The Death of Business Intelligence

A Pragmatic Approach to ERP Implementation

Posted in Business Intelligence, ERP by errahseno on September 11, 2014

The implementation of an ERP system is certainly no walk in the park. It is complicated, expensive, and stressful. It requires months or years of rigorous planning, serious financial commitment, and sufficiency of manpower.

Failure of an ERP System implementation is probably one of the biggest and most expensive failure a business will ever encounter. Sky rocketing license costs, Consult costs, and internal hours dedicated to its planning and implementation are a few of the reasons why failing in this project is a big blow to the head of its proponents and across the organization.

While it is true that the technology behind the system must be smart, it should above all be easy to install, integrate, use, and maintain. The success of the Implementation does not solely rely on the technology bought. On the contrary, a huge portion of the ERP system´s implementation success lies in the people behind it.

Many businesses put the burden of implementation on the shoulders of the IT department and that is not entirely wrong. Implementation, of course, requires software installation, integration, and migration of data. More work to an already overworked team in many organizations.

Needless to say, implementing this system means digging up details which usually does not lie in the hands of senior management, but details that are held in the hands of the front liners. Implementing the system also means deciding which of the existing multiple processes will remain, which between two departments way of doing things is correct, and who will call the shots.

This line of thinking leads us to a reasonable conclusion that there must be a person high up the organization that should spearhead the project. Why so? Because it requires buy-in from a lot of managers in different departments, it requires the mediation among employees before they pull themselves out of the project and sabotage it, and someone needs to explain why things must be done. One person cannot do it by himself, of course, so this lobbyist must be supported by Project Leaders who shall help him/her oversee the implementation and communicate to all affected employees.

It also tells us that since the ERP system will ultimately result in labor cost savings and a more real-time intellectual process, employees must be assured that this implementation is not to get rid of them or to devalue the effort they have exerted through the years in improving the business. They need to understand it is to make better use of employee time so that they can rid themselves of mundane tasks. Employees need to understand that this change is not because they were doing something wrong all these years, but because there is a window for improvement that can be used to improve the business.

While it sounds like plain and simple common sense, many businesses underestimate the impact the people have on the success of this project. People normally resist to anything new and it is human nature to do just that, but like everything else, with proper communication and sincere team effort, a functioning ERP system in place can bring a breakthrough way of doing business.

Tagged with: , , , , ,

Big data opportunities for CFOs

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on November 27, 2013

Chief financial officers (CFOs) are at the heart of an organization’s operations. Holding the purse strings, everything done by the enterprise needs to come through them at some point.

This means a lot of control and oversight. But it also entails a huge volume of data that is relevant to the finance function. Monitoring, harvesting and assimilating this information is not an easy task, and one that CFOs recognise as a significant challenge.

Big data is seen as one of the major technology trends affecting the accounting profession, according to a recent report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). The global survey polled over 2,100 finance professionals from around the world.

Of the US respondents, 62 per cent said big data would be influential, compared with 91 per cent of Australian respondentsand only 47 per cent of respondents from Ireland. US participants also claimed big data will demand new skills, with 72 per cent responding that tools will be needed to support data modelling and analysis. Three-quarters (77 per cent) claimed they will need knowledge of data extraction tools to aid business intelligence.

US finance professionals seem a lot more clued up about big data than their British peers. Just 52 per cent of UK respondents said it would be impactful in the years ahead.

Whether in the US or the UK, however, it seems CFOs need to do more with big data, to understand it and harness it to their advantage.

Chris Gentle, head of research at Deloitte and a member of ACCA’s Accountancy Futures Academy, says accountants and financial professionals must be able to adapt to the changes created by big data. “The future will not be like the past, and we will all need to adapt,” he explains.

Raef Lawson, IMA vice president of research, adds: “US accountants and finance professionals are influential agents of change; they’re adept at using technology to advance their careers, their clients’ prospects and their own organizations.

“But they need to extend that influence to advising clients. Only 35 per cent of US respondents said they could influence their clients’ use of technology, compared to 80 per cent of respondents in Africa.”

Tagged with: , ,

The evolution of BI: Coming to the mainstream

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence, IT by neilwilson1984 on November 26, 2013

Business Intelligence (BI) software has traditionally been the tool of the rich – seen in many circles as the magic wand for enterprises that they merely need wave in order to get insights into themselves, their customers and the wider market.

But in an ever-changing marketplace that is becoming more and more competitive, are BI software providers having to change their approach?

According to one expert, the tide is indeed starting to turn, with BI starting to become the plaything of midsized companies looking to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.

Rick Robinson, writing for Midsize Insider, said the focus for BI providers has come through the advent of flexibility in the market and the growing need to make software more user freinly and accessible.

Findings from Gartner put sales of BI software in 2012 at some $13.1 billion worldwide, but with the demand starting to grow, how are companies starting to change what they offer to stay competitive?

The age of self service and bespoke packages

The rise of BI into the mainstream is facilitated in many ways by the increasing level of self service available in the sector, under which firms are able to choose what they need from their BI package rather than having to go the whole hog.

This rise of bespoke packages has made it much more affordable for many to get into the BI market, by letting them pick and choose things they want to focus on and discard elements that are really only of use for larger firms.

Input and output

In order to make BI more mainstream, the market has had to focus on the output. Companies using it want to know one thing – insights that will help them make important business decisions.

