What is Business Intelligence (BI)?
Start by defining business intelligence with the mantra “Driving Action Through Analytics,” or DATA for short. You need to focus on how your business users make real world decisions, and do the best you can to empower those decisions with access to the appropriate data sources best suited to the situation.
BI has helped organizations from small to enterprise with several key business goals. Some reasons your team might use BI include:
- Improve understanding of customer needs and behavior through web analytics
- Increase efficiencies of employees and departments
- Forecast sales or revenue based on historical reporting
- Monitor effectiveness of campaigns or capital projects
That all sounds like a great concept, but how can your business actually do it?
To tackle your BI project, focus on three specific aspects of your business that come together to allow you to drive appropriate actions. For example, some of those areas might be:
- Business Processes: These are the paths through which data and work flows through the organization in measurable and quantifiable ways.
- Tools: Tools are the systems that support business processes, and record information to make it available for analysis.
- Decisions: These describe the intended actions to be taken from measuring business processes.
Let’s look at three examples of how Business Intelligence can help your business hit organization goals.
Business Processes and Business Intelligence
Consistent, repeatable processes, with measurable and quantifiable outputs are critical to any business intelligence initiative. This is one of the more critical aspects that is often missing from traditional BI literature. Your BI team can become a trusted partner across the business when needs arise to design business processes.
Business Process Example
Need: Visibility for management into capacity and effectiveness of a fledgling sales team.
Problem: The sales team’s use of existing tools is haphazard and non-directed. When used, it is done so inconsistently and irregularly.
Solution: Improved business processes.
To better empower the sales team to support your mission, you will need a business process that will help them proactively work with prospects to match their needs with your products.
The sales reps may have all the right tools and a great CRM with a steady stream of leads, and access to product information and technical resources, but they lack a process on how to tie all of those together into a cohesive sales process.
The Business Intelligence team can collaborate with other business partners on the design and implementation of this process. Lead flows can be organized, sales cadences established, and validation processes for closed deals implemented. With measurable and repeatable processes, the ability to drive analytics and operational reporting is now possible.
Since the implementation of these business processes at Liquid Web, our sales attributable to our sales team has grown by 30%.”
That’s clear results.
Tools and Business Intelligence
Tools support business processes.
Tools can increase the effectiveness of existing business processes but are rarely the solution to a problem in and of themselves. Many tool implementations can improve the efficiency and repeat-ability of solid business processes. However, tool implementations can also take bad business processes and make them more efficient at creating a larger mess.
Make sure tools support (good) business processes.
Need: Improve efficiency of existing processes to improve efficiency and customer experience.
Problem: Established processes spread across multiple systems with disconnected data sources leads to inefficiencies and delays.
Solution: Implement tools on a unified platform for optimized customer experiences and data analysis.
One of the ways you can provide top-notch customer service is by providing your agents with the information they need to handle any situation.
In the time following the rollout of new and improved sales processes, the CRM tool used by your sales team may begin to have more and more useful information regarding the solutions and expectations being set with customers early in the sales process.
Additionally, your support team is most likely pivoting between multiple other systems to provide support via chat or ticket while accessing account information.
To simplify this process, and bring together all of the raw data from these different support channels for easier data analysis, your support processes need to all merge into a single platform. The process can remain very similar to what is always has been, but with a change in tooling, you are now able to make better business decisions.
There are two primary analyses that should come from this improved combined data. First, look for trends in the historical data to find issues that you can proactively resolve. For example, one of the ways you can live up to your SLAs is by keeping your systems as easy to use as possible.
When customers reach out to your support, you want to make sure it is the best experience possible. This is the second main analysis you need to do with this data. Try monitoring a number of metrics such as customer satisfaction and SLA response times to make sure you are living up to your promises.
Through the combination of these analysis, Liquid Web has seen a drop in support volume per customer of 30% and an increase in technical support efficiency of 25%, all while maintaining or improving CSAT and NPS scores.”
Decisions in Business Intelligence
Decisions relate to the specific actions planned to be taken from any BI project.
The clearer the picture of the decisions you are trying to direct with analysis of data, the better you can scope your business processes and data collection to focus on those decisions.
The most common response to answering a question with data is a desire for more data. You will never be able to understand every question that will be asked of any data set, but knowing the general types of decisions that you expect to make from the outset will help guide the processes and tools in the right direction.
Need: Mitigate rising infrastructure costs.
Problem: Existing data from processes and tools are being used in other ways.
Solution: Focus decision making around good data.
As your company grows, your hosting infrastructure will need to grow as well to meet new traffic capacities and availability needs.
The hosting infrastructure, however, comes with significant costs that will rise with increasing needs. These costs may continue to rise, perhaps even faster than anticipated. Fight this by validating your business processes and tools that manage the infrastructure are all needed, and take an inventory to ensure your are using your tech stack optimally. Next, kick off an initiative to find ways to optimize your spending.
Opportunities for significant savings may be quickly uncovered. Some of the actions that could come from this analysis include streamlining hardware inventory, removing unused yet deployed hardware, and tweaking processes for team collaboration.
These efforts will most likely continue as you continue to provide a stable and efficient infrastructure environment for your growing business.
The savings from these efforts at Liquid Web Data Centers are measured in the millions of dollars, representing a significant savings for us and our customers.”
Business Intelligence Works
Business Intelligence is about much more than big data or historical reporting. Any analysis that does not ultimately drive or inform specific action shouldn’t fit in your definition of Business Intelligence.
If you are just getting started on your own journey into Business Intelligence, start with the process of understanding the business processes you want to measure. That may be as simple as monitoring content downloads from your website, or as complex as tracking assisted sales through multiple quote-to-cash systems.
Whatever the process, identify it, decide how to track it, and start making decisions around how to make things better.
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Wade Wachs is the former Director of Information and Analytics at Liquid Web. Wade has 15 years of experience working with software development teams. In five short years at Liquid Web, Wade was able to implement two BI platforms, collaborate inter-departmentally to design processes and systems to generate actionable data, and has built trust with the executive team to rely on the information provided for crucial business decisions made on a daily basis.
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