Infographic: Why BI is Key for Competitive Advantage

Infographic: Why BI is Key for Competitive Advantage

A great infograhic from the Master of Science in Computer Information Systems program at Boston University.  The BU researchers focused on: growth of business intelligence, management of data, decision-making and budgeting.  Enjoy!



{Originally posted here}

Excel-Friendly BI Helps Teach Business Analytics at the University

Excel-Friendly BI Helps Teach Business Analytics at the University

By Bill Tastle, our newest contributor

As a Professor at an AACSB accredited business school, I am responsible for preparing  business students who are eager to enter the marketplace upon graduation. Naturally,  I spend a lot of time researching about what skills will best serve them. This can be more of a challenge than one might think because today’s skills may not be in demand tomorrow but one thing appears to be quite apparent; the need for graduates trained in the methods of business analytics will be in demand for at least the next decade.  Thus, my business school faculty members and I have been discussing how best to incorporate Business Intelligence (BI) skills into our existing program.

This is a bit exasperating if one’s business school/college is AACSB accredited, because the required set of courses that comprise the curricula have very little room for extras.  BI, I must argue, is not an “extra” but rather, a critical component to a student’s undergraduate business education.

So, I carefully examined the landscape for suitable software tools to bring into my undergraduate classroom environment. I spent considerable time reading everything I could find from many, many companies and multinational corporations hawking tools for BI. Eventually, I happened upon a company featuring a strong “Excel user-friendly” product.

There seemed to be a natural logic to doing BI in Excel, given the pervasive use of spreadsheets in the business community, but what I had discovered is that many software vendors try to address the Excel “problem” by doing away with Excel altogether.

This company had a different approach, which is to embrace what Excel has to offer as a familiar front end. I sent off an email asking for information and virtually immediately was in contact with someone at the company and quickly received their literature. I read it!  Carefully!  The more I read, the more excited I became.

It is pretty obvious that all business schools teach Microsoft Excel, some at a trivial level, which is little more than a superficial introduction, and others are more advanced levels.  Perhaps I am a statistical outlier, but at my school, sophomores must become Microsoft Expert certified to pass their required business technology course.

So, the ability to bring a BI tool directly into Excel in the form of a simple add-in has made all the difference in the world.  Students receive an introduction to the world of BI and quickly discover what is meant by “multi-dimensionality,” an important concept when business performance models (“cubes” in BI terminology) are being constructed.

I could not do as good of a job teaching Business Analytics if I had to teach an enterprise database program first, just to get to their dashboard graphs.  Furthermore, being able to attach the BI software program to other sources of data made it all the more fascinating to students who are amazed to discover they can access data not only from other worksheets, but also from database tables.  This is also a fantastic achievement, getting data from multiple sources with different data structures.

I am about as pleased as can be. In fact, I am offering an additional course in BI and I have other courses undergoing development.  The pedagogy involved in the skills of Business Intelligence is being written in this decade, and the benefit of using an “Excel-friendly” tool in the classroom brings daylight to the mysterious area of “intelligence gathering” and how it is used in decision-making solutions.  For me, it is particularly exciting because it is the beginning of a thrilling direction in business education.

Next time:  Analytics in the Business Dean’s Office


3 Reasons Everything in Business is About to Change

3 Reasons Everything in Business is About to Change

Business technologies today

There are three important patterns happening in the world that will ultimately change business in fundamental ways: where it is done, how it is done, and who does it.  An article from McKinsey Quarterly, Management Intuition for the Next 50 Years, documents these patterns in detail.  The patterns are: the aging of the baby boomer population, the inevitable climb of emerging markets, and the continuing technological changes that disrupt industries.

To give an idea of how big and how fast things are changing we can highlight just a couple of the graphs from this article. First, the estimated amount of computing capacity added in the world  in 2008 was 5 exaflops (more information on the concept of exacomputing here).  By 2012, there were 20 more, and this year it is projected that the number of exaflops will reach about 40.

{Image sourced from McKinsey Article}

The graph illustrates the sheer mass of data and computing capacity that we are heading toward.  Naturally, our ability to digest, manage, and use that information will also need to increase. According to the McKinsey article, new business management intuition must acknowledge that new businesses will start up and gain scale faster and with less money. Additionally, decision-making will need to happen at lightning speed for companies to stay competitive.

Another graph from this article illustrates the population decline that is happening worldwide.  The inevitable implication is that the world will need a major increase in productivity because the workforce will be smaller and more constrained.

{Image sourced from McKinsey Article}

What it comes down to is this: the business leaders who come out on top of this change will be those who recognize it is happening and have the strength to adapt to meet the coming changes. Change is often hard, especially for people or companies or leaders whose intuitions are well-engrained and who have, up to this point, had success.

