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.

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Big Data: Not the creepy entity after all

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on February 4, 2014

Big Data is a concept that has become more prevalent in recent years, as it has moved more and more into mainstream businesses and their decision-making for targeting customers and analysing sales and buying patterns.

However, the sheer magnitude of what is being analysed by firms has left the sector in a weird position. Many people see BI as being something of a creepy entity – a Big Brother style spying tool that companies use in order to ascertain what we buy and when.

But is it really as weird as it is made out to be? According to one expert, it is not the case. Big Data is essential to the strategies of companies now, allowing them to analyse more information than humans ever could through IT strategies to help them target ads and sales at certain groups of people.

Paddy Nixon, vice chancellor (research) at the University of Tasmania, said it is about even more than this though. He said that there are a number of different factors that show Big Data has big implications – driving economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Development

Mr Nixon said that Big Data allows for a more sustainable level of development in regards to businesses, as it allows the studying of the relationships between different groups. By looking at the different interactions between customers, companies, economies and the government.

He said it allows for companies to look at unknown patterns in the relationship between them and their customers, making for a more targeted and sustained growth of their business model than would have been possible by old strategies, under which they would not have been able to see certain trends and patterns.

How to make Big Data less creepy

One of the biggest factors that makes Big Data seem creepy, according to Mr Nixon, is the fact that people are not able to see how their data is used. All they know is that things they do are being analysed, but not how, why or even if their information is being kept and stored.

This is one thing that they can look at if they are trying to make their operation less creepy. Simply offering a little bit more transparency can let customers feel a little more at ease with regards to how their information is being used by companies.

Another strategy is to look at the way consent is achieved. In many cases, customers will be looking at a situation where they are simply giving consent by buying from a certain business, but this should be eradicated if professionals want Big Data to look less creepy.

It doesn’t take much to allow customers to give consent to having their data used, and it can make a big difference in trust.

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.”

Big data drives software spending

Posted in Analytics, Business, Business Intelligence, IT by neilwilson1984 on December 4, 2013

Companies are devoting more resources to business intelligence, upping their investment in big data and analytics.

According to latest figures from International Data Corporation (IDC), year-over-year growth in the worldwide software market for 2013 has been revised down to 4.3 per cent.

However, spending on BI solutions will hold up over the coming years, the firm’s Worldwide Semiannual Software Tracker indicates.

Collaborative applications along with structured data management software and data access, analysis and delivery solutions are expected to show the strongest growth over the five-year forecast period. The sector will grow by eight per cent between 2012-2017 as companies up their invest in this key part of their operations.

“Leveraging the social dimensions of the Internet keeps fueling the collaboration growth, much of which is in the form of software as a service. This is complementary to the increased attention to big data and analytics solutions, which help enterprises to understand and act on anticipated customer behaviorand provide new insights into product reliability and maintenance,” said Henry Morris, senior vice president for Worldwide Software, Services, and Executive Advisory Research.

Enterprise applications such as CRM, ERM, SCM, and operations and manufacturing applications will grow by around six per cent.

“Enterprises are starting to implement applications that either didn’t exist or weren’t needed in the past, such as commerce applications in all industries, not just retail, but also manufacturing, hospitality, food and beverage, and even the public sector,” said Christine Dover, research director, Enterprise Applications and Digital Commerce.

The report also shows IDC is beginning to see applications in categories that didn’t exist in the past, such as subscription billing, spend optimization, and revenue management. Often these are used for requirements that may have previously been met using custom applications or manual processes, explained Ms Dover.

The findings come after a separate study found that BI and analytics software professionals overwhelmingly prefer a cloud-based BI solution over conventional, on-premise installed software for gaining access to the real-time business data they need to make better decisions, according to a new report.

Cloud BI user satisfaction tops 80 per cent, said the report from Dimensional Research.

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.”

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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.

Trial and error: The creation of effective BI strategies

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on November 21, 2013

Business Intelligence is all about turning the data that companies collect about their clients, customers and markets into something of a useful business strategy through a series of theories, methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies.

It is something that a number of companies around the world have bought into in recent years, thanks to the promises that it can help to develop all new business strategies and allows leaders to see insights that might never have been evident before its inception.

However, according to one company, the key to making the most of this is to develop a flawless strategy for its use, something that it says takes time and great care, as well as a level of trial and error, to achieve.

The most common problems

In order to develop the perfect strategy for the use of BI, you need to realise what the most common pitfalls of the technology are in order that you do not fall victim to these.

According to Matillion, the main issue that leads to problems with BI strategies is the fact that people will put their focus on not only the wrong elements, but also in the wrong order.

It said the very best strategies are focused, benefit-led, and affordable.

Another issue that can rear its head in the use of this technology is that some companies will fail to adapt.

BI is a relatively new technology, and as a result it is always adapting and changing to meet demands and make the most of raw data available. The use of BI now is different to how it was ten years ago, and vastly different to how it will be in ten years, and a failure to realise this can be one of the biggest hurdles.

Getting the right people

This applies partially to the last of the main problems that can come to the fore in the use of BI.

Many firms will make the mistake of not putting enough money into this part of their operation because they are as yet convinced. A lack of anecdotal evidence on the promised returns on investment makes them nervous, and stops them from spending all out on its implementation.