However, in the past it has been both hard to decipher things for those who are not perhaps IT trained or particularly tech savvy, and difficult to draw out the information required, which is the key area that the providers have had to focus on.

Mr Robinson said there is a need now more than ever to give flexible results pages that update in real time – more akin to Big Data – and that offers businesses the chance to simply pluck out the information they need without having to dig too deeply.

Affordability

One of the main problems that plagued many smaller and medium sized companies with the advent of BI was the fact that it was simply too expensive for them to implement in their operations.

However, the recent rise of a much more pick-and-choose nature in the sector has meant that it is now entirely possible for companies to choose elements of software to bring into their operation, which makes it not only simpler, but more affordable.

It saves companies from wasting large amounts of money on things they will not need, while still achieving the overall goal, and helps BI software reach a far greater number of users.

Big Data v BI: Where is the real winner?

Posted in Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on November 25, 2013

Big Data is a relatively new revolution in the business world, used to analyse the vast amount of data that is constantly being thrown into the laps of companies at a rate that far exceeds anything businesses themselves are able to deal with.

It sits, however, in competition with Business Intelligence, a slightly older tool that leaders across the world make use of in order to turn the data that companies collect about their clients, customers and markets into something of a useful business strategy through.

Many people believe that the advent of Big Data and its widescale uptake will bring about the end of Business Intelligence, but does this really need to be the case? According to some experts, the answer is no, because the two operate on very different levels.

Analyse what?

Analysis is the key word whether you are making use of Business Intelligence or Big Data, which brings about a raft of comparisons between the two, but when we look at what they are actually doing, they offer something of a contrast.

While BI focuses on looking at historic trends of customers and their behaviour in order to develop a future strategy. It is based on the way people buy things and the way certain demographics act.

On the other hand, Big Data is used in real time, allowing companies far less time to react to what they learn, but much more of an ability to simply put into action something that will change the way something is being done.

Hence, the two methods require a very different set of skills in terms of IT, but also a much changed range of attitudes and approaches, with BI staff today starting to be able to offer a much more in depth understanding of the business, according to Sandeep Sachdeva, vice president in the global business information practice at Sogeti.

“In retail big data makes possible just-in-time advertising and just-in-time couponing to attract customers as they walk into – or past – a store,” Mr Sachdeva said.

All about the user

In addition to simply having a different approach to the technology though, there is also an inherent desire to use both BI and Big Data in any company because of BI’s much more user-oriented interface. Whereas Big Data requires little more than having a computer churning out results based on masses and masses of information the human mind could never hope to process, BI still has somewhat of a need for an end user to carry out the analysis.

Mr Sachdeva said that in the current market, there is still a degree of mistrust in numbers crunched purely by machines, and this means there will always be a need for the skills that BI analysts possess.

This was a theory backed by Lauren Sager Weinstein, head of analytics at Transport for London (TfL), who said that even though the company would have a far more reliable set of results from crunching the numbers of millions of annual fares, this is still not seen as being as “good” a source of information as the results of analysing surveys both online and through face-to-face interactions.

Big Data: Not the be all and end all of business

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on November 19, 2013

Big Data has become something of a buzzword in the business world in the last few years, seen by many as something of a magic tool that can help them devise all-conquering strategies and give them a competitive advantage they could only dream of in the past.

However, it should not be seen as a wand that can just be waved to cure all problems and create the perfect operational structure, according to one leading voice in the use of the technology.

Speaking at the IAB’s Engage Event, Bryan Melmed, director of insights at Exponential, a company that promises “to turn ‘big data’ into advertising intelligence”, said that Big Data shouldn’t be viewed by anyone as the answer to all their prayers.

“Data is not going to solve every problem”. Data is only human, he said. “It’s touchy, so beware of putting your full faith and trust in big data.”

He said that one of the biggest problems comes when the technology used in the analysis of data on this massive scale comes into contact, there is always a degree of distortion, and it is here that most care must be taken to ensure that problems are kept to a minimum.

Mr Melmed described the notion as being “very messy”, adding: “This is where the human element comes in. Humans live in an analogue world, and when you’re dealing with analogue data, there is a signal-to-noise ratio – and the more you listen the more you get confused.”

But is this where one of the main strengths of Big Data comes in? The sheer amount of data that we handle when we are looking at Big Data almost defies human logic. We use it because it allows us to analyse far larger amounts of information than we ever have in the past, and it is this that develops all new strategies.

It almost forces leaders to abandon the way they have seen customers in the past, and instead look at aspects beyond the stereotypes.

While in the past we may have targetted products at the 18-25 year old sports fan, or the 30 year old mother, we can now look far deeper, ignore the previous ways of thinking and devise a strategy based on more than logic – it has brought about the age of true reason.

“Our brains are designed to create patterns and shortcuts, but that does a huge disservice to every single person we deal with, who is not easily summarised by 30 or so demographic characteristics,” Mr Melmed added.

The best tool, however, he concluded in his speech, is reality. It is important to know that it has limits to what it can achieve in reality.

“No, it’s not going to predict terrorist attacks before they happen,” said Melmed. “It’s not going to cure cancer. And we are not going to solve Wanamaker’s problem of figuring out how much of our advertising is wasted,” he quipped.

Once businesses recognise that there are limits to what Big Data can achieve though, it is possible to realise the true potential that it has to assist us in bringing a new dawn to how we advertise and who we target.

Tagged with: , ,