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Evolution and transformation of Business Intelligence (BI)

In the midst of a technological revolution, Business Intelligence (BI) has evolved from a simple data analysis tool to a mechanism for business transformation. In its latest guise, BI has proven an invaluable tool for business, capable of improving:

  • Profitability
  • Performance
  • Operational excellence 
  • Customer relationships
  • Workforce effectiveness

Historically, BI utilised such systems as Information Builders, SAS, MicroStrategy, Informatica, QlikView, Cognos, Oracle Hyperion, Siebel, Sybase and Business Objects to collect and analyse the data used to generate customised reports for decision making. However, as BI was solely the province of IT, its scope was limited for practical application in a real-time business environment. 

The BI evolution

BI is now a major part of strategic business transformation, delivering capabilities that extend far beyond spreadsheets to provide an accurate picture of business and improve the effectiveness of decision making.

With the recent explosion of Big Data and intuitive BI tools, data is now far more accessible — allowing employees in every department to identify where revenue can be increased, and costs decreased. The ‘self-service’ aspect of BI means that non-technical staff can create personalised reports without technical assistance, further benefitting organisations by freeing up IT resource to focus on business critical tasks. 

Oracle, Microsoft and SAP are devising innovative business analytics initiatives to:

  • Improve customer engagement
  • Build better products
  • Track frauds
  • Equip employees with an understanding of Business Analytics to drive daily efficiency

With high performing companies 50% more likely to use analytical information strategically, the statistics speak for themselves[i]. But despite the knowledge that a BI strategy can equip employees with essential information at crucial junctures — allowing workers at every level to anticipate change and identify opportunities — only 14% of organisations utilise BI on a daily basis[i]

The combination of BI and advanced predictive analytics — a joint solution provided by SAP in the form of HANA and Business Objects BI Suite — is often preferred by high performing industry players; enabling them to implement, invest and innovate with greater ease.

A combined BI and analytic strategy can:

  • Increase revenue by 69% per employee when an understanding of business and technical requirements for BI is in place [i]
  • Decrease costs by 20% when multiple BI tools are consolidated into a standard portfolio [i]
  • Lower BI expenditures by 16% when a formal BI competency centre is in place [i]

However, 57% of companies don’t have BI program, 74% admit to having difficulty defining business requirements, and 17% are unsure about using BI; something that has affected their performance and decision making prowess, and compromised their competitive ability [i].

The above analysis also implies that organisations with a defined BI strategy will result in improved sales processes, better customer support, heightened competitive intelligence, and greater brand awareness. I believe that the right BI solutions help organisations to remain flexible, fluid and future proof while quickly adapting to changing market conditions, new regulations and current compliance. It is the strategic way of generating greater insight, achieve cost savings and deliever competitive advantage.

Hence, it is advisable for the businesses to have a clear BI strategy for gaining sustainability and profitability.

[i] SAP AG (2012) ‘Benefits of a Business Intelligence and Analytics Strategy’

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