Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (4)

Castor Projects revolutionises performance management Issued by: All Scan   [Johannesburg, 11 April 2013] -

Castor Projects Consultants (CPC), one of SA’s leading mobile device repair service providers, today announces it is implementing Intuitive Dashboards to revolutionise the speed of performance management reporting against critical service key performance indicators (KPIs).

Using Intuitive Dashboards, senior managers gain instant, interactive access to accurate management data submitted by CPC’s technical staff located across SA, empowering them to rapidly analyse their performance, improve effectiveness and enhance client service.

Previously, performance information was manually consolidated from 45 individual reports, taking four hours a day to produce management reports. As a result of implementing Intuitive Dashboards, which provides customisable dashboard views of the most critical information required, CPC will save five working days a month. In addition, Intuitive Dashboards provides an accurate perspective of CPC’s overall performance across product, HR, forecasting and financial KPIs.

Intuitive Dashboards unites critical management information residing in existing disparate data sources, presenting users with relevant information in a visually engaging, interactive dashboard format. By delivering proactive alerts to potential variances and shortfalls, as well as highlighting trends, users can take fast action to maintain performance levels and maximise opportunities, which ultimately aids efficiency, service delivery and cost-effectiveness.

Stephan Haupt, Director of Castor Projects, comments: “We needed a solution that would enable us to make faster, more proactive decisions on a day-to-day basis, so we can focus on critical areas of the business that need immediate attention. We used to spend up to four hours a day pulling data together to produce management reports, but using Intuitive Dashboards, we now have real-time access giving us an accurate picture of how we’re performing. Intuitive Dashboards is extremely easy to use, so we can drill-down to analyse our data more deeply with just a few mouse clicks. I’m also impressed by the highly visual, customisable dashboards which makes it extremely simple to interpret and act on our data.”

Haupt concludes: “We operate in a highly competitive market and it’s imperative we deliver a service that is second to none. Intuitive Dashboards enables us to manage productivity more effectively than ever before, because we can now act quickly to deal with potential performance shortfalls across our business. There are so many applications for the software across the organisation – if we have the data, we can now analyse it and use it to spot trends. Intuitive Dashboards is an essential business enabler for forward-looking organisations which have the desire to drive significant performance improvements and exceed their clients’ expectations with exceptional service.”

South Africa-based Allscan, a leading document imaging and BI solutions provider, is managing CPC’s implementation of Intuitive Dashboards. Chris Botha, Managing Director at Allscan, comments: “Intuitive Dashboards is the perfect solution for organisations that need the power to analyse, interpret and manage critical operational data. Using Intuitive Dashboards, CPC can now achieve their strategic goal of realising actionable business insight from their management information, in order to gain a sustainable competitive edge.”

Roger Stocker, Sales Director at Intuitive Business Intelligence, says: “We’re delighted to welcome CPC to our expanding list of mobile telephony clients. Using Intuitive Dashboards, CPC benefits from rapid, real-time dashboard access to their critical performance data, enabling them to closely manage costs and service delivery, as well as identify efficiencies and improvements across all their business operations. Ultimately, Intuitive Dashboards will help them to act fast, take decisive action and stay one step ahead of the competition, and we’re extremely pleased to be working with them.”

Sunday, 10 March 2013 00:00

BI Dashboards - the good, the bad, and the ugly

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According to Wikipedia, a Business Intelligence Dash board can be defined as the following: "an easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status (snapshot) and historical trends of an organization’s key performance indicators to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.”

For example, a manufacturing dashboard may show key performance indicators related to productivity such as number of parts manufactured, or number of failed quality inspections per hour. Similarly, a human resources dashboard may show KPIs related to staff recruitment, retention and composition, number of open positions or average cost per recruitment.

With this in mind let’s explore a little deeper and find out what is happening in the world of dashboards and what we can expect in the near future?
Why have dashboards been failing in the past?

By definition a dashboard is supposed to provide an easy to read representation of the business at that exact moment as well as its historical trends. It is not supposed to make business decisions for the company. It is not supposed to make predictions about future growth and or trends. Ultimately is supposed to work for the company’s management to make decisions and not to replace them. Some BI software developers have recently taken it upon themselves to create an application that will auto-pilot a business. They claim that by using complex algorithms the software can make decisions to streamline your business and have it run at optimum efficiency. I don’t subscribe to that thinking. I say keep the management, but provide them with the best information possible so that they can make the best possible decisions. Generally speaking executive managers have obtained their positions by proving their many years of studies and business experiences were all worthwhile.

What has changed over the last 10 years?

Besides the obvious technological advancements in graphics and processing speeds there is a interactive improvement with the advent of being able to drill down into the data and find the source records of the transactions. There has been very little other “useful” improvements. It is common belief that the labelling and structure of the views are too complex and the management teams that view the dashboards do not understand what is being represented and eventually lose trust in the software and revert back to the old traditional methods of data analysis.

What does the future hold for BI dashboards?

