The Death of Business Intelligence

Financial Consolidation software: The Binoculars of the Corporate World

Posted in Analytics, Business, Business Intelligence, IT, Mobile Business Intelligence by errahseno on March 18, 2014

The Chief financial officer and his team are bombarded with overflowing huge amounts of data every day. It is not a bank of data resources that is question rather a question of how well the team can convert all these data into valuable information able to run the business and drive maximized profit.

While it may seem fairly easy for smaller companies, this is not the same case for a bigger, widely distributed multinational company. The daunting tasks of having to collate the profit and loss reports from varying locations, to consolidate these reports, and contrast it against the corporate budget is just a bird´s eye view of what they have to battle with.

Imagine what it feels like for these teams during month-end reporting. Just moving the entries from being just operational to now analytic is a challenge by itself. As if the challenge is not enough imagine reconciling the ledgers.

Without any doubt, the system of guessing and crossing fingers just cannot do the trick anymore if the company wants to stay afloat in the industry and even more so, if the company has high ambitions of aggressive corporate growth. The home-grown make-do financial systems of companies which used to suffice cannot even be relied on anymore.

There needs to be improved visibility on what drives the inflow of money for the company and what drives its losses. There needs to be an improved ability to see where the money should go and where it should not. A tool which can be used to have a closer look at the real numbers, turn these numbers into analytic information, and these information into concrete business decisions.

Does my tool help me see things clearly?

There are disparate notions about what makes up good financial software but when searching for a new financial consolidation tool, there are certain things that are non-negotiable. Here are 3 of the most important features, you need to look for:

1.       User-friendliness

This is always an overly claimed and promised feature by many software-providers but very few of the choices of software out there actually are. In choosing financial consolidation software, people tend to forget that ease in setting it up and maintaining the tool is just as important as what it can do. The tool must be easy enough for the team to be handled but robust enough for the tool to handle all of the demands of consolidation.

2.       Intelligent, Real-time Functionality

Can your tool keep up with the modern complexity of your corporate structures and hierarchies while making sure it can handle varying currencies and several account policies? Is it intelligent and quick enough to allow you to view certain financial impacts of certain types of changes in the organization? Can it keep up with the dynamism of your business? Do you have instant access to transaction systems?

3.       Rigid Control

The integrity of the numbers you produce in the end is the most important factor you must consider. Does your financial consolidation tool provide you features that ensure the process is tightly regulated minimizing risks? Do you get reasonable numbers out of it?

If you are not convinced by the tool you are using or the tool you are considering, it sounds logical and reasonable to reassess your options, think about your predefined financial structures and goals, and how this tool can leverage you towards fulfilling those goals. The financial software consolidation tool is after all, your binoculars to the future.

The biggest BI trends in 2014

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence, IT, Mobile BI, Mobile Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on January 14, 2014

This year could be a good one for business intelligence (BI), with companies across the sector looking to grow as businesses in other industries do.

But with this in mind, what will be the biggest trends and differences in 2014?

The rise of the decision maker

According to many experts, this will be the year when the BI market finally moves away from being one that is primarily IT-centric and becomes a lot more user friendly.

Over the past few years, IT professionals have created, used and produced the reports that are associated with the software, but there are now more companies looking to get involved at the ownership level so they get a feel for what they are using.

This will mean that BI becomes more user-friendly and usable throughout the year, as opposed to being the very technical solution that is has often been criticised as being in the past.

BI in the cloud

With the fast-paced way modern business has developed over the past few years, one of the biggest trends that has emerged has been that of cloud storage. Now BI and the cloud be set to merge throughout 2014.

The cloud allows companies to store data and software without needing physical hard drives, making it cheaper and more convenient, and this is something that BI firms will need to capitalize on.

In addition to this, companies will also be able to share data between different offices within their firm, allowing for better collaboration and a smoother operation, another thing BI can become involved with.

Mobile data

Mobile solutions are now one of the most important developments in any BI strategy. It has become more vital than ever, given that people can work on mobiles when they are away from the office, on transport or even at home.

This, of course, means that they will need access to BI while they are doing so, so having the solutions and software available to them on their devices will be vital to ensure that they are always connected and able to do their job to its fullest.

It’s important that BI companies provide this as well to make sure they can maximise their potential revenue streams in the new year.

Self service/bespoke solutions

This is a trend that has already been quite prevalent in BI over the past few years, but it is set to become even more so in the next few months as companies start to grow.

