by September 3, 2012 0 comments



Snapshot

Applies to: IT Decision Makers of SMEs

USP: Know the essential factors to
keep in mind while looking for a
BI / BA solution.

Primary Links: Life After BI: The Next Big Thing – http://ld2.in/497

Search engine keywords: Business Intelligence, Business analytics, BI / BA.

Business Analytics is no longer a technology that only large enterprises can afford. Today, even SMEs can benefit from this technology, because, if done right, the deployment of BI / BA tools can potentially result in high RoI. There are tools and complete solutions available that can help SMEs analyze their business data and make more effective and timely business decisions. But how do SMEs decide which business analytics and intelligence tool is right for their business needs? What technologies should they already have as a pre-requisite? In what form should their data be to smoothly integrate such tools into their system?

Answering these questions can help decide upon the right business analytics and intelligence tool. In this article, we look at some essential factors that SMEs need to know before they choose a business intelligence/business analytics solution.

Sharda Motor Industries Ltd uses BI to achieve faster data integration and reporting for its 16 units, resulting in enhanced decision making capabilities

In a volatile automotive industry affected by fuel cost, to stay viable and drive growth requires business intelligence (BI). Informed and optimized decision-making are key for better business outcomes. An automotive parts supplier, Sharda Motor sought a solution that would support their rapid growth in a sustainable model. Since 1983, Sharda Motor Industries Ltd has been manufacturing exhaust systems, catalytic converters, independent front suspensions, seat frames, soft top canopies, etc. In 2003, after diversifying into Engineering Design and R & D services, they decided to upgrade financial and management reporting solution to meet the company’s future needs. In their existing model, reporting was static and inflexible and required a lot of manual intervention, especially when faced with explosive data from new facilities. The leadership lacked operational visibility and control, which was possible only through fast, sustainable corporate reporting and compliance. “Financial data for all the units was coming from Dynamics NAV ERP and some from Excel sheets and consolidation and reporting was done manually on Excel sheets.
There used to be multiple iterations on Excel sheets and keeping control over Excel sheets and reconciling numbers back with ERP was a tedious task. Data integration across units was cumbersome, time consuming, and error-prone,” elucidates Nitin Vishnoi, Financial Controller, Sharda Motor.
He further adds, “We needed a solution that combined functionality and ability to get finance and operational data for multiple business units spread over 16 units for management and statutory reporting on a single platform, without manual intervention.”

What has changed at Sharda
In their quest to find an ideal-fit technology application, Sharda Motor implemented IBM’s Cognos Express 9.5 with the help of Trident Information System. The implementation partner created a robust financial and management reporting solution for Sharda Motor. Combining the power to unify statutory and management financial reporting needs with the ability to blend corporate control, flexibility and ease of managing, the solution greatly reduced the effort in manually compiling data and significantly improved the turnaround time from Close-to-Report. It eliminated manual intervention for preparation of financial statements (balance sheets, profit & loss statements and schedules, etc), and any scope of errors during compiling and reporting.
What’s more, it improved reporting thereby making information available in a timely manner for better business decisions. The ability to create ad-hoc reports at user level increased employee productivity and performance as well. Empowered as it is today, Sharda Motor is able to transform insights into action as they are able to assemble relevant business information in a unified workspace with reports and dashboards; analyze it to make fact-based recommendations from the desktop, the web or from within Microsoft Excel; and act on findings with plans and forecasts.


An agreed and documented set of requirements

At the outset, it will be helpful to understand what differentiates business analytics from business intelligence, since both are meant to help your planning. Business analytics is more flexible than business intelligence. If you are looking for a BI tool, chances are that you will be using a pre-defined collection of parameters which you will use in analysing your past data. BA, on the other hand, allows you to be more flexible in terms of what methods and policies you follow while using essentially the same technologies and apps. This happens in a more frequent manner than BI. BI resembles more of typical database operations, where you query facts, whereas BA allows you to dig at a deeper level and model what-if scenarios as well as optimal outcomes.

With that distinction out of the way, you need to be very clear on what do you aim to do with your data. Do you want to generate typical reports that can describe what is going on at a glance ? Do you want to draw trends and recognise specific patterns or groups in your data ? Do you want to get estimates on what can happen next ? You need to fix your goal first. This is not to say that you can achieve only one of these objectives at a time though. Irrespective of your domain, BI / BA tools can be of immense use to you.

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Ready-to-use data

Once you have a well-defined goal, you need to ascertain whether the data at hand is suitable enough to base your decisions on. This is different from the technicalities of compatibility of your data and the tool which you plan to use. In general, the higher amount of data you have(till a reasonable threshold), the more reliable your results will be. This data of course should be intact and high-quality. You cannot perform what-if analysis to predict sales if you have available records of only 3 months distributed across the year. Having all the data in a ready-to-use form is no doubt a rigorous exercise, as much as is separating the relevant data from the irrelevant, but as far as your use of BI / BA tools are concerned, the investment will pay off at the end. This applies very well in case you want to perform targeted marketing of your products and services. This is not as daunting as it sounds, you do not necessarily need to have a full-blown data warehouse in order to benefit from BI/ BA tools. You need to strike a balance between using relatively scarce well-defined, structured data and more abundant, more useful (but less structured) data, because these two types of data have their characteristic merits and demerits for using in BI / BA applications.


Marketplace and regulatory awareness

Over the last few years, many vendors have launched their BI / BA offerings. Some of them offer a consolidated , integrated approach, whereas some are specialised to cater to a specific domain. If you want to get the very best returns from your investment, you may want to consider the feasibility of integrating different specialised solutions into your business and compare that against the benefits obtained by deploying a packaged, generalised solution in your organization. When you are dealing with massive amounts of data, you must keep in mind that not all of it needs to be available to everyone using the tool. When you deal with sensitive information, care must be taken to follow the laws and see how best your chosen solution complies with legal / auditing requirements that are applicable to your organization’s data.

Which factors are the most relevant to you? What are your plans to use BI / BA solutions ? Let us know at pcquest@cybermedia.co.in.

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