Business intelligence is fast becoming a significant contribution towards advertising strategies, crunching internal and external data to turn it into a propeller of the company’s marketing engine. As a branch of the big data market, BI aims to turn analytics into strategies, and eventually more revenue. But beyond mere analytics, BI serves several functions that include reporting, data mining, process mining, benchmarking, business performance review and multifaceted event processing. The theme behind BI testifies the more data the better, and those that embrace the overwhelming quantities of data are able to uncover patterns and correlations that lend to better decision-making.
For small businesses that are looking to BI integration, here’s some handy tips, tools and trends to consider.
BI is one of the few sectors of the IT industry that has achieved fairly noticeable market growth and success amidst a difficult economic environment. In fact, BI and performance management software market surpassed the $12 billion-mark in 2011. This translates into 16% growth from $10.5 billion in 2010—evidence that big data monetization will continue to push enterprises to the next level. The top 5 vendors include SAP, Oracle, SAS Institute, IBM and Microsoft.
If you are one of the startups and small to medium scales organizations that would like to join the craze, here are some points to ponder from Jaspersoft CEO Brian Gentile.
Gentile describes how to spot a vendor to incorporate your current business model, outlining the basic, empirical requirements to spot a good BI tool. Furthermore, he suggests choosing a provider that is capable of connecting all sorts of data sources running through the enterprise. This is especially true for companies with complex structures and several suppliers. A supply chain, for example, will have procurement data, accounting data, supplies data, inventory, time-motions study and more.
“When hiring a BI vendor to help you uncover the value of your data, look for a tool that works behind the scenes, easily embedding into existing business applications and infrastructure. This increases the overall utility you derive from BI and helps you adopt an analytics-driven mindset within every corner of your organization where better decision-making can make a difference,” explains Gentile.
“Most businesses store data in different formats. Sales data, accounting data and web traffic data, for instance, may not reside in like databases and may be spread across relational (SQL), NoSQL, Hadoop-based, or even older index or hierarchical files. Look for a BI platform that offers native connections to all your data sources to save time and money.”
The proliferation of mobile devices also powers BI on the go. Decision makers often do their thinking beyond the confines of the office walls, and it’s helpful to have access to data analytics through a mobile phone or tablet. It is predicted that mobile BI will be an accelerated this year, with mobile BI applications flooding the market.
In light of mobile BI trends, Gentile reminds us on what to consider when adopting this kind of set-up, and when properly executed this could be a business or revenue accelerator.
“Companies generally want the ability to go mobile. When looking to access BI from mobile devices, consider your end-user requirements for customization and match those to the vendor’s toolkit. Many mobile business users will need a tailored or guided experience, which requires at least some customization through the use of a device-specific mobile SDK. Properly done, a mobile BI solution can be built very inexpensively and deliver a fantastic user experience.”
When talking about costs associated with BI, cloud-based deployments can take up a good portion of the budget. Whether going mobile or not, the efficiency and flexibility of a BI solution should be considered to meet the company’s needs. With cloud, the practicality of using a service when needed could actually work for a variety of businesses.
“In the end, however, no matter the mix of data connectivity options or slick mobile features, cost will always be an important factor when selecting a BI tool,” Gentile furthers. ”A modern BI platform should scale affordably and be flexible enough to transition with a company’s deployment needs. This could mean shifting from on-premises to any variety of cloud-based deployment for instance, which is desirable today in order to reach those organizational corners and deliver just the right amount of analytic insight where and when it is needed.”
The recent deal between WCI Consulting and Amazon Web Services (AWS) Solutions Provider Program proves that cloud is a good avenue to explore for BI opportunities. Their partnership will allow customers of both companies to design, build and manage cloud-based BI solutions on the AWS platform. WCI will also be given access to tools and technologies of AWS and have a cost-effective option to deploy online BI tools to serve business needs.
To give its platform more cloud-like capabilities, Information Builder added an array of improvements to WebFocus BI, the company’s business intelligence arm. The first of the many deployments is a software architecture similar to that of cloud applications. WebFocus’ security portfolio was also beefed up. Forrester Research’s Vice President Boris Evelson shared his views on this development:
“It’s all of the details behind ‘multitenancy’ that really matter. Do not equate multitenancy with ability to support multiple projects, multiple applications, multiple departments within the same enterprise. All BI tools can do that.”
“But there’s always an administrator function who has access to everything. In a true multitenant environment, there now has to be an individual single tenant administrator and an uber administrator.”
