How Smaller Businesses Can Raise the Bar for Business Intelligence
Due to the ever-quickening pace of modern business, users of business intelligence demand faster access to the data they use to make critical business decisions. By streamlining access to information, smaller business can enable employees to access fresher data that informs real-time decisions and become more responsive and nimble than larger organizations
Historically, the data warehouse was a back-office application used by very few people for "after-the-fact" analysis and planning that are the core of business intelligence. For example, a business analyst or senior level manager would run trending reports on sales revenue for previous years and evaluate sales peaks, valleys, and patterns correlating to a particular season or external economic factor. Based on the results, they would make recommendations on future sales and marketing strategies.
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But that takes too long for today's ever-quickening business climate. Now, users across organizations must be empowered to make hundreds of small decisions each day; data is accessed by more and more people as front line sales and call center representatives arm themselves with the most recent information so they can act. It's not acceptable to tell a distressed customer that you will return their call tomorrow or ask them to provide the same information repeatedly as they move through a phone tree.
Smaller business can gain a real competitive advantage by unlocking analytical systems to enable employees access to fresher data that informs real-time decisions. Large enterprises see this opportunity as well and that's led business and IT leaders to reassess their data warehouse strategies to streamline the way organizations leverage information with the goal of optimizing workflow, productivity, and decision-making capabilities. The BI mantra is no longer "sense and respond," but rather "anticipate, predict, and prevent," with data-based confidence.
Chasing a Single Version of the Truth
BI is a high priority: to know your customer is to know your business. In reality, this may not only require a comprehensive view of the customer, but also a comprehensive view of suppliers, partners, and revenue by product or channel. Gaining a fully integrated and relevant view of a piece of your business poses an ongoing IT challenge. The changes that come with a growing business -- mergers, acquisitions, new products, services, and markets -- only compound the ordeal.
A single version of the truth that is accurate and up to date has become the Holy Grail of BI. Business decision makers and end users know achieving that single view based on current data helps avoid making erroneous decisions, saving a company valuable time and resources. Harnessing the power of BI data can help small and midsize organizations compete by allowing them to be more agile and responsive to customers and partners than large enterprises with greater budgets and resources. Having a clear understanding, a single truth, of how the business is performing right now is key to moving forward and staying competitive -- redefining the customer experience and expectation.
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Access to both historical and current data enables a business to spot trends as soon as they begin to occur and make decisions to "stay the course" or, more important, correct course. For example, an online retailer running a promotional campaign may have a market segment that is particularly responsive. With access to that information in real time, the retailer can quickly decide to extend the life of the special offer or introduce it to another market segment, driving a timely revenue up-tick -- not unlike what many shop-at-home networks do today.
The online specialty retailer also may be able to win sales over a national or multinational chain because it can provide a tailored customer experience. Consumers, becoming more fickle by the day, respond to personalized service and may not only choose to buy from the retailer today, but also in the future. A single view of the customer would enable the company to recognize immediately what buying preferences it should repeat to create that positive experience in multiple sales channels (i.e., Internet, catalog, or retail).