Building business intelligence into applications is extremely important for businesses as they come to grips with fast-moving markets, formidable competitors, and in some cases, staff education and knowledge problems.
BI has also been a traditional IT concern, dating back to earlier times when user reports were cranked out with the help of fourth-generation programming languages. Now, however, BI is increasingly viewed as a way to leverage or gain intellectual capital in areas where there never used to be any.
This helps explain why cloud-based solutions are taking root. When these cloud service providers can bundle in accumulated expertise that enables companies to more quickly execute business processes and strategic thinking, customers gain market advantage and save money.
Enlightened companies also recognize that they need to leverage their own intellectual capital internally. This is why a major insurer made the decision to not only embed business intelligence on the 30,000 smartphones of its agents -- and on a second tier of application servers that interacted with these devices -- but also on the incoming batch-process performed on paper-based applications that were coming in from data entry operations. The result: high levels of customer satisfaction, zero defects on insurance applications, and the elimination of reworking.
Still, there are companies out there that don't know how to get the most out of their business intelligence investments. In one case, corporate IT unveiled a new warehouse management system that allowed persons in the warehouse to input alarm parameters and other metrics and monitoring buttons, and to define rules for warehouse operations through the use of a user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI). The tool promised instant results to age-old problems, and also a different set of metrics and reports that more accurately reflect today’s warehouse operations.
Nevertheless, operations staff was hesitant to adopt the tool because they had become accustomed to a set of 20 reports that they had used constantly throughout the years. They already know the shortcomings of these reports, and how to work around certain situations in the warehouse.
From IT's standpoint, the system quickly became a tough sell because end users either didn't see or didn't want the solutions or its benefits.
If you're an IT pro, what is the best way to build business intelligence into the organization?
Understand the company’s mission. If you can see where the right kind of business intelligence can deliver the most value to the business, this is a good place to start.
Gain upper management support. Building a business case for BI and what it can deliver is the first step toward securing management sponsorship for a BI project. This sponsorship is critical, especially in cases where people might initially be fearful of new technology and how it will affect their jobs.
Find a champion in the end-user community. Dealing with change and new systems is never easy, so the best way to promote change is from within. Strategically, it is always to IT's advantage if it can find an end-user champion to help in training and in promoting the benefits of a new system.
While right-fitting BI to the business, don’t forget to right-fit it into your IT infrastructure. Often, business intelligence requires a specialized server to run it. In other cases, it can be run on an existing physical server or even on a virtual server. BI also is frequently cross-platform in the data sources and applications it uses. The workload and processing across this IT infrastructure should be designed by IT for maximum efficiency, reliability, and performance.
Measure results and do something about them. BI doesn't always show results right away. Determine what a reasonable period of time is in order to assess results, and then do it. If the BI isn't delivering what you thought it would, this is an excellent time to examine what is happening and to make adjustments. If BI is exceeding expectations, it's time to extend the vision and set new goals.