BI Maturity and Software Selection Perspectives

While new technology trends are invading the business intelligence (BI) space, technology shifts and hype do not necessarily equate to the ability to exploit the best tools for enhancing business performance. To select a best-fit BI solution, an organization needs to be able to realistically assess the maturity of its BI infrastructure. This allows them to discover where they are, what their BI requirements are, and how to determine the best BI solution or strategy. Download the full report now.

Executive Summary

Companies of all sizes are coming to realize that they need to be able to actively use their data to achieve corporate knowledge, improve performance, and eventually be able to predict and forecast corporate metrics such as sales, income, or even taxes.

By collecting data and analyzing it in an effective way, organizations are laying the groundwork for a proper BI strategy, and consequently for selection of the most appropriate BI application for their needs.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. While traditional BI tools focused on collecting data and enabling advanced reporting and dashboarding, new BI strategies and products are shifting their focus toward providing BI that is easier to use and self-service–oriented, but also with a major emphasis on improving analytic capabilities and data speed cycles (in particular, to enable analysis of data generated in real-time and to collect information from social media sources).

While new technology trends and innovative applications are invading the BI space, technology shifts and hype do not necessarily equate to the ability to implement and exploit the best tools for increasing return on investment (ROI) and enhancing business performance. To select a best-fit BI solution, an organization needs to be able to realistically assess the maturity of its BI infrastructure. This allows organizations to discover where they are, what their BI requirements are, and how to determine what will be their best BI solution or strategy—which ultimately will lead to augmented business visibility, analysis, and of course, performance.

Assessing Your BI Infrastructure

From small to medium businesses (SMBs) to large corporations, one of the biggest challenges is the “data management” issue. In many modern organizations, data comes from an increasing (and increasingly disparate) number of sources: enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, customer relationship management (CRM) applications, workforce automation systems, etc. Data is also generated in increasing amounts, because more data transactions are generated, and there is more interaction between systems— both internal and external to the organization. In the following Pareto chart, we see that organizations are still looking to solve two main issues: data management and business performance.

 Figure 1. Most sought-after functionality according to TEC data
Many companies still struggle to manage their data properly. Most of the time, this reflects on difficulty (or impossibility) with obtaining a snapshot of the business at any given moment, but also with obtaining the necessary insight for planning and taking action. This impedes their decision-making process, business performance, and their ability to predict and forecast.

And while organizations are eager to grow, this may be risky if the proper measures are not in place for expansion of their corporate applications—especially those applications that enable data analysis and creation of frameworks for strategic planning and decision improvement. In fact, some organizations suffer from technology paralysis, in the sense that they are unable to determine where to begin when it comes to improving their BI solutions.

That said, here are some of the triggers for growing a BI strategy:

  • A lack of adequate software tools: In general, all organizations leverage BI to some degree. One of the easiest ways is by using a spreadsheet-based framework to deliver analysis. While some organizations may be able to achieve certain BI goals with Excel, many others struggle to enable data-driven decision making because they simply don’t have the means to collect vast amounts of data, consolidate it, and cleanse and transform it for analysis toward the necessary results. This translates into a huge amount of work and a significant degree of dedicated resources.
  • An inability to obtain a single version of the truth: Many organizations cannot reliably provide consolidated information, which means they are unable to provide a single version of their figures. Information is located in silos that disseminate data among different instances of the organization. This makes it difficult to consolidate and analyze data, which results in frustration (not to say anxiety) among decision makers who are unable to provide confident results.
  • An inability to provide information on time: Data has transformed into a time-sensitive element within every organization—from data sourced from financial markets to retail data from stores, there is a limited period during which data can enable tactical and operational decisions that will benefit the organization. Data timeliness does not simply mean collecting, transforming, and analyzing it at the speed of light. It means being aware of the flow time required in a particular process to make the most of this data. We have discovered that data moves at different rates within a single organization, and that different business units require different data sets moving at different speeds.
  • A lack of proper BI alignment with respect to the business: Many organizations have a BI solution in place, but this is insufficient. A BI solution should work in parallel or in alignment with strategic plans, and in many cases BI applications do not provide the means or features to establish the necessary alignment. This results in an inability to gather the right data or to establish metrics for accurately measuring business performance.
  • A lack of proper means to evolve: Modern organizations are looking to grow and at the same time to use technology to adapt to new conditions based on business growth and increased process complexity. Better performance in a flexible environment requires organizations to consider BI tools that adapt to changing conditions. Some organizations rely on rigid monolithic BI solutions that make adaptation difficult and costly.

Regardless of the number of triggers present in your organization, bear in mind that it’s impossible to improve what cannot be measured. There are three fundamental questions you need to ask:

• Where do you stand in regard to your BI infrastructure?
• What are your urgent needs?
• How do you evolve beyond reactive capabilities toward proactive capabilities?

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