Are Analytics and Business Intelligence As Important As We Think?

13 Nov

In the technology industry it sometimes feels as if we’re just trying to be part of an exclusive club. We throw around buzz-words like “Viral” or “Execute”. The latest trends to hit the tech world are “Analytics”, “Data”, or “Business Intelligence”. Of course, business intelligence and data can mean many things, so can analytics; but just because we may not fully understand exactly what they mean or what they can do for your organization doesn’t mean they lack in importance. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Using the right tools to collect, store, and analyze data is the first step to creating a data-driven mega beast.

Let’s start with a couple of scenarios to help us dig a little deeper into business intelligence and data analysis.

Scenario A:

Company A recently implemented new business intelligence tools recommended by a team of consultants they brought in to help them leverage their existing personnel resources to scale their business. They had hired business analysts in the past, but it wasn’t advancing things as quickly as they imagined. Their problem was technology. They were obtaining a lot of data from several sources, but had a difficult time figuring out what to do with it because they couldn’t see it in a way that made sense.

After implementing new BI tools they quickly learned about their weaknesses in their market, and more importantly, how to use the data to turn their weaknesses into strengths. Using these new tools has allowed for advanced sales analysis and projections so they can predict sales cycles and customer retention. Marketing can now see exactly what they’re target market is doing with their ads and who is checking in on their products – including social media activity. Executives now have a full view of what each department is doing and the effect they have on one another’s productivity. Ultimately, they’re now able to visualize their data properly and have made smarter business decisions because of it.

Scenario B:

Company B doesn’t believe that technology drives business. They believe people drive business. This is certainly true in many cases, but people alone can’t take your business from good to great anymore. At least not as much as they could before. Company B relies on spreadsheets, printouts, and word of mouth to analyze how their company is competing in their space. Sure, they have social media accounts and advertise on Google. They have a web team that does SEO and analyzes their web traffic. But Company B is missing out on great opportunities by consolidating their data and using it to their advantage.

While these are very primitive examples, it helps us understand the differences between some organizations doing business today. You would be surprised to learn that many well-known organizations are vastly underprepared when it comes to analyzing their business. Company B isn’t thrilled with the prospect of change or spending a little more than usual, it’s simply much easier to keep the status quo and not take any risks. This is, sadly, a song too often sung. We don’t want to lose valued employees or make them feel overwhelmed with sudden change. Some people don’t do change well. While this is a conclusion that seems rationale and within reason, it fails to address the needs of your business and can often lead to its demise.

Going “outside your comfort zone”, as they say, is a strategy that scares many business owners. They know their product and how to sell it, they don’t know how to implement strategic IT departments and infrastructure or business intelligence software. However, savvy business owners will understand that with a greater risk often comes a greater reward. Sure, business is a tough, well…business – but it’s the ones that are willing to try new things and change their ways that often succeed the most, just ask companies like IBM, Apple, or Southwest.

The fact of the matter is business intelligence is here to stay and companies that don’t find ways to implement new data-driven strategies will fall by the way side. They’ll slowly die off while the “intelligent” companies thrive. Sure, it can be scary changing how your business operates or how you obtain and use the data that’s out there, but with the right help and a positive mindset there is no telling what business intelligence, data analysis, and analytics driven action can do for your organization.

Extra Credit: If you’re interested in learning a little more about this topic and how businesses (especially smaller companies) use analytics to help them stay relevant and agile pick up the book “Killing Giants” by Stephen Benny. A recommendation for a great book that has a lot of relevance to this post and the current state of business. Enjoy!