Continuing on our previous post. Here is another comparison card for you to evaluate your BI solution options.. Open the post to see a clear infographic comparing Necto 16 and Pyramid.
You've started your small business and things are going well. You're in the black, your customer base is growing, and you're ready to expand your company with new avenues for income and additional employees. Up until now, all of your data was pretty easy to manage on your standard text and spreadsheet software. So when is it time to start looking into business intelligence software? The answer is now.
Moving forward, you hire an additional 20 percent of employees, and open up a new office or business front. Now your data is coming from more people, from different sources, all at once. Try as you might, keeping track of every transaction personally is a matter of impossibility for any successful enterprise. Before long, you find yourself further behind on your data analysis than you could ever have hoped not to be. Your books become out of date, and often times entries begin slipping through the cracks until even an up-to-date log of transactions can be tremendously flawed. Business advisory firm Synnovatia identified this struggle as one of the many signs that your establishment is in trouble altogether.
Losing control of your organization because things picked up faster than you were prepared for could mark the beginning of the end, no matter how well things may appear on the surface of a positive net income. "Lots of new business owners put their bookkeeping to one side because they're so busy with the huge work load of setting up a business," tells Lee Murphy, Managing Editor of The Accountancy Partnership. His firm has been helping companies with bookkeeping and filing taxes since 2006. "That's understandable, but if the books aren't organized, troubling times lie ahead."
How do you get out in front of the large amount of information heading your way? The solution is clear – be ready for it before it comes, regardless of how small your business may be now.
The key to any successful venture is thinking long term. You may only be handling 100 customers today, but is that going to be your business model forever? In all likelihood, you're going to see an increase in clients as your enterprise remains open, satisfies consumers and draws more attention through advertising and word of mouth.
Software like Necto 14 can compile condensed, simplified synopses and graphics from all of your company data, across multiple outlets, all in one convenient location that can be viewed anywhere. Tracking anything from what is selling and what isn't, where your most successful markets are and various trends within your business' big data, your BI solution has never been easier. Graphs and workboards make understanding your business needs much simpler, allowing you to focus on where improvements need to be made or giving way to the freedom of evolving further in your market. Keeping data neatly organized and readily available is a process that can be started at any time, but it is always better to begin sooner rather than later.
The march of progress is present in the types of business intelligence software deployed in workplaces around the world. This makes sense: Companies today define themselves by their IT footprints, and BI remains relevant no matter the industry or subject matter. Therefore, it's natural that analytics programs will receive close attention and a selection of great features. Organizations are filling their decision-making processes with an infusion of data, a move that seems to have made it impossible to go back to making choices via intuition – after all, if rival companies have a direct line to their data, firms without such access could be in trouble.
The Current Wave and the Next
There are many different trends flowing through the BI ecosystem at any time. Its evolution is not a one-sided process, nor is it one that can be completed all at once. IT Business Edge contacted one of its industry partners to determine where the feature development timeline is now and where it will be later in 2015. The source noted 2014 had its own share of futuristic upgrades, focusing on granting capabilities such as mobile BI access and the use of big data sets instead of the structured groupings that have traditionally held that role. Of course, time's march has made those elements a part of the milieu and brought a new crop to the fore.
As for the year at hand, the content displayed on dashboards may be set to shift. IT Business Edge reported that specialization and simplicity are on tap in the way data is displayed visually. Dashboards present representations of abstract numbers that make them immediately accessible and useful for the employees who need to act on the conveyed information. The source noted that any sort of general dashboard containing every metric needed by anyone in the company will be too complex, bordering on unreadable. A series of dashboards that each target a specific role can give better insights.
The Future is Here
While customized and well-designed dashboards are being presented as this year's new trend, they have already arrived. Necto 14, for instance, allows its users to see only the facts that impact them directly. This means that CEOs and other top officials can have the zoomed-out view that allows them to act in the interest of many departments at once, while highly specialized workers delve into their own verticals with drill-down metrics to make snap decisions accurately. This sort of personalized experience is part of the bedrock that supports true self-service BI.
