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The next challenge in BI

>> Written by Adam Binnie, GVP and GM of Business Intelligence at SAP

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A changing relationship with information

Technology has radically transformed how we interact with information. Until relatively recently, the latest information was stored in file cabinets, in books, and on microfilm, or distributed via newspapers, magazines, and reference works. Updating and retrieving data was a time-consuming and inexact science. Even an experienced researcher might require days to retrieve an answer – and there was no guarantee of accuracy.

As computers began to transform information storage, businesses responded with technological solutions that captured and stored information. Eventually, applications were built around data sources to analyze their contents for a targeted purpose or audience – the origins of business intelligence.

Bridging the Google gap

Fast-forward to the present – and our radically different relationship to information. The ubiquity of the Internet has transformed our expectations for how we receive and react to data. Call it the Google Gap – in daily personal life, most people expect to access the information they seek, on any topic, in real time, yet these same individuals struggle to access the workplace information they need with the same ease.

Meanwhile, the amount of information humans generate is growing at alarming rates. In 1943, Big Data was exemplified by an FBI information repository containing 112 million fingerprints and 85,000 volumes of law documents. Today, all that data would fit on a memory stick – and information has multiplied to fill the (enormous) space available. For businesses, capturing basic product and customer data has ballooned to include brand sentiment, shopper location, fraud alerts, and other real-time data. Employees expect the level of instant response to business queries and searches that they get in their “real” lives – even when searching Big Data. In 1943, employees querying the FBI database had to physically retrieve the data – a time-consuming task with no guarantee of success. By comparison, a typical Google search is easy, instant – and most often effective – even in a world where the amount of information available for analysis is exploding.

Informed, intelligent decisions on demand

Fueled by the amazing success of business intelligence (and by vastly more tech-savvy and tech-friendly employees), organizations look for more and better ways to use their information. To succeed in a competitive global economy, they must make it easy to find the answers to a range of complex business questions. To put it another way, they have to move beyond capturing and storing data to connecting data and people to produce insights. And to do that, they must give employees easy-to-use real-time tools that allow them to make better decisions – which can then help optimize processes, focus resources, or reduce spending.

Business intelligence can help support more informed and intelligent decisions by:

  • Presenting information in personal, trusted, and constantly available interactive interfaces
  • Creating meaning from the chaos of Big Data
  • Identifying opportunities and minimizing risk at every decision point

Today, analytics permeates the organization. You’ll find analytics in HR, helping identify, recruit, and retain top talent; in sales, monitoring pipelines and helping improve customer conversations; and in operations, optimizing manufacturing and reducing working capital. Forward-thinking companies are looking to use analytics to create a “Network of Truth” – one that engages every user to participate in the definition of truth; allows every user to connect new information to the network; and lets everyone share insights, knowledge, and efforts. Organizations that learn to effectively employ Big Data insights in their every day decision making will lead their marketplaces.

Technology helps close the Google gap

SAP sees two technologies as critical to closing the Google Gap and allowing organizations to deliver a “Network of Truth”. The first is a platform that can operate with enough speed and agility to allow specialization of vast amounts of information – one such as the SAP Real-Time Data Platform. Second is a platform interface optimized for a wide range of users, one that allows people to truly engage with the system, so it can produce key insights and capture their contributions.

At SAP, we’re helping to create this network of truth by bringing data and people closer together. We’re closing the Google gap with instant access to information through powerful, intuitive user interfaces. Our market-leading in-memory solution, the SAP® HANA platform, reimagines data warehousing – removing data latency, handling transactional and analytic processing of Big Data at unprecedented speeds, reducing complexity, and delivering immediate insights. No more complex ETL transformations means fresher and more interesting data. And fast replication makes SAP HANA ideal for handling divergent data types.

SAP HANA can deliver complex computation, from aggregation to statistical processing, on even the most granular data without additional storage or longer processing windows. Pair this powerful real-time data platform with the easy-to-use SAP Visual Intelligence application and you’ll make it easy to provide an engaging experience to manipulate data, deliver insight through compelling visualizations, and transform data into actionable knowledge.

Together these technologies can help build an information culture – a culture that views information as a strategic asset in decision making. One that uses information to tell fact-based stories and influence other people. And one that maximizes performance by using information to react more quickly, change more effectively, and understand more deeply.

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