However, by putting money into hiring the right people who know how to make it work, and more importantly how to move with the times, who can focus all of their time to the task, they will have a much improved chance of success.

Always stay affordable

One of the biggest failures of BI, according to Matillion, is the fact that companies will abandon dreamed up strategies if it looks like they may not get out of it what they dreamed.

Some will devise wonderful and long winded approaches to the use of the technology, but do so without checking they can afford to follow through.

It is important then to keep checking strategies throughout the process so you don’t find you have wasted time and money on something you can’t even use in the long run.

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.

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IT leaders believe in the future of big data, but barriers remain

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on October 24, 2013

UK firms are increasingly coming to see the benefits of big data as a part of their operation, with 75 per cent now saying it will have a role to play in improving their operation.

Results from a survey carried out by EMC showed that three-quarters of decision makers feel positive about the use of big data – which allows them to analyse large amounts of information to make better informed business decisions.

However, despite the positive sentiment from those in the IT sector, there is still a degree of reluctance in the UK to take on the technology.

Some 32 per cent of businesses surveyed said they have no current plans to implement its use, with 48 per cent stating the main barrier to their uptake is the fact there is a lack of solid anecdotal evidence showing the impact it can have.

This is in spite of the fact that many still have a clear idea of what they either expect or believe the technology can have to offer them.

Of those surveyed, 37 per cent said they believed it could help them mitigate against the risk of cyber attacks, while another 37 per cent said it had the potential to allow them to make “transformative” decisions that will make big changes to their operation.

Another 21 per cent focused on the sort of specific important choices it can help business leaders make, with an eye on keeping themselves ahead of the competition.

With so many stating the benefits then, and three-quarters believing it has such an ability to transform the way they operate, why are so many reluctant to do so?

It appears that the main reason is financial. With big data still essentially in its infancy, and so many firms looking to remain low risk in terms of financial hardship – the UK is still slowly recovering economically from the financial crisis that struck the market in 2009 – taking a chance on what many see as an unproven entity is still worrying.

With more than a third citing a lack of evidence of return on investment as one of their biggest concerns, perhaps the onus is on companies creating big data software to provide case studies and examples of the specific ways companies can benefit.

There are other issues that need to be overcome for firms looking to make use of big data as well, however, with one of the main hurdles being the lack of skilled analysts ready to step into roles.

A recent study published by Gartner, for example, stated that the worldwide IT market will face a 75 per cent shortfall in the number of people required in these roles over the next few years.

Tesco, which is one of the biggest IT recruiters in the country, also highlighted this point. It said that even though it currently faces relatively few issues with finding people for such roles, were the uptick in big data demand to continue, there could be a considerable shortage in suitable applicants.

Data critical to ERP in manufacturing

Posted in Business by TheLondonEconomic on September 12, 2013

 

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a vital function for firms in the manufacturing sector. But manufacturers need to be agile and able to respond to situations quickly, making a lack of information a problem.

Over one-third (38 per cent) of manufacturers surveyed by Aberdeen Group for a recent report cited a lack of timely information as their top business driver for ERP. “If employees are unable to access data when they need it for decision-making, organisations can miss out on opportunities (such as favourable prices for materials),or be slow to react to adverse events (such as products that need to be recalled),” the report’s author, Nick Castellina, states. “The costs to the organisation can be substantial.”

The report also highlights how ERP can serve as a “hub” for collaboration, containing records of conversation and facilitating communication between employees. Best-in-class organisation are more likely to utilise ERP to facilitate communication, collaboration, and continuous improvement, it reveals.

They are also more likely to provide their employees with access to the data they need to make decisions. According to the study, 77 per cent of best-in-class organisations are able to view summaries that can then be drilled down in order to understand past performance and the status of processes across the organisation. “For example, project-based manufacturers can track costs that will help them steer projects away from scope creep and going over budget,” says Castellina.

However, it is not enough to simply have all of this data available to employees. Since agile reactions are needed in today’s manufacturing environment, best-in-class firms more likely than others to aid their employees with automatic notifications. In addition, to continuously monitor performance against goals, 70 per cent of the best performers have the ability to create variance reports.

Again we see how business intelligence is giving firms a competitive edge. Thirty-eight per cent of best-in-class organisations have a fully integrated view of all customer information. “This is necessary for understanding customer requirements, shipping orders more quickly, and responding to service requests,” says the report, noting that this can be a key differentiator that separates manufacturers from their competition. Castellina adds: “This is just one of the ways in which visibility can help an organisation to perform more effectively. But what technologies can be utilized to provide the above capabilities?”

According to the study, what matters is creating a ‘one-stop-shop’ for data. Top performers have tailored their business systems to best serve their needs. Since collaboration and visibility are critical to manufacturers, it is logical that their “operational backbone” serves those needs specifically, the report says.

Leading organisations are 80 per cent more likely than the rest to have integrated business systems serve as a complete system of record. Best in class organisation are also more likely to integrate business intelligence into ERP.

“This means that employees can find all of the data they need in one place. If it’s easy to find, then employees will be more likely to use it,” says Castellina.