Technology has enhanced and transformed the capabilities of visual analytics and business intelligence across sector and industry.
What is Business Intelligence?
Forrester, one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world, describes business intelligence (BI) as a set of methodologies, processes and technologies that leverage information to help businesses make faster and more accurate decisions. The firm also predicts the market to be one that is set to grow at an 11.5% compound annual growth rate from 2016–2021. Gartner, another leading research firm, has predicted that BI is set to become a priority for enterprises as platforms and solutions become increasingly cost-effective, scalable and capable. The research giants agree that BI and analytics are transformative tools.
Business intelligence and visual analytics have undergone significant transformation over the past few years. This has been driven as much by rapid advancements in technology as by the evolving need of business to dive into the rivers of big data generated by customer and device, and glean insights that drive innovation and growth. Data is no longer trapped on a static slide and dragged through endless interpretations to a tenuous end result – today it is fluid and dynamic, shared live and interpreted on demand. And BI has undercut the barrier to entry as anyone can use the technology to harness its potential and therefore understand its results.
How to make BI work for you
Nothing should hinder a company from implementing a BI solution – however, its success depends on strategy and quality of integration. Companies across the board need to consider the factors that will ensure their BI solution is effectively deployed, and done so for the right reasons. Often companies believe that just by purchasing the software they have invested in business intelligence. Unfortunately this is just not true.
The reality is that while technology has opened the doors to business intelligence and development in South Africa, there are still steps that must be taken to ensure it is done properly. Unfortunately too many businesses are still under the impression that they need only to tick a box and sign on a line to open up this all-encompassing solution.
The first step is to have a strategy and a road map, to know exactly what the goals are and what BI and data visualisation are supposed to bring to the table. Different businesses have different challenges and it is important to recognise this before investing in any technical solution. Know the business, understand the challenges and have a clear picture of how data and information insights can provide value. It’s also important to know precisely what BI is, how it is defined and the tangible results it can deliver.
Technology is just a tool. A powerful and ubiquitous one, for sure, but without strategic direction it can become nothing more than a wasted investment that stagnates and delivers little value. Any business – start-up, scale-up, enterprise, SME – can benefit from what BI has to offer with a little foresight, planning and understanding.
The smaller business and the start-up can benefit from this technology by using apps that allow them to measure those aspects that are most crucial to them. They can structure these apps to do projections and analysis based on parameters that they have defined. BI analytics and visualisations support entrepreneurs by closely managing and predicting cash flows that are taking place, and that are going to take place. This allows them to take corrective actions before they discover that they’ve run out of money.
Considering that running out of cash is very different to not making a profit, and given that the economy is playing hardball right now, this level of insight is vital to businesses across the board, from the start-up to the listed company – the apps and implementations can be tweaked to suit different requirements and challenges.
BI in the developing world
Typically, developing countries and emerging economies have scarcer resources, fewer skills, constrained working capital and tougher operating conditions than the developed world. In addition, the rate of change and progress is high and fast. All of these factors are mitigated by having effective information about the business quickly and in a format that is easy to consume. BI puts speed on the reaction process and gives the business a much-needed boost.
South African organisations are paying more attention to these tools and technologies and for the past two years, research firms such as Gartner have listed Business Intelligence as the leading priority for businesses.
In addition, there are numerous trends helping the spread and ease of use of BI and analytics.
Four of the most important ones are:
- embedded analytics in other enterprise applications
- the availability of governed data and easy access to all irrespective of where it comes from or how it is stored
- self-service analytics which doesn’t need IT to create or change apps and reports
- the changing role of IT from the custodian of the tools to the strategic custodian of data availability
The technologies and capabilities tend to be similar from region to region and country to country. Challenges such as communications availability and bandwidth may influence how Business Intelligence is implemented or its uptake, of course, as will different layers of legislation. Some regions may have varying legislative controls around the portability of data and the usage of cloud infrastructure.
This is a excerpt of an article written by Jane Thomson, Managing Director, South Africa Qlik Master Reseller, which appeared in the 13th edition of Top Women Leaders under the headline ‘The impact of technology on job creation and business growth’.