It was highlighted recently at the Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2013 that with the increase in the amount of data and the increasing need for proactive management decision making, dashboards have to become intuitive.  What is meant by “intuitive”? They need to show up-to-date data with live tickers if possible and easy to create and to read components for all the divisions. For example: If you are a Finance Manager and you need to manage your company’s cash flow, it would be incredibly helpful if you could have a live ticker of your bank balance showing in real time all the transactions into and out of your account. It would be great to also have a component that lists the top 5 creditors by outstanding amount and then have another component with the top 5 creditors by settlement time. The same can be applied for all the other aspects of the business (HR, Sales, Operations, etc.). Gone are the days of viewing a report/analysis/dashboard showing everything that happened last week/last month/last quarter. That is history, what we need is the present.

It seems the majority of the market is ready for the next generation of dashboard tools. Are you?

In the previous BI blog we discussed: What is business intelligence and why it is so important for any business to make executive decisions whether they are a small startup company or a multinational enterprise. So then why is it that there are so few businesses using BI toolkits to make more informed executive decisions?
Gartner (world renowned information technology research and advisory firm) show that Business Intelligence is a top 3 priority for CIOs and Senior Executives. Yet after years of investment and implementation, BI has failed to become pervasive among business users: Gartner estimates that no more than 20% of business users actually use BI proactively. This means that BI is not being widely used to manage performance. Below is a diagram illustrating the top 3 reasons why businesses do not use a business intelligence software.

Top Roadblocks to BI Success

Challenge Rank
Time and effort associated with implementing the solution           1
Too expensive 2
Complexity of using the solution 3
Technical skils required to support the solution 4
Complexity of data 5

1.Time and effort
Many BI applications require intensive configuration to be able to access the data from multiple databases stored in various locations. They also need to be able access this data which can be generated from a variety of business systems (for example MS Excel, Pastel, SAP, Oracle, etc.). This requires highly skilled resources to work on these business systems which comes at a hefty price. To give you an example: I recently heard of a well-known South African business that has paid over R2 million to date for a BI toolkit. It is now more than 18 months from when the installation started and they still do not have any dashboards to show for it.

2.Too expensive
The second biggest reason why BI is not utilised is because many business decision makers believe that the ROI to too low to consider implementing. An installation of any of the well-known BI systems for a medium to large size business in South Africa can easily set you back a few bar.

3.Too complex
So, not only are they considered expensive, but the installations are rather complex. There is also a lot of complaining about the lack of ease of use when it comes to the navigation, which is usually not well explained and the buttons functionalities are often unclear. I think this often happens because your understanding of what you need to manage in your business is not necessarily the same as the software developers who designed the packages. More often than not the managers lose hope after a short while and revert back to viewing each data set individually as they did before.

4.Require an IT department
The software is often developed in such a way that it requires an IT engineer and a team of developers to consult with the manager first and then using the information provided go back to their computers and design the reports and views. This important reporting structuring information is often lost in translation and the result is a whole lot of reports that do not take into account all the extenuating circumstances which allows human assumption to complete the reports.

5.Complexity of data
Many companies generate large amounts of varied data from all their business systems, so much so that the managers do not have the business performance skills to know what to analyse when. This can lead to over complicating simple reports. If you over-analyse and try to manage too many KPI’s you eventually end up macro-managing your business processes and lose focus on what is important.


Wednesday, 27 February 2013 05:38

What exactly is BI and how will it help my business?

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Whether you call it analytics, data mining, business intelligence, or if you are really up to date and refer to it as “Big Data”, you’re still talking about the same thing. BI is the process of converting your company’s data into meaningful, useful information that will help you make decisions on how to improve your company’s performance, discover new opportunities and operate efficiently.
You may think it sounds an easy task: simply take your financial, operational and HR information, feed it into the data mincing machine and viola, out pops a report accompanied by some heavenly music. Not so fast. The problem that exists in the real world is your data may be generated from many different sources and these sources often don’t like talking to one another. Baring that in mind, take the scenario of a small business owner who records all his data on spread sheets while the CEO of a multinational company has packages like SAP, Oracle, Sharepoint, etc to use. However, at the end of the day, both need to view the same types of reports in order to evaluate the success of their business.
So just what are these “reveal all” reports you ask? Well, that all depends on what performance measurements you want to and need to monitor, manage and act on.
For example: A Finance Manager may want to only monitor cash flow, debtors, creditors, ROI, and projected sales. The Sales Manager may also monitor projected sales, but in addition monitor sales history, and product. All this information needs to be filtered by product, region, by office, by team, and/or by employee.  These reports can and must be available for view by all the relevant employees of the business if you want to see optimal efficiency and growth for your business.
But probably what is most important is that these reports need to be a snapshot of the current environment. It does not help a production manager who requires additional staff resources in the middle of the month to ensure they meet their target and to receive the report at the end of the month. The same can be said for a finance manager authorizing payments that exceed their bank account credit limit at that given time.

So what have we determined?

  1. We all need clear, accurate and up to date reports to help us to make decisions to improve our business;
  2. The data needed to compile these reports comes from many sources; and
  3. Managers from the different areas need to monitor different performance measurements.

Next week we discuss why less than 20% of business users actually us BI proactively.

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