For far too many organisations, business intelligence (BI) brings to mind simple statistical summaries in stodgy, dated reports.
But beneath BI’s dull surface, keen insights await — especially for those willing to revamp their business intelligence strategy to tackle the kinds of issues forward-thinking organisations are already addressing with modern BI.
Whether you are looking to implement a new BI tool or get more value out of your current BI setup, you will find some promising ideas here, as we recount how companies are using BI to improve customer service, employee productivity, revenue growth, and more.
1. Build real-time BI into your customer-facing services
Customers crave the latest information, especially for what they consider mission-critical systems and processes. So why not inject a little real-time BI into your services? Rackspace, a web hosting company, has done just that.
“To enable businesses with real-time data and analytics, Rackspace has moved away from providing customers with stale data (i.e., data that is more than 24-hours old) whether it is operational or server resource utilisation data," explained Gina Murphy, senior vice president and general manager of application services at Rackspace.
"Over the last few years, the lower cost of processing power and availability of more tools in the market has made it easier for building a business case for real-time analytics and making those business decisions."
Murphy’s comment shows that BI use is no longer limited to internal business users. In fact, BI data on systems is gradually becoming a vital part of the value proposition.
If your IT unit has been looking for a way to add more value to the business, this Rackspace development suggests one approach. Build BI into customer-facing reports and products.
2. Bring unstructured data on board
For years, unstructured data was a lost cause. There was just no efficient way to go through this information, especially when structured customer and financial data was easy to use. Aflac, the insurance firm, has started a new program to extract this data.
“Aflac acquired the Hadoop Appliance within our transformation's area," commented Julia Davis, senior vice president and CIO of Aflac. "We want to utilise Hadoop because it provides the BI capabilities to process and handle unstructured data.
"This technology is new for Aflac and provides the ability to cross-reference many data points."
3. Improve employee performance through BI
As a manager, it can often be difficult to decide which of your direct reports needs the most prompt help. Business intelligence tools can point you in the right direction, as Clearlink, a digital marketing and services firm, has found.
“At Clearlink, we have hundreds of sales agents handling incoming calls to purchase various home services," said Landon Starr, vice president of data science at Clearlink. "As a first-line manager or coach, knowing which agents might need help when everyone might need help, is a real challenge.
"A simple real-time report that extracts the type of call, the person taking the call, and the predicted value of that call simplifies that problem for a coach."
Better employee performance through BI also applies to the warehouse industry.
“We have recently developed an order selector ranking report where we bring data from the warehouse management system and time clock to rank employees daily based on their performance," added Joe Beydoun, director of SCM and BI strategy at Lipari Foods.
"This data has helped management put all these factors together and reward top performers without the hassle of building the reports. We also plan to introduce gamification for the warehouse staff."
This approach shows that business intelligence can be a proactive tool, rather than a historical record of past performance.
4. Cut time wasted on data grunt-work
At any large organisation, the end of a quarter or month is marked by analysts grinding through Excel files. It is such a common practice that you may not think it is a problem.
And the problem may be on the data collection and hygiene end. Thankfully, BI tools are arising to help with that. No more combing through Amazon.com for the publicly available data you need.
“We are tracking customer and product profitability in a Sisense analytics cube that is updated daily right now," explained Mark Hopkins, CIO of Skullcandy. "In the past, this report was only available on a monthly basis because it took multiple hours to assemble the data and validate it.
"Now, that prep time has been eliminated, and we can quickly track profitability and identify positive or negative trends in real time versus on a monthly basis."
5. Improve customer service
In the online world, an angry customer does not stay quiet for long, a problem that can compound as it is amplified through social media.
If customer dissatisfaction can be detected early through business intelligence, the problem can be addressed before it spreads widely.
Read more on the next page...