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Recently, I read about young farmers in a small village in Africa who are using technology to adapt to climate change.  These farmers share and exchange the latest updates on farming and climate through social media tools in their mobile phones. With the information they receive and share, they decide when to plant their crops for better yields and to reduce the chance of losses due to heavy drought or rain. I was quite amazed by how simple technology can make a big difference in an African farmer’s life.  As you can tell, these farmers need up-to-date information to make better decisions, and they’re using innovative technologies to achieve their objectives. By collecting this data, they can gain better understanding of climate risks and adapt their crop growing cycle to shifting rain patterns. And it is certainly a cultural shift for them to move from traditional to modern methods of farming.


Change is imminent everywhere. We’re living in a world of constant changes. For businesses, the economic environment is changing constantly. They need to adapt and succeed in these changing markets.  Successful companies are harnessing the power of latest technology innovations and analytics to achieve their business goals.

How can you leverage Analytics to meet your Business objectives? 

Data is generated everywhere, by humans and machines. However, this data is useless without technologies that facilitate its transformation into meaningful information and make them available to business professionals in a timely manner. And getting the value out of these data assets isn’t something that happens automatically – and it’s not a trivial task.

In many organizations, the gap is widening between the data that’s available to business professionals and their ability to both transform that raw data into information and use it to support business decisions.  One of the root causes of that gap is that traditional business intelligence (BI) organizations and technology environments are frequently proving too inflexible to respond to business demands in a timely manner.

In February 2013, SAP commissioned Forrester Consulting to investigate how innovations in BI, analytics, and big data are helping enterprises drive business success. One of the study’s key objectives was to identify what differentiates the leaders from the laggards when it comes to exploiting innovative technologies in BI, analytics, and big data.

Forrester’s study reveals 5 key findings:

  • A majority of organizations regard data as a key strategic asset
  • BI maturity and superior business performance may be correlated
  • New BI capabilities can put companies in a better position to meet today’s challenges
  • Leading organizations are more likely to use innovative technologies
  • Agile BI environments are essential, and they need a solid foundation


Having said that, What separates leading companies from the rest? What steps can you take to either stay a leader or join their ranks?

Balance between control and agility, a critical factor for a solid BI foundation

Based on the survey, 46% of survey respondents regarded their BI initiatives as being mostly successful,only 19% judge them as being mostly highly successful. Why?  Here are some reasons:

  • The BI architecture stack remains complex
  • Implementing BI requires using best practices and building on lessons learned.
  • The goals of business and IT BI stakeholders aren’t always aligned
  • Existing BI support structures often no longer meet the need
  • IT cannot keep up with the ever changing business requirements.

That’s why it is essential to have in place a BI environment that is agile in all respects: BI software development, BI organization, and BI technologies.  “Agile” is by no means the same as a “free-for-all,” where anybody with the budget or technical skills procures or builds their own BI solutions – it is an environment where decision-makers increasingly have a real-time, 360-degree view of their Business..  Having the right balance between control and agility is important – the right mix will result in the most desired outcome: democracy (see figure)

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Innovative technologies can help maximize value from BI

A combination of innovative technologies with the right BI strategy can help companies to exploit the power of analytics and respond to changing conditions quickly in order to boost enterprise performance, expand market share, and stay ahead of the competition.  A number of technologies and techniques have emerged over the past two years that have a key role to play in providing organizations with the agility and flexibility they need to make decisions in a timely manner.  These include self-service tools, interactive visualization, predictive analytics, “Big Data” analytics, and cloud-based delivery models.

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Self-service tools – Self-service tools allow business professionals to ask questions and get answers instantly, while IT manages data quality, data governance and information security. These tools are designed to help enterprises deliver on the organizational principle of separating data preparation from data usage.

Interactive visualization – Data visualization in some form or other has been around for a long time,  But even the most powerful picture can only tell part of the story — unless it’s possible to drill down into the underlying data straight away, from the visualization.

Predictive analytics – The ability to predict what might or is likely to happen next is an increasingly essential capability in today’s fast-moving and competitive business environment. Research shows that organizations that choose not to make use of these techniques are likely to find themselves at a competitive disadvantage sooner or later.

“Big data” analytics –This area of technology has probably made more headlines than any other in the past 18

months or so. Big data solutions will increasingly going to be an integral part of the BI landscape, in

particular as more and more of the data of importance to business professionals will reside outside of existing

reporting and BI systems.

Cloud-based delivery models. –These delivery models help free up corporate resources to focus on more mission-critical activities, as well as potentially providing greater flexibility and agility in the face of changing requirements, and a reduced need for capital expenditure.

Do all of the above guarantee success?

Agility combined with right technology and a good strategy shall certainly bring business success.  However those are not the only factors – Culture plays a big role in any organization. An information culture is one in which information is considered a strategic asset and it’s part of how the company defines and differentiates itself.  It’s important to forge an information-driven culture that will maximize your return on investment in analytics.  Here is a link to a blog on culture by Laura Jamieson, which elaborates the importance of culture and how it can help execute on your strategy

How can you make information a crucial competitive differentiator in your organization? Read this whitepaper for suggestions on how innovative BI and Big Data technologies can make a difference to the success of your business.

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