Enabling Business Decisions on the Go is Key

by Tabrez Khan    Nov 14, 2008

Business intelligence (BI) refers to technologies, applications and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information with a view to support better decision-making.

Business Intelligence projects require a lot of structuring of data and elaborate warehousing before the project can become a reliable decision support system. However, with advancement in data retrieval techniques unstructured data can become a rich source of information on which businesses can base their decision support systems.

Currently more than 90% of BI projects are on structured data. But that scenario will change in the next 2-3 years as BI projects on unstructured data increase due to the sheer benefits they offer, said Sanjay Deshmukh, country manager, Business Objects.

Take for example e-mails received from customers by banks. They are a rich source of information on customer satisfaction, but traditional BI systems will not be able to utilize that information due to its unstructured nature. New generation BI systems can leverage this information to tell you exactly what percentage of customers have a positive feeling about the bank, how many are negative and what percentage is neutral. The bank executives can then go all out and try to retain the most disillusioned customers. With traditional BI, businesses would lose out on such a rich and critical source of information about their customers.

Another key trend going forward is BI delivered on mobile and hand-held devices, according to Deshmukh. With increasing business travel, business decisions being taken over dinner and golf and therefore executives needing to stay on top of key decision supporting data, availability of data on mobiles and handheld devices has become critical.

Traditional BI systems that reside on centralized servers, only to be used within the office cannot be accessed on the move and hence new-generation BI systems that offer the ability will be all the vogue, he said.

Adoption of BI solutions itself is slow, but growing. There are several hurdles to successful implementation of BI solutions. These can be categorized as process-related, business-related and technical.

Process Related: A key use of BI solutions is performance measurement and management whether of individuals, brands, products, or regional businesses. However, quite often businesses lack well-documented processes and key performance indicators and similar metrics on which performance could be measured. Therefore a lot of BI projects fail to deliver value.

Conclusion: Having well-documented processes and key performance indicators is therefore key to successful BI implementation

Business-related: Ownership of the BI implementation should rest with the business organization and not the vendor who is delivering the solution. Somebody in the senior management needs to define KPIs and other relevant metrics for the business. If the senior management does not have the vision on what it wants to achieve, BI projects will suffer.

Conclusion: If BI implementation is solely driven by the CIO, without CEO and other senior management taking ownership, it will fail.

Technical: On the technical side, availability of data and its quality are crucial concerns for BI implementation. Without the availability of customer satisfaction scores, you cannot have a related BI, said Deshmukh. Also the quality of available data is important. Many businesses realize that after implementing a solution that the data they relied on was not adequate for a reliable decision support system.

Conclusion: Data availability and quality is key.

Business Objects, a company acquired by global enterprise software giant SAP October 2007, delivers BI solutions to enterprise customers and has customers such as HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank in the BFSI space, and Spice Telecom in the telecommunications sector.