Risk aversion will be a thing of the past in 2014 as more and more firms instead look to grow and expand rather than shirking away, but this will not mean reckless spending. They will still look to buy software that allows them to pick and choose the most relevant functions for them and gets them the best price.

This means that 2014 will be another year in which self service and bespoke BI is important.

Analytics ‘key driver’ for mobile adoption

Posted in Analytics, Business Intelligence, IT, Mobile, Mobile BI, Mobile Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on December 10, 2013

Speed and better analytics are proving the key drivers for global mobile adoption. That’s according to an IBM study showing 90 per cent oforganizations around the world are willing to sustain or increase investment in mobile technology over the next year to 18 months.

A key reason for upping spend on this sector is the measurable impact on speed and productivity. Half of the respondents in the poll, for example, reported a ten per cent gain in employee productivity as a result of mobile efforts.

The survey looked at the business advantages of using mobile technologies for business intelligence, including the way it “fundamentally” changes how organizations interact with customers, and develop and deliver innovative products and services to market. In particular it identified so-called mobile strategy leaders who have a clear direction for their efforts in this sector.

Data and analytics was a key difference between this subset and others. Seventy per cent or more of leaders surveyed describe themselves as effective in areas such as addressing structured and unstructured mobile data, handling large volumes of data, analyzing mobile data and taking action based on that data. Under 37 per cent of non-leaders said they are equipped to deal with these issues.

Integration is another area where there is a clear difference. Again around seven in ten of mobile leaders indicate they have been successful in ensuring interoperability with other systems, leveraging APIs for external or cloud-provided data services, and providing service-oriented architecture and sharing information among systems/devices. On the other hand, only around 40 per cent of non-leaders report being successful with these tasks.

“Today, mobile is quickly emerging as a transformational game changer in business that will drive new levels of innovation and interactions,” said Kevin Custis, social business and mobile practices leader at IBM. “It is far too limiting to define mobility simply as a device or a channel for transactions. The organizations that come out ahead will be the ones that prioritize mobile and redefine its use to drive a new set of business expectations and user experiences.”

Not all business intelligence solutions are created equal

Posted in Analytics, Business Intelligence, Mobile BI, Mobile Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on September 26, 2013

Not all mobile analytics / business intelligence (BI) solutions are created equal. There are, explains Andrew Borg, research director at Aberdeen Group’s Enterprise Mobility & Collaboration practice, two fundamental approaches, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

The first is platform specific or ‘native’ mobile BI apps, able to exploit the hardware and user interface capabilities of the specific mobile device. On the other hand we have browser-based approaches that will work on any platform, but typically have more limited functionality. The functional differences in these two approaches can directly impact the outcome of the organization’s mobile analytics initiative, says Borg in a new report on the topic.

Timely access

The capabilities of HTML5-based web apps are advancing “rapidly”, says Borg, with many similarities to native apps such as graphical, touch-based interfaces, limited device control and local storage data. However, there is scope for native apps to be more responsive, interactive and capable because they can exploit the device hardware and operating system more fully.

“For example, native apps can have more robust local data storage and synchronization capabilities, can directly access a wide variety of device hardware such as cameras or other sensors – and if designed properly, can have full functionality even when offline,” explains Borg.

Research by the group shows little difference between the capability of natives apps and browser-based approaches to delivery of timely information. But when it comes to improving year-over-year, natives apps show a much greater capacity to improve.

Organizations that use native apps as the primary method for accessing mobile business intelligence are more likely to benefit from a richer set of capabilities, including real-time data feeds, automated alerts as well as the ability to annotate, collaborate and share.

“These capabilities can help workers find the information they need, exactly when they need it,” says Borg. Drill-down is another capability offered by native apps. This enables the end-user to quickly and easily navigate from summary information initially presented on their mobile device to more detailed data.

For example, a field sales executive can get hold of vital data on a customer’s orders quickly. “For the sales rep meeting with a disgruntled customer, having the information at their fingertips is priceless,” says Borg.

Tracking benefits

Borg points out that the use of native applications for mobile analytics often requires a bit more forethought and planning than a browser-based approach. Organizations that already use browser-based BI on laptops, for example, can immediately use the same apps with any mobile browser, even if they are not yet optimized for mobile access.

“From a management perspective, the use of native mobile BI apps does add some relative complexity,” notes Borg. Decisions must be made: tablets or smartphones? Apple, Google or Microsoft? The browser-based approach is considerably easier; as Borg points out just “open up your mobile browser, and deploy”.

But native apps seem to go hand in hand with greater measurement. Organizations which take the native mobile BI approach are 53 per cent more likely than companies using a browser interface to measure the productivity of mobile employees, and 52 per cent more likely to return on investment on their mobile analytics projects.

