How to be smart about business planning with BI solutions

By Sanjay Srivastava
Updated: May 10, 2012

How to be smart about business planning with BI solutions

A Business Intelligence solution represents a substantial investment of money, time and other resources. It is therefore natural that the company should want to extract the maximum possible leverage from this investment. There are several things you can do to ensure that this happens. This article addresses some of the key issues.

BI is about Strategy not about Information Technology

The first step towards getting the best out of your Business Intelligence initiative is to ensure that it is looked at as a strategic solution and not as a report creating solution. If an organization fails to look at BI solutions as a strategic initiative, more often than not, it will be left to the IT staff to manage it. However BI solutions can only be exploited fully by business users and not IT users.

Business Intelligence Case 1

Using Business Intelligence as a strategic tool, here is what Televerde, a professional services company was able to achieve in terms of financial and strategic advantages :

  • The solution provided major support to the company’s aim of becoming a global leader in being able to provide marketing insights to their clients. This was only possible due to perceptive analysis of data – this data was not only from within the client company but also about the environment it worked in and about its competition.
  • In spite of many complex functions and reports being generated by the system, the BI solution was built from the ground up with the business user in mind. As a result, the average user was able to learn its various functions in a single day. Training costs and time were both minimal. The lesson here is that the BI solution is to be used by business people and not by IT staff. If it is built accordingly, it will deliver rapid results.
  • Since Televerde was able to deliver business advantage and insights that surprised and delighted the client, the project resulted in a deeper and more fruitful relationship with the client. Much of the information was delivered in real time with interactive dashboards and reports.

Business Intelligence Case 2

In yet another case of very fruitful utilization, a French apparel and footwear company with a €800 million turnover, used a Business Intelligence solution to take its business to much greater levels of efficiency.

Previous to their BI initiative, this company did not have any integrated solution for the entire worldwide business. Some divisions used BI solutions locally while others were content with spreadsheets. Getting a unified view of the business was nearly impossible and even if some king of report was generated, it was a near certainty that it would be inaccurate and out dated.  With the implementation of a common, companywide BI solution, there were several major improvements.  These were:

  • Logistics planning improved dramatically. Previously it had been based on outdated sales forecasts. With the demand aggregations tools and a comparison of the demand with the forecasts made previously, a tighter supply chain has resulted. With accurate figures available, the supply chain improved almost overnight and so did customer satisfaction.
  • An unplanned improvement occurred in salespeople’s morale. Since sales and bonus figures were available almost immediately as against the 45 days lag time, error prone system in use earlier, morale jumped and so did employee retention.
  • Distributors have been affected very positively as well. The supply chain is impacting their business as well and the unified accounting features ensure settlement is rapid and accurate. Once again, this is helping the company improve its relationships.
  • Customer demographics are now better understood. Whereas the company was earlier working with the image of an average customer, the BI solution now handles much more information about individual customers and allows for more accurate prediction of customer likes and dislikes and behavior trends. This has helped make the business far more efficient.

So what must your do to extract best value from your BI Investment? Here is a short list that sums up the above discussion.

  • Your solution must empower your users to be able to explore information pertaining to their domain (any others that are relevant) freely and seamlessly. They should be able to collaborate with each other and be able to make quick decisions based on the facts as displayed by the solution.  A corollary to this is an automated method of ensuring that the software has access to clean and authenticated data.
  • Senior management must use the ‘what if’ tools provided by the system to generate options and scenarios.
  • Ensure that your users can access the data from any device they choose to use and that they are not tied down to their offices to be able to access the BI solution. Continued and imaginative usage will ensure a living and growing system that will evolve with time.

In conclusion, any Business Intelligence solution is an important investment. If used with imagination and a spirit of discovery, it has the potential to take your business to the next level. However, it is important to stress that it is a business solution. Information technology is only a facilitator. The tool is to be used by business men, not IT staff. Fortunately, most BI solutions are built to be very easy and intuitive. You do not have to be a geek to get the best out of them.

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