He added, “That’s a significant redesign and rearchitecture for most traditional BI vendors. If [Information Builders] has indeed achieved that, that’s great.”
Risks and Opportunities
The changing market demands and rising competition push enterprises to explore all possible options to maintain their edge. BI is one of those factors that could give a tactical advantage with the application of big data, developing more business-friendly analysis. This is where predictive modeling and advanced virtualization empower organizations and users alike. The dogma under which SAP HANA technology works is the ability to improve decision-making capabilities of business strategists with sharp accuracy in market forecasts.
Dan Vesset, vice president, Business Analytics solutions, IDC tells how predictive analysis sorts out opportunities and risks underlying in big data:
“There is a lot of untapped insight that could be exposed from exploding internal and external, structured and unstructured data sources. Predictive capabilities help businesses explore and identify the opportunities and risks hiding in the sea of all that big data. SAP’s integrated approach to predictive analytics helps more users learn not only what has happened, but also understand why it happened, what might happen and what the best course of action is.”
The strong growth of the industry was triggered by two major factors: IT’s continued investment in BI even while working on limited budgets, and a focus on analytics as CIO’s name BI as a priority for 2012. Customer service management is one of BI’s booming markets. Through data gathered from customer experience and interactions, companies are given the feedback on what they are doing well, and areas where they need to revisit or drastically improve.
BI has several functions that include reporting, data mining, process mining, benchmarking, business performance review and multifaceted event processing. It goes by the mantra that more data is better, and leaders are embracing the overwhelming quantities of data to uncover patterns and correlations that are not visible upfront.
The automotive industry is one that exhorts on BI tools and technology. The Gartner BI Summit held in Los Angeles, California highlighted Anametrix’ results of online BI for automotives. An unnamed major auto manufacturer in the United States has reported a 100% ROI as an outcome of Anametrix’ cloud-based BI technology implementation for half a year. The combination and correlation of these data sources into a single real-time solution enable Anametrix BI-dependent automakers to plan and spend smarter, and reduce reliance on incentives.
Social Media and Sports
The never-ending stream of social media content is a great sector for BI. Today, when a consumer is satisfied or dissatisfied with his or her recent buy, social networking will be the first platform to know about it. Consumers warn their colleagues and friends not to buy from this store, in the same way that good experiences render recommendations from these same people. Social media BI can also provide studies to reflect what advertising methods are effective, political trends, and the most talked about issues in real-time. Companies like thismoment are beefing up their metrics and analysis tools to provide insight into cross-platform social interactions to give brands a better perspective on how their campaigns are performing.
And recently, sports marketing analysis became the latest client of business intelligence. Repucom International, a global leader in sports research analysis taps the service of Hexagon social media analysis platform to augment its sponsorship intelligence services. The latter’s unique platform helps extract online conversations around leagues, teams, athletes, gaming events and issues for Repucom clients. When paired with the company’s national market research tracker, SponsorLink, it produces insight not previously available to the industry.
BI is not solely limited to hardcore IT. A week ago, Jaspersoft was tapped by Illuminate Education to be their embedded reporting BI solution. Illuminate’s present system supports more than 245 US school district and 30,000 educators in streamlining K-12 educational programs. This partnership looks to revolutionize educational programs for efficient reporting and analytics. The service will sustain information management needs at the county, district, site, classroom, parent and student levels. The embedded Jaspersoft BI will have three elements of reporting: Illuminate Student Information (ISI), Data and Assessment (DnA) and Illuminate Special Education (ISE).
The budding industry of business intelligence will soon be a force to be reckoned with. Aside from the likes of Jaspersoft, several other companies would like to be at the forefront, one of which is Host Analytics, its cloud-based technology tackling in CPM or corporate performance management. They recently launched a BI tool for finance, Host Analytics Business Analytics. This product is set to combine the power of CPM and cloud to provide finance departments understanding on what are their business drivers and potential facets to explore are.
Jon Kondo, CEO of Host Analytics, boasts how this BI tool can strengthen relationship of the company to its stakeholders, saying, “By bridging CPM and BI, Host Analytics empowers executive stakeholders with the confidence that they are making the most informed, strategic business decisions possible, based on facts.”
Better visualization and big data analytics are what International Asset Systems (IAS) recently added to its BI roster. Concentrating in providing critical insight to clients’ supply chain and transportation operations, IAS introduces BI modules to give their customers a better picture and examine their big data’s day-to-day performance. This will then empower them as decision makers to have a comprehensive data set that will support them in determining what works for them and what to take a second look at.