2014 is a big year in analytics; all companies should now be asking the question
‘How can we become an analytics-driven company?’
Written by David Ricketts Head of Marketing C24
There are challenges for companies of all sizes that are trying to embrace this philosophy, especially when the pressure to make more accurate and timely decisions has never been greater. This paper highlights some working ideas and how adopting new technologies can drive real value not only financially but also in terms competitive advantage, agility and the ability to spot trends and opportunities.
Experience suggests that analytics should start with questions, and these questions should not be created by single individuals within the Enterprise c-suite, but by people at all points within the organisation. The leading organisations are creating processes within their businesses to deliver data and transparency to all, like the personnel who are client facing every day with little more than a spread-sheet and their intrinsic knowledge to support them.
In every company there are potentially 100’s of questions that if answered could change the performance and efficiency of the businesses significantly. If information was available to users in an easy to digest format, free from error and was specific to their job function, performance would undoubtedly improve. Balancing data with job instincts will drive real value.
These shouldn’t just be the traditional strategic C-suite questions, but should be more tactical questions that front line staff needs answering. We recently deployed a solution into a major retailer and one answer to a tactical question gave them an ROI within two weeks of deployment. What was it? A simple question based around epos tills that no one had even contemplated two weeks before. Why? The ability to get the information easily and in a timely fashion just wasn’t available.
Most business intelligence and analytics deployments are based around answering strategic questions; mainly due to costs and trying to deliver a big bang. What we have found is that the small incremental wins are where the true value for the enterprise lies, bottom up wins not top down blue sky thinking. In a recent study 70% of organisations that deployed analytics within their organisations reported faster decision making, decreased risks and improved financial performance and surprisingly 20% categorised big data as an asset on their balance sheet.
It is totally understandable why companies focus on trying to deliver the big idea. Costs for solutions are excessive, licences are too expensive to give everybody access and the time for implementations can run into years. So the senior managers look for significant business impact, the problem, big thinking, not tactical small quick wins. Ironically, the successful implementations of Business Intelligence are seen when the wider business adopts the technologies.
The ability to democratise analytics, data visualisation and on the fly reporting will be key for most companies to drive innovation, turnover and overall growth. The challenge however, is delivering all these with available technologies that have their histories in the 1970’s and were not developed to address the analysis of multiple data silos and data that has grown exponentially year on year.
Enter the new analytics tools, agile built for today’s businesses that address the complexity of the IT landscapes that all companies have. These technologies are innovative and ironically usually not from major vendors, as size does have a tendency to stifle innovation around new technology development.
Think about how business people at all levels could create value daily by using agile analytics that provides context to their everyday activity. Decisions that could be more strategic on tactical matters, data delivered using visualisation instead of 100’s of lines on a spread-sheet. Think about answering a call to a client knowing straight away that they are a top 5 client who has spent £200,000 with your organisation in the last two months, straight away being able to prioritise them. The time to act now.
The next twenty years will see all organisations adopt similar types of technology to add value and differentiate themselves. However, buying into this technology in 5 years could be too late; the ship could have sailed. Visionary organisations need to adopt now, grow, develop, understand and deliver real value otherwise they will be playing catch-up or at best have competitive parity with the competition; the major opportunity will have been lost.
Ideas that can drive real value:
• Adopt a technology that delivers value. Some can cost £100,000’s and are too complex, time consuming and have significant on-going cost. There are some innovative solutions available that add value from the outset, are cost effective and will allow front line tactical decision makers access to what they need. Business Intelligence to the desktop delivers real potential by empowering the larger workforce.
• Ask the right questions. Get a cross section of people in the organisation into a room and ask them what they would really like to know. Avoid massive projects that could take years to see any value; drive the innovation from the user, the buy-in and returns from them should be instant. Try to answer very specific questions with high quality data; this can be repeatable and shared across the company. These quick wins will enable the technology to add value to all aspects of the business.
• Technology stack. The chosen solution should be light, integrate easily into multiple data silos, reduce reporting overheads and most importantly be licenced to benefit all. There are numerous pitfalls here but these four areas provide a good starting point.
• Push for simplicity. This is in terms of the architecture and user experience. Cost and complexity will stop the adoption and on-going use quickly. End users are looking for a solution that at the very most is as complex as Microsoft Excel; sometimes significantly less. Do not layer too much complexity onto users who already have a job to do.
• Standardise processes. Getting the right information to the right people and driving simplicity should start to underpin standardise reporting. Standardisation is good; however it is always important to have flexibility especially in the drive for innovation.
• Self-sufficiency. It is very important for you as a business to adopt and build on the chosen solution yourself. Reflecting on simplicity you need to be able to be self-sufficient quickly, thus removing on-going costs from the vendor.
• One size does not fit all. Don’t let vendors try and fit their solution around your requirements. Integration is important and flexibility and self-sufficiency are sometimes important elements that are overlooked.
• Focus on the real issues, not the red herrings. New technologies and concepts although important can trivialise the real struggle. Most users don’t care about the underlying technology, the language is irrelevant, they have a job to do and they need simplicity. Therefore, don’t allow your organisation to get caught up in the nonsensical narratives fuelled by industry press.
• The cloud could matter. Some vendors will allow you to benefit from cloud infrastructures where leveraging hosted, multi-tenant and highly optimised infrastructures can be more cost-efficient and effective. Some clients do feel however that important, potentially sensitive business data should be kept within the business. It is important to recognise that some vendors do offer hybrid solutions so you could benefit from both worlds.
Businesses need to empower their employees at all levels helping them to perform their roles more effectively. Next generation business intelligence, data visualisation and on the fly report generation can create instant value and drive revenue for all businesses.
These technologies can be adopted quickly, with most forward thinking organisations already in some way engaged. The opportunity to learn and understand is here, and the prizes could be enormous. The recommendations “engage with an innovative vendor, work with front line staff, think small wins and start the process, your competition are”.