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Current and accurate analytics with embedded BI

By Jason Tee

TheServerSide.com

We want our embedded BI right now!

There’s never before been a time when so many people can access so much information 24/7. The advent of the internet, followed by the introduction of mobile device technology, has put an unprecedented amount of data at our fingertips. We can instantaneously find answers to almost any question we can think to ask (and people ask some pretty weird questions). At the same time, much of the data that’s available becomes outdated almost as soon as it is posted online. With Wikipedia, that’s OK. No one really expects that site to be accurate, do they? 

But when it comes to running a business, the data you collect from internal or external applications or processes needs to be both current and accurate. After all, the strategic choices you make are only as good as the information you have on hand. Imagine how different history would have turned out if Napoleon Bonaparte had real-time access to weather reports before he decided to invade Russia! In the same way, your decision about how to allocate resources on a minute-by-minute basis can hinge on the quality of your business intelligence.

What is BI anyway?

At its simplest, business intelligence simply means relevant information pertaining to any aspect of your business that you can use to make smarter decisions. There are many ways to go about collecting this information. For example, you could bring in a consulting firm to carry out a survey of your employees to determine their level of engagement. Or, you could compile data from various reports to build a picture of activity in a specific area of operations (such as manufacturing) over a given period of time. These traditional forms of BI have one thing in common: by the time you get the data, it is telling you how things were rather than how things are. The reports you generate present a big picture of the history of whatever you’re looking at. However, they don’t give you a snapshot of the present. 

Automated (and customizable) data collection and reporting functions must be embedded into the transactional applications and operational processes in your business to deliver real-time business intelligence. That’s the role of embedded BI. Basically, it’s the view out of the front windshield of your car rather than the view in the rearview mirror. Real-time reporting lets you see what’s right in front of you – including current obstacles and opportunities. 

Three benefits of embedded BI

Here are just a few of the potential perks of using embedded BI for your business: 

Instant decision making: This is the most obvious benefit of real-time reporting and intelligence. Faster decision making improves your business in several ways:

It permits leaner supply chain management – you can afford to operate on razor-thin margins only when you know exactly where you stand at all times with your upstream providers and downstream retailers. There are still risks, but embedded BI can help mitigate these.

It reduces downtime when problems crop up – you know right away when something is going wrong (before it turns into a full-blown disaster). The longer you work with embedded BI, the better you will get at spotting problems and heading them off.

It promotes exploitation of short term opportunities – consumer trends today can change in days or hours rather than weeks. Early response made possible by embedded BI allows you to jump in early and ride an opportunity for profit to its peak rather than chasing an outgoing tide.

Better customer satisfaction: Sometimes, this entails giving your customers access to certain aspects of your embedded BI reporting. Amazon does this by recommending “customers who viewed this item also viewed…” when you are browsing products online. Another common example of embedded BI is a monitoring and notification system that tells customers the expected wait time for their call to be answered by a live representative. Customers may not like the estimate they get, but it does allow them to make a real-time decision about whether or not to continue holding. They’ll at least be grateful that you didn’t stick them in hold limbo where they have no idea if they are wasting 5 minutes or 45 minutes.

Intuitive use: One of the prime benefits of embedded BI for business users is that it is part and parcel of the application on which it is reporting. In other words, you don’t have to purchase, learn, or initiate another program to collect BI from the transactional application you want to monitor and analyze. Instead, the data collection and reporting functions are embedded in the application itself. If you already know how to navigate a specific business application, you are more likely to use its BI tools. If you’ve ever spent money on a fancy third party analytics program that no one ever uses because it’s too complicated and confusing, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of embedded BI. Using what you’ve paid for is the quickest way to get the promised ROI on your BI software investment.

With all these advantages to offer, it’s no wonder that business owners are clamoring for embedded BI right now! 

28 Jun 2012

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