Leaders within certain industries are pushing for new business intelligence features. Generally, these are expansions to the general concept of BI, whereas traditional BI represents the great idea of improving decisions through data but is constrained by its functional limitations. Older BI systems were functionally complicated, requiring dedicated IT professionals to parse the data on their powerful desktop PCs. These problems have been swept away by developments such as apps that can be used on mobile devices and the concept of self-service BI, simple interfaces that work in many departments. This latter trend has the potential to change the whole process of using analytics.
Organizations take the plunge
A recent CloudTweaks piece assessed which types of businesses are best suited for a self-service makeover. The source asserted that there is room for an upgrade in both large and small companies. While SMBs may be considered a more natural fit for this technology – because they generally don't have data scientists on staff and can benefit from simple BI interfaces – large organizations can also see improvement. According to CloudTweaks, there is room to reassemble a whole company culture around analysis. This is a way to boost the performance of every role from the C-level on down through a dose of data.
The actual granular benefits of BI are linked with its streamlining of age-old BI advantages. The source explained that a long process of communication between line-of-business pros and their IT department contacts can be completely eliminated when users each have their own BI software. The IT workers are free to get back to innovating and the company can move forward with its decisions, confident that they are fueled by fresh data and accurate analysis of those numbers. CloudTweaks cited more efficient operations without a correlated amount of time put in by the most tech-savvy employees.
Time to upgrade?
One of the most exciting facets of self-service BI is that it has already arrived. The futuristic capabilities built into these software solutions are available now through programs such as Necto 14. Throughout corporate structures, employees can view dashboards that directly address problems they are really facing rather than digging through reports meant only for expert eyes. Those same IT pros, freed from their duty of serving insights to the rest of the company, can press forward with the next stage of the organization's technological development. With everyone more productive, firms as a whole can improve their standing within their individual industries.
Business intelligence is a technology with an unbeatable premise – better decisions. This is applicable to just about every area of corporate operations, in a vast number of industries. If there is data on a topic, companies can sharpen their response to related operations, and as of today, there is information pouring in on just about everything. Organizational leaders can commit a reasonable amount of resources to gaining an advantage over their closest rivals. Winning such a battle can represent the difference between financial success and failure in today's intense and close market battles that have extended to international competition via the Internet.
Creating a BI project today means getting down to the basic concepts behind the technology, ideas that can be obscured by years of hype and experimentation. A recent piece by Forbes contributor Suhas Sreedhar pointed out these underlying concepts, the ones that animate analytics. He explained that one of the most important points of BI development is making the tools accessible to a wide selection of employees. This may be lost in the shuffle as organizations prioritize bigger and more impressive collections of data. Implementers who focus too hard on the quest to work with more resources may end up with a theoretically great system usable by no one.
Sreedhar relayed advice from IT Business Edge, explaining that theoretically sound BI projects can fail if no users can get a handle on their applications. In an environment where just about every department of a company has some kind of analytics it could be performing, cutting these professionals off is one way to weaken the relevance of a solution. Sreedhar noted that there is something to be said for spending a little on a system that will fit into an existing workflow. The opposite, breaking the bank and buying a solution no one can understand, is pointless.
Self-service BI thrives
The use of self-service solutions is the antithesis of the top-heavy model that suggests processing power is all that counts. Applications such as Necto 14 embrace true self-service BI as a mission statement and include dashboards that can be customized to suit the unique preferences of departments throughout the company. This way, employees from CEOs on down can see the data points they are used to and need to know about, rather than dealing with a stream of raw numbers or figures more relevant to some other section of the organization. This way of looking at BI can save companies from investing in tools that don't help them.
The use of business intelligence is a broader area of organizational focus now than ever before. While these systems were once confined to a few experts, every generation has brought them closer to their destiny as easy-to-use tech solutions. The story of BI is the same as that of every other system that started in an exclusive silo and ended up on every desk. Prices and ease of use are becoming more forgiving and companies are realizing that the outdated model employees must use to file BI jobs with experienced workers dedicated to the task is inefficient. End users are calling for BI access and the tools are there to accommodate them.
The rise of marketing
Forbes contributor Prakash Nanduri recently sketched his view of BI in 2015, and the predictions include the furthering of several trends that are emergent today. For instance, Nanduri suggested that BI will go well beyond the IT department in the year ahead, with other departments making their own purchases. He offered two choices to IT leaders in the face of this demand: They can either make peace with the non-tech users and work toward common goals, or they can lose control of the ecosystem and be left behind. Today's employees are goal-driven – when they see an opportunity to improve their workflow, they take it.
