Embedded BI (Business Intelligence) is the latest buzz word for tech savvy business leaders. The interest in this concept isn’t just hype. There are many ways you can use embedded BI to enhance your business. For the purposes of this article, we’ll define the term as “Real-time reporting of transactional and operational data from business applications/processes that delivers insights to support smarter decision-making.”
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What are some of the types of reports you could access with embedded BI? What industries or departments can benefit from the use of these new tools? Let’s take a look at a few examples that may give you ideas for how to use this technology in your own business:
#1 Sell, Sell, Sell
One popular use for embedded BI is in the customer service and sales sphere. If a call center representative has a customer on the phone for any reason, they have an opportunity to cross sell that customer additional products and services. A new call center employee might go through a training session where they are taught which products/services to offer based on previous reports showing what customers are most likely to buy. That’s the old-fashioned way of passing on information. With embedded BI, each call center rep has access to live data showing what the customer currently on the phone is most likely to buy. This information is based on a comparison of their customer profile (demographic identifiers, past purchases, etc.) with other, similar customers.
Since the reporting is real-time, it automatically captures nuances that historical reporting can’t. For example, let’s say there was a major story in a Chicago newspaper that raised awareness about a certain issue for which your company has a solution among its family of products. This could greatly increase the chances that a customer in Chicago would make a decision to buy that solution within the following 2-3 days. Your company wouldn’t even have to be aware of why more Chicago-based customers are buying that particular product. Embedded BI would make the trend immediately apparent and allow you to jump on the opportunity to increase sales.
#2 Go Lean or Go Home
These days, businesses are relying more and more on lean manufacturing and just-in-time supply chain management principles. Operating this close to the wire can cut costs – but it also greatly increases the risk of having insufficient inventory. Sometimes, even getting an update on supply chain activity at the end of each day isn’t fast enough to support intelligent decision making. Embedded BI that features instant reporting from every node of the supply chain can help keep everything flowing smoothly. When this kind of BI becomes the norm, the greater transparency makes it easier for problems to be identified and corrected. For example, a retail manager could instantly see if there was a bottle-neck in logistics for their region for a specific product. They could also see instantly if another area location has an oversupply that could be diverted to cover the gap. Real time BI makes real time collaboration simpler.
#3 The Living Web
A particularly helpful aspect of embedded BI for large enterprises is the ability to coordinate activities across departments. Healthcare is an example of an industry where this is particularly relevant. The average hospital has a stream of workflows that are deeply dependent on one another. For example, if the sterilization department has an equipment malfunction in an autoclave, this could delay dozens of surgeries. When decision makers have access to reports that clearly show the real-time status of the web of interdependent and interconnected information, they can choose which course of action will lead to the least disruption. On a more advanced level, they may also be able to compare current events to past patterns and identify upcoming problems before they spiral out of control.
#4 Spend Human Capital Wisely
HR is another sector where embedded BI is becoming popular. In this context, it’s the ability to pull, compile, and interpret embedded BI data from multiple applications that’s most attractive. Such reporting could make it possible to manage labor resources effectively in time-critical situations. For example, some large firms have a sick call-in line where employees can report that they won’t be coming to work due to illness. Imagine the information from that line being combined with information from operations that listed the relative importance of the project or task scheduled for each employee that day. Along with that data, HR would also see which employees currently on-site have the skills required to handle each necessary task. This would allow for rapid re-deployment of labor within or across departments.
#5 Don’t Blink
Logistics is an obvious industry where real-time reporting is helpful for managing distribution. However, embedded BI is even more critical for safety and compliance purposes. Many companies already use embedded GPS data to keep tabs on drivers and make sure they don’t exceed the number of allowable hours of operation. That’s important for limiting fatigue-related accidents. But logging the number of hours a driver has been on the road is just scratching the surface of what’s possible. One firm in Australia (Optalert) actually creates special glasses for drivers to wear that track eye and eyelid movement to detect early signs of drowsiness. This information is reported to the logistics operations center so drivers can be instructed to get off the road and take a break. Obviously, this type of data collection is very industry specific. However, it highlights the fact that the uses for embedded BI are limited only by your imagination. What new devices could your industry use to collect critical data?