Covering the essentials of business intelligence, explore the features & functions for an overview.
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Few events in history come close to matching the enormity of the Big Data explosion. According to industry research, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. That’s approximately 2.5 exabytes. For perspective, if every word ever spoken were quantified in bytes, it would equate to 5 exabytes. We make half of that every single day.
More incredible than the amount of data being created is what can be achieved with it. Organizations in every industry imaginable are trying to use the data available to them to make smarter business decisions that will boost the bottom line. For instance, a few years back Bloomberg Business published a report about how Coca-Cola used data analytics for its orange juice subsidiary, Minute Maid. The company has actually made an algorithm through which oranges produced by more than 400 suppliers, containing as many as 600 flavor variants, can always result in a consistent taste and texture.
Granted, achieving this level of precision and predictive prowess is much easier said than done, especially without access to a business intelligence solution that has a key set of features, namely, those listed below:
This first one is sort of a no-brainer. The only way that you can analyze data is if you have unbarred access to the applications, consumer-facing or otherwise, through which this data is generated or aggregated. However, not every BI solution is compatible with the tools in a given enterprise. As such, data will have to be manually migrated from one disparate source into a central repository – a time-consuming feat that bogs down workflows. A much better method is to use a BI tool that can integrate with popular business solutions such as Oracle E-Business Suite, Taleo and PeopleSoft as well as productivity tools like Microsoft Office.
Remember, the purpose of BI is to help your business make smart decisions that will ultimately enhance its end gain – whether that’s to make better orange juice, or to develop a strategy to extend your reach into a new market vertical. Regardless of the objective, your BI tool needs to be able to parse your data, and the easiest way to do that is if it can integrate with your data sources.
The employees that will regularly interface with a BI tool’s dashboard may or may not be able to tell you exactly what they expect from the user experience, but they’ll most definitely know good UI when they see it. For starters, any BI solution needs to have strong data visualization features. This is essentially a fancy way of saying, “how the data is presented to users.”
Ideally, the user should be able to further customize these displays in such a way that they can more easily extract the insights they need for a certain project or marketplace assessment. The ability to zoom in on certain data sets for a more granular view is called drill down. The ability to get horizontal insights – i.e. comparisons with other data sets and reports – is called drill through. Both are essential functions that should not be cumbersome for users to execute.
Strong data visualization is especially important to a BI tool. This is because, unlike traditional operational reporting tools that help workflows stay in order, the primary function of BI is to mine new data pools, so as to seek out patterns that could be useful in future business strategies and longer-term decision-making. The patterns derived from these searches can then be parsed in greater depth for the purposes of forecasting upcoming trends, or even predicting specific business outcomes.
To use the earlier example of the oranges, if multiple orchards are damaged in a hurricane, predictive analytics can tell you based on previously acquired and analyzed data that x combination of still available orchards, and drilled down further, x flavor variants within these orchards, will give you the same taste you’ve designed. With a powerful user interface, this complex capability is extremely simple on the user’s end.
“Insights can be derived and further analyzed from any location and on any device.”
The only buzzword that may be bigger than Big Data is cloud computing, and for good reason. In fact, the cloud actually makes it much easier to create a central data store, over which you can run an analytics engine that can feed your BI solution with the real-time data you need to make smarter business decisions. Cloud-based BI is also useful because it ensures that important business insights can be derived and further analyzed from any location and on any device of a user’s choosing.
Granted, not all organizations feel good about migrating their data to the cloud, which is why hybrid cloud adoption is spiking, according to a survey from RightScale. These deployments might be a mix of on-premises and private cloud, private cloud and public cloud, and so on. Maybe you want to keep everything safely tucked away on-premises. Ultimately, that’s for business stakeholders to decide, and for BI offerings to adapt to.
So whether your business environment is cloud-based or entirely in-house, there is a BI solution out there that can accommodate your needs. It’s called Orbit Analytics, and it integrates seamlessly with a variety of other enterprise tools including Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, Taleo, JD Edwards and Salesforce. Its smooth navigational interface makes it easy for users to extract insights from polished visualizations, even from a mobile device. With Orbit, all of these features are readily available on the device of an authorized user’s choosing, regardless of location.
To learn more about these and other benefits of Orbit Analytics, contact us for a demo today.
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