Business Intelligence – Be first out of the blocks

Brian Gentile, CEO of Jaspersoft, looks at how advances in Business Intelligence present a real opportunity for organisations looking to bounce back from the recession

The end of any recession is undoubtedly good news, but with any upturn comes new challenges, not least within the IT function. In boom times, consistent delivery of new products and services to keep up with demand made organisations’ data more complex than a space shuttle’s wiring diagram. Such regular changes to the business have meant that by the time one change had been integrated into the IT systems, another subsequent one had already occurred. This has resulted in organisations struggling to make informed strategic decisions on how to evolve the business, as the data they are relying on for this intelligence is constantly dated. However, the start of any recovery actually presents a golden opportunity for organisations to finally get to grips with their data, which will in turn give them the tools to capitalise on the return of the good times. For the past 18 months, these companies have been battening down the hatches and consolidating their products and services, meaning essentially, not a great deal of change to their existing data.

To succeed in such a new environment, it is imperative that businesses have full visibility across all parts of the organisation, so that they can monitor performance and plan accordingly. Failure to do so can result in severe financial loss in any sector. Take the music industry, for example. Many artists are losing out on “suitcases of cash”, simply due to poor data management around complex copyright and royalty issues.[1]

In the past, decision-making had traditionally been based on years of experience and intuition of leaders. It is now clear that in such an uncertain climate more informed choices are needed, through effective monitoring and gathering of critical information into well-defined metrics. What many companies may fail to realise is that new information is not required to deliver this fail-safe strategy. The information already exists; in the form of the mountains of data lying unorganised and unused across many company systems.

Business Intelligence (BI) and performance management solutions have been used effectively in the past to yield insights from companies’ existing data. According to Gartner, the Business Intelligence platform market grew in excess of 20% in 2008,[2] and is predicted to continue to grow in 2010 having weathered the recession better than the majority of industries. A business analytics framework certainly allows an organisation to consolidate its IT infrastructure, apply advanced analytics which not only provide hindsight but more importantly foresight and allow an organisation to compete in today’s challenging environment. However, criticism has been levelled at traditional BI methods that the solutions only serve the enterprise and do not actually deliver the information needed to make strategic decisions. When asked about BI, respondents to an Economist Intelligence Unit report revealed that a staggering 72% of senior and IT business leaders said their data was still inconsistent across their departments, while 40% said their workers made poor decisions because of it. Such results can land organisations in serious, potentially irreparable situations. In September 2009, Barclays Capital was slapped with a £2.45m fine as a result of reporting inaccurate data – such as trade time – for 85% of equities trades and 100% of other trades including foreign exchange and commodities.[3] Such a situation seems astonishing when you consider that there are tools to ensure this doesn’t happen.

These types of situations are changing with the deployment of open source and on demand BI solutions and considering Gartner has predicted a fivefold increase in it by 2012, organisations can not afford to ignore them.[4]

Providing usability and sophistication that can rival some of the leading closed-source (proprietary) solutions, open-source software presents a more cost effective option as the majority are offered free or at minimal cost. This helps level the playing field between large corporations and start ups alike. With competition increasing daily, it is vital for organisations, no matter what their size, to have the ability to gain the upper edge through measurement and monitoring of their performance and by making intelligent business decisions.

Another benefit of the new generation of BI solutions is that it provides a level of flexibility not offered by other closed products. The very nature of open source allows a company to adapt the solution to meet its exact needs. Developers, can modify the functionality of tools to ensure they deliver the exact information sought after and can scale them to suit any size of business. They can also be adjusted regularly to ensure that as the market place changes so can the way the tools operate, ensuring that no matter what approaches it, the business can best prepare itself; very useful in today’s uncertain economy.

As we look ahead now to better climates, there will no doubt be a high pressured race to get ahead of competition. It’s never been more important to ensure that decisions are well thought out and actioned quickly or there’s a risk of lagging behind. The organisations that pull away from the crowd will be those whose BI tools can mine existing data effectively, delivering accurate and timely results. This will allow leaders to react quickly to the changing environment, all the while keeping fully abreast of performance in the market place. The data stored within a company is the fuel to power ahead and only through intelligently mining can organisations unlock the value contained within. This will in turn improve decision making, increase growth and savings and help identify winning opportunities. The businesses that get to grips with their data now, turning it into useful, actionable information, are the ones that are going to make the most explosive start to their recovery and, no matter what size, will gain that crucial competitive edge at the start of the upturn.

Jaspersoft‘s open source Business Intelligence Suite is the world’s most widely used BI software. It’s lightweight and modular so it can easily be embedded, used standalone or in SaaS applications.

[1] Lost luggage: How Bad Data Cost Recording Artists and Record Labels Suitcases of Cash, February 2010

[2] Gartner “Market Trends: Business Intelligence, Worldwide, 2009”

[3] Barclays Capital fined £2.45m for data failure, Financial Times, 8 September 2009

[4] BI Platform Licensing Models and Negotiating Strategies, Gartner, April 2010

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