Business intelligence: The Great Underachiever

By John Leonard
01 Jun 2011 View Comments
Business intelligence

In order to survive and thrive, businesses of all types must be able to identify and act on changes in their markets quickly, and with the confidence that comes with being in full possession of the facts.

Changes and opportunities are generally identified by workers on the front line – customer services, sales people, buyers, marketing professionals – rather than by the executives in the boardroom. And yet the facts, in the shape of business intelligence (BI), are very often restricted to the C-Suite.

Further reading

Computing surveyed more than 200 senior IT professionals in large UK organisations. The overwhelming majority of those polled (81 per cent) agree with the statement that "BI is information that everyone needs to make better decisions, and to do their jobs better". However, this represents in reality only 24 per cent of organisations. Put the other way around, 76 per cent do not have a single version of the truth.

Why should this be? Why would so many businesses maintain discrete silos of data, restricting access to information to all but senior decision makers, while at the same time acknowledging that staff across the business require this same data to do their jobs properly?

The key sticking points are security and confidentiality. Who can we trust with what information? How do we control who receives it? Are we compliant with regulations?

Thirty-four per cent see the challenge of delivering only the right information to the right people as insurmountable, hence access is restricted to the privileged few. Another 11 per cent are worried about securing the facilities where that data is stored.

These are valid concerns, but by evading them firms may be missing out on new opportunities: cross-selling to existing customers; gaining insight into the performance of partners, suppliers, staff and sales offices.

Failure to democratise business data inevitably leads to blind spots. Many surveyed confess to operating with only a basic level of information about their own department's performance. Eight per cent even admit to losing sales because of poor intelligence.

To avoid such knowledge gaps, intelligence should be spread as widely as possible, on the right platforms, and to the right people. Only then can the organisation genuinely claim to be operating with all the facts, with its workforce functioning as a unified team behind a clear business strategy.

For many companies integrating BI solutions around new or existing ERP and CRM applications that sit atop a structured data warehouse is the most sensible way of doing this. Roles that define a user's access to information can then be worked out across the board.

To see the rest of the results and detailed analysis, download the report.

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