As the volume and complexity of data expands, it affects, transforms and disrupts the way midsize companies conduct business. As these companies grow, there is also a transformation in the way employees interact with that data: There are more users accessing it, and they want to access the data in different ways than ever before.
For instance, there are inventory managers who need self-service reporting and cannot wait weeks for reports. There are sales managers who need to drill up or down into sales by territory, SKU and product family. There are marketing managers who want to analyze campaigns against prior results, but historical data is not retained. There are finance pros who need to identify and prioritize problem areas on a real-time basis. And then there are IT managers who must enhance reporting environments but lack the staff, budget, and time and expertise to deploy and maintain BI.
And that’s probably just a partial list of what’s happening at your company.
Today’s BI software can offer help for midsize companies grappling with these growth challenges. However, there are many things BI software can’t do. Setting clear expectations and knowing the difference between the two will help midsize companies get value from their BI software purchases. By providing important capabilities for data integration, quality and master data management, those companies that start an EIM and BI project will provide users access to trusted information and overcome silos, data inconsistencies and hidden assets.
BI provides business users with access to the information they’re looking for via several different types of reports—including managed, ad-hoc, analytics, dashboards, production and operational reporting. Users can have it any way they like today, giving them a range of insights for managing performance and the ability to:
• Access and transform corporate data into highly formatted reports for greater insight
• Leverage dashboards to visualize data trends for better decision-making capabilities
• Analyze historical data trends from complex historical data and to improve forecasts
• Interact with information for fast response to ad-hoc questions
• Find immediate answers to business questions
• Deliver information across the organization for an empowered mobile workforce
While these advantages provide critical insights to help guide business growth, organizations cannot expect BI to be a magic bullet to resolve all issues. We advise caution in order to build the best solution and set more realistic expectations for users. Remember: Tools alone will not transform your business.
Three Things BI Can’t Do for Midsize Enterprises
1. Solve All the Problems at Once
Focus on top business and IT issues—and then prioritize from there. A clear, tangible roadmap will help determine what can be accomplished—both in the short and long term. A phased approach based on common priorities across business units is critical.
For example, Bodhtree recently helped a global provider of broadband communication in the high-tech industry with an assessment of their enterprise readiness for business analytics. We determined where the organization currently was in the analytics lifecycle—such as, what was the current state in data warehouse technology environment, sources of information and overall architecture. Then we outlined the appropriate steps (short-term, mid-term and long-term) needed to make analytics work for their organization.
The results were tangible and actionable—a strategic roadmap mapped the overall picture and health of analytics within the organization. The roadmap also identified how to map out the business drivers to resolve their business and IT needs and challenges, as well as key pressing issues. Within weeks, their organization understood what hardware they needed to procure, what software solution would work for their organization, what issues they needed to resolve first for their line of business groups, and most importantly, what level of effort and confidence was required to execute all plans.
2. Resolve All Data Integrity Issues
BI can help identify, extract, profile and analyze where data quality problems exist. But it’s up to the business to make changes through a clear business process.
For example, Bodhtree implemented a world-class business analytics solution for a global consumer electronics leader. Key transactional data were integrated from a myriad of sources: demand generation, order management, web click stream, promotions, phone switches, campaign management, products, discounts or coupons, returns and warranties, POS and service centers. Yet, troubling issues surfaced related to the business process in campaign generation and management. The BI solution was able to identify the data quality problems, but it was up to the organization to revisit the way campaigns would be generated and segmented at their initial conception to enable a more efficient and effective way to track performance and ROI.
3. Ensure User Adoption
An “if you build it they will come” approach won’t satisfy all users. It’s important to include users in the BI planning process, so they will eventually become BI evangelists.
A prime example was a “single source of information” solution Bodhtree delivered for a global medical device maker that enabled them to have an accurate, timely, trusted, integrated view of their business. A critical part of this business analytics project was the importance of the device maker’s organizational readiness, which was highly emphasized right from the start. Bodhtree made certain to involve the business users at various stages in the lifecycle of the solution implementation (from strategy, assessment, tool selection, design and implementation). This allowed some of the early adopters to become change agents and analytics evangelists to help ensure other users adapted and accepted the new platform and solution, and ultimately led to the success of the project.
Many BI software vendors have recognized the value in the midmarket (including SAP) and are offering attractive pricing on solutions that meet traditional business needs. There are numerous BI solutions available to SME customers today; some claim to resolve “problems” within weeks. However, they may not be able to scale with your business growth, nor flex with your changing needs. Choose wisely.
Kain A. Sosa is Vice President of Analytics at Bodhtree, a global provider of IT business consulting and solution integration services headquartered in Fremont, Calif. Bodhtree maximizes customer potential by offering value-added solutions around four key areas of focus: Analytics, Cloud, Mobility and Enterprise services. Bodhtree is a gold channel partner in the SAP PartnerEdge™ program and a master value-added reseller of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (SAP BI) solutions, with extensive expertise in delivering BI solutions built on SAP technology.
Published in ASUGnews on April 3,2012 http://www.asugnews.com/2012/04/03/what-bi-can-and-cannot-do-for-growing-midsize-enterprises/