Business Intelligence (BI) is described, both appropriately and inappropriately, as a way to ‘bring the right information in the right form at the right time to the right person’. That is right four times, but formulated very abstractly. By applying the aforementioned combination, information becomes meaningful and relevant for the end user. The practical translation shows just how complex the implementation of the combination is: the number of possible variations is in fact very large!
For each indicator (I) we must, after all, look at the form (F) in which it is to be presented depending on each person (P) and the time (T). With twenty indicators, a hundred users and 3 different layouts we already see 6,000 possible combinations, quite apart from the time factor (IxFxPxT).
Before you know it, you have a whole array of reports. But do these reports actually provide you and your staff the necessary insights? How can this hellish job be tackled intelligently? What are the challenges? What is the correct Business Intelligence approach to this?
The four elements
It is a good idea to briefly explain the four elements of the above description of Business Intelligence.
The right information is formed by the key performance indicators (KPIs) and management information that are important for managing a process more effectively, making better decisions and ultimately achieving a more effective performance. Using good information analysis by, for example, conducting interviews and workshops, analyzing systems, performing a market analysis and building prototypes, this information must be properly mapped.
There are two common challenges with this information analysis. First, users would often have no or only a vague idea what they want to know. Second, it often provides a confusing mass of indicators that also shows little coherence.
The right form is about the way the information is presented. That may be about the graphic presentation of the information or about how the information is distributed to the users. Through a portal, by email with or without PDF or for example, through a mobile device.
The logistics process
Many Business Intelligence processes run aground or do not deliver. The return it promises is in essence, ‘convert your data into gold’. In our view, this is because Business Intelligence is often introduced from the organizational hierarchy and structure. In addition, it is mainly thought of in terms of ‘reports’. Finance needs a report, HR needs a report, Marketing needs a report, and so on. Business Intelligence will then start to look like the organizational structure: a set of functional reports where the main theme is missing, namely the business process.
What is an insight?
Simply stated, an insight is the ability to understand how things work: a good understanding of the issue that it is all about. With the positive result that constantly increasing knowledge of issues is thereby created and better decisions can be taken. An insight forms the smallest usage unit of a professional Business Intelligence environment, and contains two elements in the base:
- the query that provides the data;
- the associated visualization.
Some examples are shown here.
Insights & the business process
In a business process, value is added in successive steps to the products or services so that customers can greatly benefit from these. At each step, we check who plays which role and what insights are needed to optimize that part of the process. Subsequently we check what insights can improve the overall process or stir up innovation and creativity. It must be determined for each insight who can or must use that insight. Therefore, it is not just the HR department who will want to know the sick leave figures, but also the management, the department managers and the team leaders. Each from their own perspective, level in the organization and role in the process with associated tasks, powers and responsibilities.
These insights are stored in a library and when creating reports or dashboards, these can be reused and made specific. Initially of course, it takes time to specify the insights and to make them generic. But in compiling reports, dashboards and analysis it is a matter of ‘clicking’ the right insights together and adapting the dashboard or report to the role of the user. By filtering, among other things. Therefore, the warehouse employee of a specific distribution centre only sees his or her correction orders. In the same way, the sales manager of the North region only sees his or her orders. Insights therefore have to be generic, so they can be used by multiple organizational roles. At the same time, they must also be able to be managed with parameters, so that they can be made specific to one role.
The right Business Intelligence approach
Insights and the business process form the core of the right Business Intelligence approach and give guidance on how to solve the problem outlined above. Very simply, by replacing the term ‘information’ with ‘insight’ and adding the element of ‘process’ to the definition: “Business Intelligence brings the right insight to the right person in the right form at the right time in the right step of the business process.” This change makes it more specific, so that the total formula gets much more focus and becomes a lot simpler. This has to be explained. By linking insights to organizational roles and the different steps in the business process, two birds are killed with one stone: we no longer need to worry about the right moment (time) and the right person because we establish that with roles and process after all. The formula is much simpler and you only need to concern yourself with retrieving the right information (determining KPIs) and moulding that into the right form.
The insight of 8 million
The purpose of insights is that they result in financial gain or improve the quality of the process or that they otherwise enhance performance. One of the most remarkable examples concerns an insight that could save about 8 million Euro annually. It was about the insight what a specific customer of the top 25 front-runners in the market ordered in gross turnover compared to the average turnover in the market for similar customers. The insight is reproduced here and, in effect, shows which customers ‘cheated’ with the competitor. This gives the account managers of the company concrete tools to increase sales to those customers.
The very best insights expose where and in what way the behavior of your customers can be influenced. They also ensure that the knowledge and skills of employees, customers and suppliers can increase across critical business processes. Good insights allow the organization to move and grow in the right direction. However, even with insights that can save millions, only the final result actually counts: what it can contribute to a cash return. The question must be asked who in the organization has the right skills and management abilities to convert the potential of an insight into actual profit. How can these skills and abilities be increased? The Passionned Business Intelligence workshop can help with this.
Stop reporting, provide insights
Building a reporting factory is meaningless if there is no understanding of what insights can help your organization. When the desired insights have been mapped, first link these to the organizational roles and the business process (which steps), the objectives to be pursued and only then compile the report or dashboard. Such an approach is included in our Business Intelligence framework. The advantage of using a Business Intelligence framework is that the reporting factory can ultimately be built much faster, since insights can be reused across all of the reports and dashboards. The user also immediately sees the information which is relevant to him or her on the screen. For this reason too, stop reporting, provide insights!
Also smart business intelligence?
Passionned, as an independent research and consultancy agency, provides support to organizations on these issues and the implementation of smart and more successful Business Intelligence solutions. We can do this in the role of consultant, project manager, project facilitator or steering committee member.