May 14, 2018 Robb Carmichael

How to Put Some Power Behind Business Intelligence

There’s not a single successful business out there who doesn’t believe information is their lifeblood; helping them to more accurately analyze everything from customer profiles and buying patterns to employee performance.

Thanks to our ability to collect data from a wide range of sources, the amount of information we have at our fingertips is growing faster than ever, and the increasing popularity of smart devices is contributing an explosion of data. Experts project the amount of data we have access to will increase by 4,300% by 2020.

A Digital Disconnect

Compounding the issue of the sheer volume of data coming into an organization is the fact that data is becoming stale faster than ever before. Where we used to be content to look at month-end reports that were delivered in the middle of the following month, today, businesses need to be more agile and responsive.

 

Common Challenges to BI success

The data deluge and speed with which businesses need to understand and act on that information underscores the need for real-time business intelligence (BI) solutions.

BI isn’t new and, in its basic form, BI sounds simple – it’s the collection and analyzing of data. In practice, it’s challenging for companies to implement effectively.

In our experience, some of the hurdles businesses face in their quest to turn data into intelligence include:

  • Understanding BI – It’s not just Big Data. Too often BI initiatives fail simply because companies don’t really understand what BI is and what it can do.
  • Data disconnect – There can be different perspectives on what you want to know or need know based on your role in the organization … which can lead to companies pulling and analyzing information that fails to yield the results they want.
  • Disparate sources of information – All too often, corporate data is collected and stored in a range of different applications.
  • Resources – There is a shortage of BI professionals, so you might not have the experts on hand to deliver on your corporate goals.
  • Time – If it takes too long to analyze the information, it will lose relevance. BI initiatives need to provide near to real time results.
  • Picking the right solution – A company needs to understand the different solutions to align capabilities with their requirements.

Solving the BI Challenge

When it comes to turning data into business intelligence, we like the capabilities we’re seeing from Microsoft’s PowerBI. It has a powerful (no pun intended) set of tools to help companies analyze their data, get instant answers to their queries with user-friendly dashboards accessible on every device.

Here’s a few things we like about PowerBI:

  • It’s designed for non-techies. User Experience (UX) has been cited as a barrier to BI adoption. PowerBI addresses this issue with a user-friendly interface.
  • You can compose reports using natural-language queries … ask a question, get an answer … no more complex queries that don’t get you the information you’re seeking.
  • Familiarity – If your organization already uses other Microsoft solutions like Office 365, Power BI will feel familiar. PowerBI also integrates easily and seamlessly with Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams.
  • Connect to data from different sources: There are hundreds of different data sources you can use with PowerBI; many you are likely already using like Excel, Salesforce, QuickBooks and Google Analytics, as well as cloud-based databases like Azure SQL Database.
  • In the office or on the go: Native apps available for iOS, Android and Windows devices so you can use PowerBI on any device.
  • On Prem and in the cloud – Data can be extracted directly from cloud, on premise, and hybrid systems without complicated manual exports and imports. In other words, you don’t have to model data in native systems before integrating it and this means you can access and report results more quickly and seamlessly.
  • With access to so much data, security becomes an important factor. PowerBI has row level security to let you grant and rescind access in a granular level and in a very controlled way. In addition, Power BI automation lets you set rules to control who can see specific rows of data within a report, making your information even more secure.

When done right, BI is a powerful tool, but it can be tricky to get it set up correctly to truly leverage its power (and that’s where we come in).

Got data you want to turn into business insights? Let Whitecap help.