9 ways to get more value from business intelligence in 2018

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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.


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.


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.


Better employee performance through BI also applies to the warehouse industry.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 gruntwork


At any large organization, 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.


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. 


When addressing service issues like warranty claims, be sure to consult with finance for cost-benefit analysis. Taking a short-term loss to make a customer happy may result in more orders in the future. IT can add value to these discussions by evaluating data quality and building easy-to-use BI tools for end users, especially those that may incorporate sentiment analysis of social media trends around your brand.


6. Predict new revenue streams


Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross became a quick best-seller among those interested in technology sales. Ross focuses on what salespeople and their managers can do to improve revenue predictability. IT can take a tip here and provide BI tools to aid in sales decisions such as which clients should be taken on.


7. Automate budgeting and forecasting


In financial management, moving away from spreadsheets to specialized tools can make a major difference.


“We were constantly using our rear-view mirror to make decisions about the future of the company,” says Christy Hrencher, director of marketing at Nextep. To solve this issue, Nextep turned to Adaptive Insights, a planning and budgeting tool. “Adaptive gave us the ability to involve the entire leadership team in the budgeting process. We now had a tool that gave everyone the ability to see where they stand against goals in real time. We’re no longer using spreadsheets, we’ve been able to automate our budgeting and forecasting process, and the data is available at any time.”


8. Embed BI into other platforms


Historically, BI tools required specialized expertise and applications. As a result, IT departments have traditionally owned responsibility for BI. That may be starting to change not only with self-service BI, but with the ability to embed BI directly into other platforms, as Clearlink’s use of Sisense shows.


With more BI work offloaded to lines of business, IT can add value by focusing on predictive analytics, which currently has few proven applications outside of sales and marketing. Alternatively, IT units may seek an internal consulting role where they help other business units find opportunities to use BI or embed BI capabilities more widely.


9. Shift the emphasis to analysis


In 2018, many professionals still have to spend a great deal of time on collecting data. For every hour spent on data collection, professionals have less capacity to extract insights. In the finance department, this data collection vs. analysis problem is particularly acute since finance must work under tight deadlines.


Last update: May 15, 2018

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