than those without having a mobile ground for reports and analysis.
What’s in the future?
One of the reasons why more and more companies turn to business intelligence is the promise to predict the future. It is actually simpler than it sounds like. If you sum up all the answers to the rest of the questions on this list, you almost have the best decisions in your hands. Here are a few examples of utilizing BI tools to predict the future. When it comes to finance, experts can create what-if scenarios and analyze financial reports in the past to find solutions. They can also monitor previous patterns to foresee cases that would mess up budget plans. In sales and marketing, strategists can look for seasonal and occasional trends, analyze which deals would be gainful or unprofitable then build marketing strategies around it.
There also advanced analytics that you can explore for more specific and critical targets and goals. However, it is still not widely used among BI users. According to a survey conducted by the Business Analytics Research Council (BARC) called The BI Survey: Customer Verdict, 31 percent of respondents plan to utilize their BI tool for predictive analysis and data minding but only 10 percent are actually using it.
In the dynamic world of technology, everything keeps on expanding or completely transforming. With all these improvements, a BI tool in the future can give more and more insightful answers to the never-ending series of questions in business. To find out more about BI tools, check out CrowdReviews.com’s ranked list.
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