Read the full article


2 Questions to Ask about Your BI Project

2 Questions to Ask about Your BI Project

Two questions to ask about your BI project

If you are considering a Business Intelligence Project, there are two questions you should consider.  These questions will help you pinpoint what exactly you may need to do with your BI project, as opposed to simply getting “analytics” or “implementing a BI tool”.  Anyone who has experience in the BI market knows that the nature of  these projects can be deep and involved, and it helps to have a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish.

From that article, “Two Questions That Will Dictate the nature of your Business Intelligence Project” on, the first question is, can we discover significant relationships in our data that aren’t apparent without elaborate data mining techniques? The example the article presents is of Target’s uncanny ability to recognize a women who is in her second trimester of pregnancy–an ideal time to become the object of a woman’s buying habits, and and ideal time to ship out some coupons! This would be a significant relationship that is hidden in the data — a change in the type of lotion or the purchase of a large bag. Targets ability to, ahem, target this change in a woman’s life wins them a customer for life and big bucks in the long term. [Read more about Target and pregnancy marketing here]

The second question is about accuracy– can you improve on a common, repeated action to improve customer retention, marketing efforts, or predict customer behavior? This type of project usually involves looking at large amounts of historical data to see what is to be learned in order to avoid making the same mistakes again.  As markets become over-saturated, the retention of customers is very important, if not crucial, and this type of BI project improves customer service and marketing efforts to large effect.

Read the full article from Dashboard Insight: “Two Questions that will Dictate the Nature of Your Business Intelligence Project”

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Constructing an Optimized Project Performance Management Solution

Constructing an Optimized Project Performance Management Solution

With the World Cup over–and what a great final match it was!–Brazilians (once they get over their team’s collapse) will surely refocus on the huge overruns in  cost and un-readiness of the building projects associated with the event.

The projects you manage may not match the scale of those in Brazil, and might not even concern the construction industry, but the experiences and challenges will be familiar: trying to keep track of progress, costs, resources utilization, timeliness, “at completion” and other important KPIs. You probably rely on some standard reports obtainable from your ERP system, especially if is tuned for project management, and maybe you use Crystal as well. That said, it is a certainty that you and others on your team rely heavily on good old Excel for all kinds of project reporting, analytics and planning.

Like so many others who use Excel to run a business, you will also have first-hand knowledge of its over-runs, utilization headaches, and increasing unmanageability. Essentially, a spreadsheet-based system will always topple over for at least these reasons: Excel is a personal, not a collaborative productivity tool (even if you are using SharePoint); there is no direct connection to underlying data, and; the complexities of your own business will overwhelm even the most cleverly multi-tabbed rendering of a project management model.

That’s not to say that Excel cannot be part of a solution—more on that momentarily. The point to make here is that an ERP, a report-writer, and Excel, in any combination, will never adequately address system requirements for robustness, flexibility, and collaboration.

What is needed is a fast way of organizing financial and non-financial metrics together, in a modeling environment that can accommodate Project Managers, the Finance team, and any other key project participants. […]

View Full Post – Constructing an Optimized Project Performance Management Solution
Source – PARIS Technologies Blog


Top Requested Business Intelligence Software Features

Top Requested Business Intelligence Software Features

BI Buyerview7

According to recent research and a report by BI review company Software Advice in their Business Intelligence Software BuyerView for 2014, the image above depicts the most sought-after features in the BI market right now.

There are a number of things to learn here:

1 – Buyers Want Customizable Dashboards and Reporting

Buyers overwhelmingly want to see their data in smart visual representations that allow them to digest information and make decisions quickly. People have had it with dashboards that are difficult to create, difficult to use, difficult to get data into, and, worst of all, need to be re-created every time it is needed. They need quick, easy, beautiful reporting that changes to answer their questions as quickly as they can think to ask them. Mostly these days, people don’t have useful dashboards because they don’t have good data to feed them with. The visualization may be pretty, but there isn’t updated, aggregated, relevant substance behind it, and it doesn’t have enough flexibility to be easily and sufficiently customized into reports.

2- Buyers Want a User-Friendly Interface

And who can blame them? No one likes moving around in clunky interfaces. Some of today’s most common BI tools, like PowerPivot, can’t even manage to list the months properly!  Who wants to spend time struggling with something as menial as getting months to display in their natural order as opposed to alphabetically? All this goes hand-in-hand with customizable dashboards and flexible reporting: a good BI solution should be able to display what the user needs to see, on demand as well as up-to-date.

3- Buyers Want Something that Integrates

Buyers want something that works with what they’ve already got. Integration is so important that it trumps considerations over on-premise vs. in the cloud. It seems that buyers don’t care so much about the deployment model, provided the solution empowers them in their existing framework.  This makes sense because the state-of-play in most companies, and more so in enterprise-level companies, is that they’ve already spent big bucks on solutions that they thought were going to solve their business problem through IT. For exmaple: ERPs that cost a fortune, and that arguably have a place in the scheme of things, but that do not even begin to provide the kinds of smart, visual reporting that today’s workplace demands.

So it comes down to getting data together and through to beautiful informative visuals without the hassle.  Is that too much to ask?

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