Marketing is a department on the rise at companies all over the world. Nanduri stated that these sections are driving the expansion of their respective companies, a new status that means marketers have a hand in tech adoption. The author reported there are new possibilities unlocked by the presence of BI. Marketers are intensely interested in being guided by the facts gathered from inside and outside their organizations, as this means the end of intuition as a leadership tool. Firms guided by data will have a real-world view of their circumstances, one that could elude other organizations.
Time for self-service
Nanduri's insistence that self-service features are a pressing trend raises an issue for firms selecting BI software. They need this advanced feature now. Fortunately, solutions such as Necto 14 are ready to meet such requirements. The software is built to accommodate the needs of many different professionals, offering dashboards that show just what the users need to know. CEOs will have very different ideal views than marketers, but each can rest easy knowing he or she does not have to face down pages of menus or raw data to learn pertinent details. No matter which department is in the driver's seat, self-service BI features help them lead the way.
On paper, self-service business intelligence seems like a perfect solution for enterprises, but a recent study by Logi Analytics revealed the tool has been afflicted by low adoption rates, as reported by Enterprise Apps Today.
Gartner defines self-service BI as "end users designing and deploying their own reports and analyses within an approved and supported architecture and tools portfolio." Ironically, the empowerment associated with being able to take the wheel and conduct data analysis according to a specific and unique set of criteria is also what's hampering the widespread adoption of the solution.
In fact, according to Logi Analytics, fewer than one-quarter (22 percent) of business users have access to and can leverage self-service BI.
What's holding professionals back?
Budgetary constraints have historically been a problem for big data initiatives – and, indeed, IT developments in general. Self-service BI is no exception in this regard, with nearly half (48 percent) of participants in the Logi Analytics poll citing financial limitations as a reason for underwhelming adoption.
Perhaps more surprisingly, the same percentage of respondents pointed to business user skill sets as a challenge, likely as a result of a misconception surrounding the inaccurate application of "self-service" to the aspect of training.
"How can something be 'self-service' if it requires the IT department to train and support users continually? That's the conundrum of self-service BI," wrote TechTarget industry analyst Wayne Eckerson in a blog post responding to Inside Analysis research that revealed 73 percent of people did not expect the amount of training associated with self-service BI tools. "If you want to empower users, you first need to give them the know-how to service themselves, and how to do this varies widely, depending on the skills and experience of the business users."
Eckerson identified two major types of self-service BI users:
- Casual users, such as executives, front-line workers and managers. Their information needs are basic, and they mostly want to rely on canned reports or dashboards to access the data they need. However, about one-fifth of the time, they want to create their own reports and dashboards.
- Power users, such as business analysts, data scientists and statisticians. They seek to find, analyze and manipulate data to answer complex questions.
Given the sharp division between these two sets of users, one-size-fits-all self-service BI training isn't the way to go. Rather, companies should gauge the needs of their workforce and launch training efforts accordingly.
When technology develops, it does not have to become more complex. In fact, it's possible to define progress the exact opposite way. As systems and services grow simpler and fall into the hands of a wide spectrum of users, their effects can really be felt. When new developments are controlled by a cadre of experienced or expert users, there is less chance of direct positive effects at the ground level of organizations. This all changes when such processes are dispersed among the masses. In business intelligence terms, this movement is unfolding right now, with true self-service BI becoming a goal around industries.
The rudiments of self service
TheServerSide.com contributor Jason Tee recently explained some of the factors that go into creating a self-service BI plan. These strategies differ from traditional BI deployments because they are meant for general consumption and sport a through-line between wanting data analyzed and performing the action oneself. Tee stated that the leaders concocting today's self-service outlines must be ready to deal with some users who will be best served by reports that fit a pattern or template, as well as users who know the ropes and other professionals who have mastered BI and need deep tools. Unless a product caters to all three groups, there will be some blind spots in the organization's operations.
