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Has BI Succeeded in Going More Mainstream and Closing the Loop Between Decision-Making and Operations in the Last 5 Years?

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  • A Resounding Yes, Globally! Most businesses around the globe are using Business Data Warehouses to collect, organize and utilize Sales and Financial Information to affect even day to day operations. Online businesses like Amazon and Dell reach back through the Supply Chain and integrate and use BI to affect operations of suppliers and third party shippers!

    The most astounding user of BI is Wal-Mart. Read the latest book - The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business by Nelson Lichtenstein -

    Wal-mart uses point of sale data around each of the store to reach back and integrate with the production and shipping of consumer goods back into companies like P&G and others!

    Oh Yes! They have been mainstreamed and used in decision making in many companies now!

  • I would say it’s come a long way. From mere fancy MIS reports and Traditional BI (exclusive to the upper management) to understanding the importance of operational data in the decision making process across the organizational hierarchy.

    Over the past few years if you notice most of the traditional BI and reporting tools have started positioning themselves as Operational BI products, I guess that is indicative enough that Enterprises have had enough with the traditional approaches to BI and reporting and want something which is closer to their operations.

    In my opinion Traditional approached would still remain - from a strategic point of view but real time operational data analysis is what will be mainstream in the coming years as it directly affects the decision makers at every level within an organization and profitability at the end of the day.

  • During the last 5 years, I've seen a significant trend toward true operational BI uses. This means that more transactional applications are adding analytic capabilities, so that users of all types can understand what is going in within the operational (application) system. This is a trend that defies a data warehouse architecture and, instead, emphasizes operational data from a single, major system.

    Examples include Monolith Software, which is automating the quick-serve restaurant industry with this analytic application approach, and Virgin Money Giving, which is bringing efficient "contribution management" to the non-profit sector. Interestingly, these applications are delivered via the SaaS model, with substantial analytic capability built directly in to the application.

    I do believe this is evidence that the need for faster decision making and tighter "closed loop" systems is a mainstream requirement for competing today.

    Brian Gentile
    Chief Executive Officer

  • Over the last five years we have seen more “operational? BI metrics being tracked in our customer base that have expanded from,or started life completely independent of the traditional financial reporting BI initiatives. This is a positive trend, allowing more “near field? “actionable" information to be used proactively by managers to effect change. Isn’t this really what we expected from BI and BA systems in first place? If we are in the game, we want to affect the score, not read about in the paper. Let accounting figure out the bonuses after the fact, let’s go out get in the fight.

    What has changed from five years ago; well, it’s survival of smartest out there today for one thing. Next, there is just better operational data being captured and accessible. More operational systems output usable operational data in a form that can be easily integrated. Look at the depth of information today’s organization has on new customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, supplier performance, supply chain performance, employee efficacy, just to name a few.
    Daily tracking of product sales and available inventory allow our customers REI and The North Face optimize sell through and reduce “out of stock? conditions. This same information base provides merchandisers a view in to the latest consumer behavior. Extending this information to key suppliers improves collaboration and creates new opportunities for promotions and specials.

    Some of our Saleforce.com customers integrate pipeline stage data with campaign expense and sales operations costs to measure a true “cost of sales? allowing sales and marketing teams to understand the impact of new promotions and campaigns to both the top and bottom line.

    Contrary to common wisdom, that which is measured doesn’t always get done; but it does get noticed. Visibility across interdependent operations lets business leaders understand the key metrics and drivers upstream of the profit and loss statement. Identifying and tracking these metrics is the key to an organization effecting persistent change. BI/BA in operations will represent more of the BI applications in the future as more companies realize that “actionable? information is the key if we expect to play to win.

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