Companies today have access to a variety of analysis tools and data, but turning those two elements into actionable information can prove to be a tricky thing to do. One approach that enterprises are turning more is the use of business intelligence. BI is an method for processing and organizing large data sets that’s intended to drill down to the core insights an operation can gain. With the right setup, you can use data and modern technology to take your business to the next level.
What is BI?
In the simplest form, data is the raw product while business intelligence is the refined product. BI covers a wide range of needs, and its application will vary from company to company. Firms with large supply chains may focus on processes and inventories, while companies with a strong focus on the customer side might care more about measuring satisfaction and interaction. The goal, however, is to turn data into something that can be readily understood by stakeholders using business intelligence reporting tools.
BI should allow you to do five key things:
- Demonstrate what happened
- Track what is presently going on
- Provide explanations for why events happen
- Outline specific scenarios for what might happen
- Point those who make decisions toward options
For example, early analytics-driven Major League Baseball teams tried to avoid generalizing about players and instead focus on how specific demonstrated skills led to runs, ultimately leading to wins. This gave rise to conversations about the importance of skills beyond simply making contact with a ball. By demonstrating, for example, that high on-base percentages improved the odds of scoring a run, these teams were able to leverage less flashy, and therefore cheaper, players in order to build winning squads.
Turning Data into BI
There is a wide array of available tools for creating BI from data. It’s important to note that data in its own right is not BI. Systems such as databases form the backend of the process. The frontend is formed by systems that allow businesses to quickly sift through their data and produce insights.
It’s wise, however, to draw a distinction between data that has been sorted and data that has been analyzed. Resorting data doesn’t necessarily generate statistically relevant insights into what’s going on. A company has to develop an attitude that focuses on statistics in way that may feel unfamiliar. If necessary, your business may wish to hire someone with a background in stats to help interpret insights. Even at a smaller operation, simply encouraging stakeholders to learn some basic stats ideas, such as p-value, can go a long way toward empowering you to use BI as a tool.
In Your Business
The goal of BI is to translate insights from data into actions. Even a simple upgrade in your understanding of key processes can yield huge benefits. If two grocery stores are competing in a small town and one is able to more actively handle inventory issues through BI, that advantage may prove to be a difference maker. Running an email marketing campaign might allow you to touch base with customers, but BI can permit you to tailor a mix of messages to different demographics quickly. When done right, BI benefits everyone from the supplier to customers.
More than anything, BI demands taking a data-centric view of everything. That entails collecting data at every opportunity, from scanning tags on products to sending out customer questionnaires. Once you have the underlying data infrastructure in place, analysis tools can help you develop insights. From there, taking action is a simple as reading the information provided.