Improving Operational Efficiency Through Access To Business Intelligence

by Monish Gakhar, IT Head, GEMS

The acceptance of advanced BI tools is low; more companies would be going for them once they are clear on the requirement. It is not necessary for the information to only be analyzed using the available BI software. One can use spreadsheets to pivot and graph as well.

For the Usage and Implementation of BI, We Segregate Users into the Following Categories:

1. Requirement is not clear and work with lots of reports from the existing software. The information is in functional silos.

2. Requirement of information is clear, but need help in visualization and interlinking across functions and graphs.

3. The existing users of spreadsheets or BI tools have sorted out the visualization challenges and linked information across the organization thus breaking down the silos.

4. Have been able to securely decentralize the access to information using BI software.

Irrespective of the tools we use, making sense of data has some challenges which have to be taken care of overtime for a successful implementation.  Getting intelligence from information is a mix of what we want to measure, how we want to measure, what we want to track then find out root causes, measure the contribution of the root causes etc.   Using Pareto’s principle and spreadsheet pivoting is a good point to start on this path.

The real intelligence is in defining the requirements. If we are not clear on that, no tool can help, and it becomes a costly, long and painful exercise.

Other challenges are clean data, a central database, user training and user re-training. Users must be encouraged to play with the various information combinations and discover links, patterns, contributing factors. The more they delve into data, the more they will discover and ask for more.

Advantages

The advantages of implementing Business Intelligence tools are tremendous.

• The senior management gets to see dashboards and the health of the company across key parameters.

• The middle management gets valuable and actionable information on their fingertips.

• We can have information across departments linked together to break away from information silos and provide faster information to decision makers.

• We can see trends across years & top problematic areas for all measurable parameters.

• Contributing factors can be analyzed and bottlenecks can be identified.

• Improvements can be measured after actions taken to improve the problematic areas and can be compared with previous times.

• Real-time information on customer preferences can help fine tune marketing, product development and launch strategies.

• Predictive scenarios can be created, analyzed and acted upon for better decision making.

Imagine the power you would  have if  you could see all aspects of your business; from revenue, costs, logistics, service levels, employee’s data to manufacturing, customer’s and competitor’s data, interlinked in a manner which provides immense insight.

For example, you could see the cost components of your organization, their trends and contributing factors, the employees linked to those factors, their age group, tenure, and other demographic parameters.

You could even view the products, services, customers and geographic areas where these costs were incurred and in which time periods.

You may be able to see links never seen before which may tell you why cost and revenue are higher/lower for some dimensions as compared to others. Once you know the contributing factors, you can start working on them to improve the situation where required.

Once the improvement projects have been rolled-out, you can compare whether things have improved after the steps have been taken.

Implementation

Implementing BI is both an iterative and evolutionary process. Even if your scope document is ready and requirements are clear in the beginning, your users will still ask for more ways of looking and discovering data once they start using it. The tools today provide a lot of facilities to look at and discover links in data in many ways. This requires the users to keep learning and discovering the power of the tools and the way they look at data. You may find yourself enhancing the development few months down the line and even years down the line. The maturing of the BI implementation and the end-user goes hand in hand. The Key is not to lose sight of your objective of implementing BI in your organization.