We have entered an age of information where big data rules. In today’s hyper-competitive markets, business decisions have to be made quickly, guided by a volume of facts and figures that simply didn’t exist a few years ago.
Analysis of this mass of data, or ‘big data’, has the potential to serve up insight into operations, to reduce costs, to identify business opportunities, to speed up decision making and even to pinpoint inefficiencies. However, in order for such analysis to be effective for modern day business, users require the ability to access that insight at speed.
The majority of organisations today have a significant amount of information locked away within spreadsheets and databases across multiple departments, representing a huge opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. Yet, gaining access to this data was not always so simple.
In the past, the business intelligence industry was built to serve the largest of enterprises who could afford to employ teams of number-crunching analysts running a full suite of custom-built applications developed to analyse raw data.
However, realisation soon dawned that this model of employing individual data specialists was outdated and slow. Organisations often found that while the specially trained IT expert was analysing data and producing complicated reports, the business leader who required the information to act on was falling behind, sometimes missing out on significant market opportunities.
In an age where business processes have become more integrated and complex, and economic pressures are forcing companies to do more with less, the business intelligence industry we see today is no longer built just for large firms who can afford multiple analysts with advanced programming knowledge.
Business success in the face of larger competitors often comes down to two things. Providing a better level of service, and remaining nimble enough to innovate at a faster pace. The better your understanding of company and market data, the quicker you can capitalise on emerging opportunities.
In the last decade, access to technology has evolved substantially, with business intelligence software becoming more powerful and lightweight. The most prevailing aspect of today’s business intelligence solutions is that they allow for self-service data analytics, meaning users within the business at any level can access data, quickly generate their own reports, search for specific information and interpret data specific to their own needs. Not only does this allow users to customise reports and free up IT resource, it also allows users to alter their analysis on the fly should they encounter insight on the way.
Self-service business intelligence is not just for business leaders. Rather than limit access to data to senior management, organisations are finding it is crucial to properly equip all employees with intelligence they can act on. This is particularly so for small to medium sized businesses, where investing in larger enterprise level solutions that require multiple resources may not be a viable option.
For small companies where employees wear many hats, to the largest of enterprises, it’s about making data analytics fit simply into the day-to-day. Rather than data belonging to IT, it’s about real people in business, who understand the topic and the environment, using data to get insight that’s actionable, and will positively impact their bottom line.
Empowering employees to innovate
The unyielding need to harness the insight locked away in big data means we will all have to become well versed in handing data in ways that were previously thought impossible, becoming data specialists in our own right regardless of our position. The organisations that enable employees to do this first will be far better placed to challenge future competition.