It looks like we’re finally climbing out of the economic crisis that tested the mettle of many companies over the past couple of years. However, expect plenty more storms in the months and years ahead – our rough-and-tumble economy may finally start to resume growth, but rough and tumble will remain the norm. The best way to weather the current and future storms is by becoming an analytics-driven organization – from top to bottom.
Claudia Imhoff, a highly regarded proponent of business intelligence and data warehousing, recently conducted a series of Webcasts over at the TDWI site that contemplated the role of BI and analytics to get organizations through the tough times. (Parts 1, 2, 3 are available for viewing.)
BI and analytics are more important than ever, especially in these times, Claudia said. In the good old days, “you could get by with a generic product through some kind of generic channel, or set of campaigns to these generic or unknown prospects or customers. A lot of what we developed or sold and competed with was based on a gut feel,” Claudia pointed out.
“We have to think differently,” Claudia continued. “Everything has to have to have some kind of analytic basis. The BI/analytics not only have to support traditional analysis, but also comparative analysis of this week to last week, previous quarter to the current quarter. We’re also looking at more and more current information. Data must be fresher, closer to real-time. Current analytics must be embedded into operational processes and all must be accessible from anywhere, anytime, for anyone.”
“Companies that have sophisticated BI environments will weather the economic storm,” she said. The analytical companies that employ BI and analytics to weather the storm have some common characteristics.
Here are the key characteristics of analytics-driven companies:
- Strong top-level support for an analytical culture: “Senior executives need to be strong advocates of analytics and fact-based decision making,” Claudia says. “Senior executives have to understand cross-functional and cross-departmental changes. And for those two changes to occur, we need to have senior executives on board. Because they’re the ones who are going to be driving it.”
- Pervasive use of analytics, predictive modeling and complex optimization techniques: “We are moving into an era now where analytic competitors go way beyond simple statistics or comparative analytics. They combine internal and external data to get full picture of events, customers, future situations. Competitors have to go way beyond simple reports and simple comparative analytics. We have to combine internal and external data, and we have to know what’s going on around us for us to understand and see the full picture.”
- Substantial use of analytic approaches across multiple business functions or processes: “Analytical competitors have adopted and use analytics throughout all areas of their enterprise,” Claudia pointed out. “It’s not just for sales, it’s not just for finance. Analytic competitors have adopted and used their analytics everywhere in their organizations.”
- Enterprise approach used in managing analytic tools, data and organizational capabilities: “We can’t do this collaboration unless we understand it as an enterprise, approach it as an enterprise… And what that means is we have to have a critical mass of data and skills and support in each of these organizational units, and that will help us promote collaboration in these areas, eliminating the inconsistencies and redundancies.” Such efforts may lead to a center of excellence, she added.
BI and analytics needs an enterprise approach, but to get started, Claudia urged a focus on one or two key areas to get started with enterprise analytics. “Part of the problem that I see within organizations is they start getting pulled in all kinds of different directions, instead of maintaining a consistent focus,” she pointed out.