There are many software segments that are considered necessary for proper business management, ranging from customer-facing solutions like CRM and help desk software, to back-office solutions like ERP, accounting, and supply chain management.
Some forms of both front- and back-office management are necessary for most companies, and one particular application that is becoming essential is business intelligence software. Enabling more efficient business performance management, business intelligence solutions provide some the analytics that are fundamental to sustaining profitability and growth.
Interpreted at its most basic level, business intelligence software is the appropriate storage and organization of data—the creation of a “corporate memory.” Business performance management applications support data warehousing and are a means of storing information in such a way that it can be easily accessed for queries and analysis. Leveraging data from various systems, applications, and databases, business intelligence software users can make the best-informed decisions more efficiently.
Business intelligence software (and business performance management software in general) offers not only a wonderful basis for storing company data, but also provides some invaluable analysis. It facilitates business management through reports and in-depth analysis of detailed information across an entire organization. Displayed in a variety of formats—from a simple spreadsheet to an advanced visualization—business intelligence analysis and reports will provide managers with the information needed to form the strategies necessary to reaching business goals.
Companies of all sizes can benefit from business intelligence software, and it is important to consider the fact that companies acting without it are in a sense running on gut feelings. Every company needs to think on its feet, and leverage its enterprise data for the greatest advantage. After all, this data is essential for conducting and understanding mission-critical activities, operational patterns, and industry trends. Every company has varying needs, and there are a wide variety of requirements within each company; as a result, reporting and analysis is often performed by scraping information from a wide variety of sources. Fortunately, one of the biggest conveniences offered by business management software is its integrative ability to streamline all of that disparate data, so that companies aren’t operating over a series of productivity applications (and as a result, wearing themselves thin) every time they want to run a report.
Before running these reports, however, a company using business intelligence software needs to be sure of the benefits they would like to receive from the platform and the specific goals they want to reach. The best way to understand and discern specific goals is through setting key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are a set of values used to quantify an enterprise’s performance, and can range from production time scales to levels of debt to revenue per customer. To wit: KPIs are the most effective tools for creating a set of measurable objectives for an enterprise to track and gauge its progress.
Aside from integrating data from incongruent sources, and tracking KPIs, one of the benefits to be derived from business intelligence software is generally improved collaboration with customers and colleagues. Merging various info sources facilitates collaboration, which in turn enhances strategic planning and provides for rapid information sharing. And the creation of singular platform for performing all these tasks not only makes the reporting process simpler, it makes it shorter—while in-depth reporting could take days, or even weeks, a decade ago, business intelligence software can run reports at the drop of a hat.
When considering intelligence solutions for your business management needs, there are a few important features to look for. It is best to find a web-based program, and one that offers unlimited data access. Products involving legacy hardware purchases are fine, and large enterprises may prefer them, but an on-demand solution will provide accessibility for more users, and will support scalability should the company need to add more users and run more reports in the future. Not all business intelligence software is fully scalable, so choose one that addresses specific capacity needs.
It is also important that a business intelligence system support several output formats—spreadsheets, word processing documents, etc.—for producing reports, as well as tout the ability to run reports. Corporate data can be highly complex, and reporting tools should support that. In the same vein, the platform should offer predictive analysis, unlimited data access, and complex visualizations. The visualization abilities should range from simple charts and graphs, to maps, matrices, and histograms (depending on the mathematical or scientific reporting necessary).
Aside from the fact that adopting a business intelligence software solution is smart for companies of all sizes and in all industries because of its analytical possibilities, it is quite likely that pretty soon, companies without one will have a difficult time surviving. Businesses are currently collecting more data than has been amassed before, and as a result IT organizations are spending billions of dollars investing in data warehouses and business intelligence tools.
Very recently, IBM’s release of the unprecedentedly large Smart Analytics Cloud sent the enterprise software market into a frenzy. Smart Analytics Cloud is the public version of IBM’s internal Blue Insight cloud, which boasts an impressive scope of information: it’s 100 times as large as the content of the Library of Congress. In an effort to shift their business model from hardware to software and middleware, IBM has been acquiring various business analytics and security companies, and when a company of their size—and with their reputation—puts that amount of time and money into a specific technology center, it is bound to flourish.
In addition, with the surge or Web 2.0 technology within enterprise software, business intelligence systems are beginning to provide real-time information. Minimizing latency between an event’s occurrence the subsequent business decision is the crux of business management, and while business intelligence solutions have been able to predict outcomes before, the availability of real-time data will further decrease any latency periods.
As you can see, business intelligence software is more than just a reporting tool, as through recent technological advancements it now offers highly evolved predictive abilities. So when looking for business intelligence software, outline your goals and choose the scalable solution that best fits your informational needs—the more complicated your data, the more complex the visualizations should be; likewise, don’t select a convoluted system for simple data. And the one thing your selection should include, no matter what your data needs, is real-time reporting and analysis.