For Borg, organizations need to weigh up the pros and cons of each. Neither is perfect, meaning businesses must carefully decide which platform works best for them.

Mobile BI

Mobile apps are easy to use, easy to share and easy to discard. But does this ease of use conflict with enterprise security goals?

We live in an app world

There is no denying that we live in a world where we can get an app for almost anything, pizza delivery, movie times and even medical advice. These apps are great because we can remain relatively anonymous as we use them and if we get tired of them, we can delete them and if we lose our phones, we can re-download them. They almost never contain our private information and we feel safe using them on public wi-fi systems and on mobile networks. But what would happen if mobile applications started containing personal or privileged information? Would be be so ready to use them?

Anything you can do, I can do too

You can do almost everything on a mobile device, so the natural progression of business intelligence was mobile business intelligence. The wave of 2011 has been getting business applications, including business intelligence on to mobile devices such as iPads. These devices are great because they are pretty powerful and allow users to do cool things without being tied to their computers. So naturally, you might consider getting a mobile BI app, to extend your current in-house BI system.

But I would be cautious about doing that. Unlike desktop computers which have a tendency to be hard-to-steal or lose, mobile phones are lost at an alarming rate, 113 phones are lost every minute in the US alone. Imagine what would happen if one of those mobiles had an application on it with your firms data held in your mobile BI application’s cache? How much would your data be worth?

Browser Based BI

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for Mobile BI. I think it will revolutionize the way individuals, who are not always at their desks, like CEOs, Sales, Hospitality and Healthcare employees work. What I do think is there has to be a way to deal with these security issues. And interesting idea coming out of a software company called DSPanel is the idea of browser based mobile BI. What this means is all BI is accessible through the devices browser, by sending links to the dashboard, scorecard, or report. These items are then consumed and manipulated with the same functionality as a native app. If a mobile device is lost or stolen, the created mobile dashboard is simply deactivated by the creator and the link changed so it can still be accessed by users. This means business data remains secure and users get to enjoy the freedom mobile devices give them.

Can SAP & Sybase together meet the expectations of mobile users?

The race is on to get everything you can do on your computer on your mobile device, especially business intelligence. But, are companies looking at what users want from mobile BI or are they pursuing the goal for the sake of it?

Mobile Computing

The hot topic in computing right now is mobile computing. The race is on to get everything you can do on your computer on your mobile device. Everything can be brought to a mobile device, or so we are meant to believe. The SAP and Sybase merger announced last week as all about the mobile functionality and bringing data to users wherever they are. While there are multiple unanswered questions in this merger that other bloggers have dealt with, no one seems to be addressing the key that opens the lock box of a mobile data user’s happiness, quick communication. The method of delivery, the application, the functionality, has to be so smooth that my finger can move the information around and have so few chains attached to it that my mobile browser and more importantly any mobile connection has to be able to handle it.

A Certain Fondness for SAP

Now I have fond memories of trying to dig out relevant bits of information using SAP. At the best of times I was able to take multiple coffee breaks waiting for my final results. The process was complicated, long and arduous at the best of times. While I enjoyed the time getting a coffee, I’m not sure how I feel about starting into my mobile phone waiting for the information I need to appear. Also, what happens if I get a call, the connection will cut out and then will I have to start the query all over again?

I don’t know how a SAP business solution will look on a mobile device. The merger just happened, and after some of the comments I have heard from SAP executives, I wonder if anyone at SAP really knows. But what I know is that in order for me to want to use any analytics software on a mobile device the software had better ensure that what is happening at the backend of the system doesn’t interfere with what’s happening on the front end. The time to value on a mobile device has to be almost instantaneous. If I have to wait around, staring into my mobile phone like I have had to do on my computer, you better believe I won’t bother.

Gathering and processing data needs to not only be fast but it has to be easy. The number of steps from query to answer should be minimal. If I need to access multiple systems and make cross dimensional queries from a mobile, the platform needs to also be able to do that simply and easily.

Mobile BI can work

But that’s not to say I haven’t seen some great BI applications on a mobile device. Performance Canvas mobile BI server for instance offers users the ability to view dashboards, mashboards and scorecards from any web enabled mobile device. I tried their free online demo and I surprised with how quickly I was able to manipulate data in dashboard. Mobile BI does exist and it can be quick and easy, so I do have hope.

We know business users need to access information on-the-go, its what made Blackberry so popular. Is the SAP/Sybase merger going to make this happen? We are all waiting in anticipation to see.