by February 4, 2007 0 comments



How do you get to the right business decisions, improve employee
accountability, track performance of your products and services, learn how to
make these better and increase overall performance within your enterprise? Very
simple. Through an average day, your business is accumulating tons of data
within its data warehouses. Business analytics lets you derive various kinds of
reports that allow you to get the benefits outlined above, based on this data.
The key pre-requisite to proper BA (business analytics) is the data that has
been collected and stored, because if you haven’t got the data, you cannot
analyze it. In this story, we will look at some of the key trends in BA.

What is it?
Take for example, analysis of the sales report for the purpose of finding out
the percentage growth in sales. Now that sounds trivial! If it were that
straight forward, why would organizations spend on such solutions? Moreover, why
would vendors spend to make their analytics products and solutions better? The
reason is that a simple analysis of annual sales report of an organization will
take it nowhere. The way business is done and the way things change in its
operating environment, requires an organization to know a lot more than that.
For example, how about knowing the growth in sales, region wise, product wise,
or even time period wise in quick time and accurately? Now even if that sounds
simple, consider the fact that your organization might have an ERP, a CRM and an
SCM from different vendors running on different platforms and saving information
in ways that are poles apart to say the least. What if you want to know
customers’ acceptance or rejection for a product over a region or over time,
and that how does the organization go about the management of that product line?
We believe by now you would have understood that we are talking about
complicated information retrieval on the fly and with a great degree of
accuracy.

Business analytics in itself is not a simple and singular activity. Your
organization will definitely be running on pre-defined processes, and the need
for process analytics might arise from time to time. For tracking your own
customer base, their likes and dislikes, you will require execution of customer
analysis which if further refined could also be regarding behavioral patterns.
The analysis could also be ‘targeted’ i.e. towards the evaluation a
particular parameter that is affecting the business. To put things on a
different genre, your analysis could be of historical data i.e. ‘backward
looking’ or of how things might turn out in case of introduction of any change
in process or strategy, or even a product i.e. ‘forward looking.’

Tools available
One can use both standalone BA software as well as tools that are a part of a
larger solution to achieve BA. Some years ago, BA used to be more often
available as a separate product that one needed to deploy and integrate with
existing software. Today, you will find bits of BA in your ERP, CRM, SCM, data
warehousing, data mining, spreadsheets, and even storage related products. You
will also find BA tools in applications that contain a variety of data or are
more commonly used (like your email software). Developer tools available from a
variety of sources allow businesses to develop (or get develop) custom
integrations that can pull in analyses from different but related BA tools and
present them on one convenient dashboard for the enterprise decision maker.

Tools that are available can be both generic to any kind of business as well
as specific to the particular vertical in which your business operates. For
instance, there are BA tools specific to the manufacturing industry. Although
one such tool may seem sufficient, one must also take into account what it will
help you analyze. For instance, would your chosen generic BA tool know about
problems and KPI (Key Performance Indicators) specific to the manufacturing
industry? Or if you are in the services sector, would the tool know to
differentiate between a ‘product’ and a ‘service’, which would have
different ramifications in different stages of analysis?

Key trends in BA
  • Verticalization of BA solutions (specific to industry vertical)
  • Better visualization and accessibility (through web front ends)
  • Becoming a part of larger solutions (like SCM)
  • Linkage with actions and measurement of effects (like ROI analysis)

The scene for BA is hotting up and a variety of vendors are now getting their
hands into the pie. HP got into the act as we were going to press by announcing
the creation of a separate BI unit. It recently acquired Knightsbridge Solutions
that’s a BI/warehousing/ integration vendor in the US and Western Europe. HP’s
new BI unit is expected to leverage this acquired expertise to perform ‘business
information optimization’. Microsoft’s SQL Server 2005 has Analytics
Services built into it as a module to help with analyzing data stored on its
databases in a variety of graphical web-based reports. Oracle’s BI Suite
integrates it’s ‘Answers’ product that lets you create ad-hoc queries and
reports. These reports are used by their other products like ‘Delivers’
(that does workflow monitoring) to present information as e-mail or through
mobile devices. Finally interactive dashboards present the data in a single
customizable format to the decision maker. Teradata, a unit of NCR, has
something called the ‘Value Analyzer’ that aims to help improve your
profitability. This product has a behavior based view of your customers’
value, including upto date as well as projected value. This includes cost of
goods sold to them, risks associated with that customer and expenses/revenue
associated with him.

Who’s in the game?
Well you can broadly classify vendors into two categories. The first comprises
those that provide complete end-to-end solutions that we have already talked
about. These are vendors that have their own platforms and products for
analytics and business intelligence alike. The second are solution providers
that implement them for their clients using the available set of platforms or
products. Well, as it is a diverse arena, it is not just either of them but both
that are in the thick of things. For example, Microsoft has integrated analytics
into SQL server 2007, named under package Analytics Services. As for the tools
arena, we have Business Objects with their line of products for analytics.
Similarly, solution providers also have implemented analytics projects. Talking
about clients, as organizations realize their needs of getting knowledge out of
information quickly and accurately, more and more have either adopted such
solutions or are planning to go for them. Currently, the banking sector is
already brimming with analytics and business intelligence, and so are
enterprises with huge repositories of data such as manufacturers, etc. In SMBs,
there are working projects, projects under implementation, those that use
warehouses to integrate data to those that use Excel tools for analytics.

In conclusion
It’s not just the size of your organization that you should look upon while
going for analytics solutions. The fact is that it is better to realize what way
you can best utilize the information that is so important for your business.
There are plenty of options available in the arena for you to choose. So go
ahead and grab an analytical solution of your choice for enhancing the
efficiency of your business.

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