8 ways to enhance your business intelligence (BI)

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Business intelligence (BI) offers very helpful tools designed to enable companies to collect useful information; however, as with any intelligence tool, these should be used wisely in order to achieve optimal performance. Unfortunately, many organisations don’t consider BI an essential part of their operation, but rather see it as a supporting tool, which may influence the way they approach it and, hence, negatively affects business performance.

How about you? Have you been using it intelligently? Check out the tips in our series “8 ways to improve your BI” below.

Back view of business looking at diagram illustration

1. Develop an insightful workforce

Mr. Eddie Short, partner and head of BI at KPMG Management Consulting, once said that the best way to improve your BI is to encourage employees to explore and uncover insightful applications of this tool. However, a common problem is that most companies invest little on developing these tools and even less on getting the best out of them.

He also expressed that many businesses are information-intensive; thus, it is easy to cherry-pick the material that best supports their own theories. Therefore, obtaining validation from your organisation’s key members is extremely important for your business, and this can be done with the help of BI.

2. Successfully deliver critical information

Today, employees are working in a much more flexible way than before. This has raised the need to make BI tools available even on their mobile devices. According to Rachel O’Brien, an information management and analytics specialist at HP Enterprise Services, it is essential to be able to process big data on these devices, anywhere and anytime.

Mr. Tom O’Farrell, CEO of business technology services company Aiimi, agrees that “it is critical to enable the workforce to access real-time data on their mobile devices.” This is a vital venue for delivering information, and any failure to it may negatively affect the customer maintenance and capturing processes.

3. Make unstructured data more useful

Traditionally, BI systems are used to produce information from structured data, such as sales figures, and compare it to huge amounts of unstructured data, such as e-mails, Word documents, PDF files and images. According to Mr. Seamus Galvin, head of R&D at Espion, a specialist in information security, the amount of unstructured data makes up 80 percent of any typical organisation’s data and its size is increasing by 50 percent every year. In addition, companies are encouraged to analyse their unstructured data to identify trends, e.g., deceitful activities, and to gauge organisational attitudes among customers and staff.

4. Focus on the future

Most of the time, managers are too concerned with historical data rather than with future opportunities. This is similar to driving a car by looking merely in its rear-view mirror. Instead, firms need to focus more on forecasted analytics, claims Steve Farr, product marketing manager at TIBCO, a provider of infrastructure software. These types of analyses do not require a mathematics degree, and yet these intelligence tools are able to reduce complexity and allow users to focus on decision-making activities, ask questions and deeply look into data.

These previsional systems are helpful for their ability to monitor events and react automatically. For instance, events that may shift a customer to a competitor can be forecasted by the system and, hence, action can be taken to discourage them from doing so.

5. Visualise your information.

According to Mr. Nathan Yau, author of Data Points: Visualisation That Means Something (Wiley, 2013), visualisation, meaning converting raw information/data into graphical form, is the most effective way to ease the complexity of information. This technique inherits various benefits from all types of graphs and pictograms, which enable its users to see “trends, patterns and outliers that tell you about yourself and what surrounds you,” said Mr. Yau. Good visualisation let’s you to see through what you otherwise would have been blind to if you looked only at the raw source.

In order to best practice this technique, you need to answer four key questions: What data do you have? What do you want to know about it? Which visualisation techniques should you use? And, does what you see make sense?

6. Continually update data.

As the business world is moving faster and faster every day, information that once was useful may not be adequate now, according to Mr. John Masters, solutions director at Metapraxis, a business analysis company. Moreover, “information management should anticipate key questions about business performance that users of the information need to answer in order to make effective decisions.” The information management system must be designed to have the right combination of data depictions to answer the key questions that managers will be asking as they probe and challenge the information. In order to help individual mangers search for the specific insights they need, the information should be made to be flexible and interactive.

7. Use social media.

Social media sites, especially ones like online forums, blogs and news sites, are extremely useful for monitoring your competitors’ activities, but only when you have the right systems to do so. Analysing a number of relevant sources is the first step to gaining an insightful view of your industry. It is also effective to filter and categorise the data so that background noise is eliminated. Then your information will be more accurate and useful, which enables you to stand out from your competitors. “The most crucial sign of a company’s ability to use social media is the accuracy of its data,” according to Mr. Richard May, a senior executive at Spotter, an expert in textual analysis.

8. Make sure that your managers use BI tools.

Once you have created a great BI system, knowing how to use it effectively is the next step. To ensure that your managers get enough practice with it, the software itself should be as user-friendly as possible. People process tabular information sequentially, and graphs using their visual ability. In general, graphs are the most appropriate method to communicate insights when the message is contained in the shape of its values, such as a trend, a behavioural pattern or evidence of exceptional performance, or when you need to reveal relationships among whole sets of values. Furthermore, the chart must always be designed to be as simple as possible in order to generate a clear and meaningful message.

 

 

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