This is a question that business people have been asking themselves for decades, maybe even centuries in one form or another. Since the term “business intelligence” was first coined in the nineteenth century, the term has taken on several meanings. However, for much longer than that, business interests with some risk have required some reconnaissance. Even now, Big Data is so big because it is the latest term in a long history of corporate planning. And the reason Big Data analysis is possible is because of cloud software and modern business intelligence collecting methods. Let’s break down the concept and then figure out whether you need business intelligence.
What exactly IS business intelligence?
Also called “descriptive analytics,” business intelligence is data collected from a whole organization and returned in a presentable, understandable format. For instance, say you need to monitor your supply chain to determine how to streamline the process. You don’t have the time or the personnel to tabulate the exact manufacture, pickup, transit, delivery, sign-off, and implementation aspects of every shipment. Business Intelligence software, or a business intelligence service, can take all the data from every shipment, aggregate it, check it against the parameters you set, and return information on which aspects of the supply chain are taking longer and whether that is a recurring or increasing issue.
Like almost any business software, like a CRM, CMS, or ECM, you get out of it what you put in. When you download iTunes, it doesn’t come with your songs pre-loaded. You need to tell the software how to index data according to your company’s variables. If different models of trucks are used depending on where the shipment is leaving from, you have to establish the models as the options of a single variable. And then, you need to enter information in at regular checkpoints. You can also have that information automatically pushed to the BI system via integrations with your existing mission critical apps.
We bring up Mission Critical Apps, because BI doesn’t do everything for you. Employees will still need a Customer Relationship Management solution to track their business prospects and an Enterprise Content Management System to securely store and access their documents. When looking further into Business Intelligence, keep in mind that its monitoring and reporting capabilities are seldom paired with actionable file capabilities.
Business Intelligence vs Business Analytics
It is easy to mix up these terms given how often corporate jargon can repurpose a specific word into a more vague or abstract term. While Business Intelligence produces a report of what has happened in the past and what is the current state of your company, Business Analytics refers to reporting on what will or could be the result of the current business plan. It’s a predictive software or service, examining trends and patterns to estimate the outcome. More and more business or finance majors are choosing to focus on predictive analytics as the demand for this skill rises.
It is possible to combine the benefits of both services or products: Using Business Intelligence to discover your company’s current strengths and weaknesses and Business Analytics to determine how they will affect your company down the road. Before diving in headfirst, though, is Business Intelligence the right approach for your organization? Will it solve the problems you have? What sort of software can improve your company’s processes once the reports are in?
How large is your organization?
Obviously, a Mom and Pop operation does not need business intelligence software to determine the state of their operations. Your local organic smoothie shop or three-person web design studio are not raking in enough numbers to parse them in an elaborate digital environment. However, even mid-sized businesses can benefit from what business intelligence provides. If you have enough employees or processes that you feel your operations are opaque or even a little murky, consulting with an expert or sales rep will give you an idea of whether your company could see more internal transparency with a BI overhaul.
Which processes can I improve with Business Intelligence?
Most Enterprise software is a blank slate out of the box. No matter what templates they provide, every company is different. You will have to establish how and when steps in a process are meant to take place, who is responsible for which steps, and what the ideal process looks like. Then, employees and supervisors will be responsible for checking in or logging events, volumes, and abnormalities. Some Business Intelligence software runs in the background, monitoring transactions or the movement of documents, but setup is still necessary for the solution to parse the data and deliver straightforward reports.
In short, which processes are open to intelligence tracking depends whether you’re using specialized BI software or more versatile, generalized software. The specialized kind will have more templates you can use and will automate hands-off data collection. But more versatile software, though requiring more setup, can be used by any department and for any process. It requires manual inputs, but paired with the right solutions, much of these processes can be automated by third party applications.
What can I do to improve weak points?
There is no substitute for the H in HR. Many weak points in office processes are the result of workers missing the big picture. It becomes necessary to approach them individually and go over methods for self-improvement and perhaps some personalized team building. However, in the majority of cases, log jams and delays come from outdated or overcomplicated practices. A common and effective solution is to automate these processes into workflows with notifications and audit trails. This way, the responsible parties always know what they have to get done and are held accountable for those tasks.
One such automated solution for your data and documents is Contentverse. It integrates with other systems, such as Salesforce and Microsoft products like Outlook. You can create workflows for any department, including steps for approval and/or note-taking and rejection. Email notifications ensure that employees are informed of new tasks immediately. All processes are tracked with auditing, and no documents are lost to misfiling or accidental deletion thanks to document indexing, tracking, and retention.
Business Intelligence can show mid- to large-sized businesses where they are going wrong, but it can’t always show you how to fix your company’s problems. The solution to your business process and content management questions can be answered by the right Enterprise Content Management solution. Contentverse streamlines business solutions of all shapes and sizes. So, even if you are a Mom and Pop, Contentverse can take over where Business Intelligence leaves off.