There are certain features employees should have access to if they want to ensure their BI programs deliver optimal results. Tee stated that comprehensibility is on this list for self-service deployments in particular. He explained that The Data Warehousing Institute conducted research on the topic and uncovered the importance of visual elements. This is in contrast with the exclusive BI products of years past. When data is presented in a visualization or dashboard, it becomes quickly legible and therefore enables the employees to act right away and without consulting others for time-consuming help.
The right software
Leaders today need to think about self-service features specifically if they want to introduce analytics processes to their teams. This is where Necto can prove its worth, allowing each professional to see the results that he or she is interested in, all in a visual format that is tailored to the position in question. Instead of passing off BI duty to a small team or working with solutions that are not optimized for the whole organization, it is possible to secure an option that is directly relevant to the roles and responsibilities within today's corporations and grants timely insights.
While it's normal for business intelligence processes to be in place at leading organizations today, providers aren't resting on their laurels. Now that BI is a standard part of the IT toolkit, the challenge is procuring new and better processes – ones that can handle different types of data and inspect it in new and different ways, delivering insights employees can use in their everyday roles. The winners and losers of the productivity stakes over the next few years may be determined by which leaders can secure powerful BI deployments for their organizations and which come up short. In any case, now is a great time to examine trends in the market.
Preferred features for BI
A recent report by Kable highlighted some of the overall trends that are affecting the way BI products are designed and used. These solutions are far from stagnant, as the underlying technology is growing incrementally stronger and there are always ways to extract new and helpful insights from content. According to the source, this is a critical moment for BI. Organizations are finding use cases for the technology beyond the highly-trained IT leaders who have traditionally worked with it. In the past, these workers would field requests from all other interested departments. Now, there are many new ways to work with information.
The more employees and organization types harness BI, the better – making decisions without input from high-tech solutions is simply an unnecessary undertaking today with great options on the market. The source indicated that there are also big opportunities in mobility. Kable explained that mobility can be more than an extension of BI that is mainly performed on PCs and companies are striving to make mobile BI a unique and compelling experience on its own. This means new options and ways to work with content on the go.
A compelling new option
Organizations looking for their next major BI deployment can consider the list of features offered by Necto 14. This solution offers touch capabilities that make the mobile experience useful even if users don't touch base often. Rather than just checking data, they can manipulate powerful visualizations and stay plugged in on the go. These capabilities can be tailored to the preferences of individual users in various roles, meaning that Necto also supports the expansion of BI beyond the IT department. From the C-suite to marketers who go for long stretches without returning to their desks, there are graphs and charts to suit every employee group.
For years, organizations have been gaining rather straightforward insights from business intelligence software. These responses have always been helpful, allowing companies to chart more accurate courses than without the technology. However, in recent years, this breed of software has gradually transformed. Tools have become better, both more powerful and responsive. Instead of making BI into an experts-only tech area, many of these breakthroughs have been designed to improve its appeal to employees outside of the traditional IT section. These moves toward accessibility have unlocked self-service BI use cases and empowered companies at large. After all, the more employees who have their own dashboards, the quicker they can go from raw data to useful insight.
The visual angle
Baseline contributors Nick Millman and John Miller recently explored what happens to business intelligence systems when tools go beyond standard results to offer rich visual accompaniment. This does not mean merely plotting out bar graphs – that capability has existed for years and today's BI developers have become more advanced. Namely, they are interested in tools that can present exactly the information that users need to see at the moment. This will vary by role and circumstances. Millman and Miller explained that there are already examples of these projects in use in enterprise settings.
The authors described speed of insights as one potential advantage of visual information delivery. They posited that when companies design a new operation, they want to know how the project is doing quickly. With a well-designed visualization to put the numbers into a legible form, they can have this insight in a hurry and make the call to continue or cancel the new plan. Responsiveness is at a premium in the current office environment. As more organizations take on advanced analytics and examine their data in close to real-time, reactions will have to become ever faster. Visualization could be one way to ensure organizations accomplish this feat of self-improvement.
One of the main points to make when developing advanced BI is ensuring that the solution is not uniform. Different employees will have unique needs, and that means organizations should find tools that present an optimized view for the user. This is where solutions such as Necto 14 come in. This suite, which can be accessed across a range of common IT devices, is meant to suit any type of potential user. From the CEO to the marketing section to highly-technical power users, they will all find dashboards that present relevant data.