Business analytics used to be a very geeky endeavor practiced by hard-core IT people skilled in the arcane arts of data access, data mining, data analysis, and, of course, data warehousing. Those days are largely gone — and so are the reams of lovely spreadsheets they spawned. While the goals of business analytics (BA) remain the same — to gather and interpret data to make better business decisions, optimize processes and pursue new opportunities — the tools are now far more user-friendly, useful and plentiful than they were 10 years ago.
Many of today’s BA tools deliver information online rather than in static reports, typically providing executive dashboards that show high-level measurements of corporate performance with a few mouse clicks. Dashboards allow senior executives, as well as sales and marketing people, to drill down to details by, for example, clicking on a chart to see the numbers behind it.
Sure, businesses are still gathering and interpreting historical data, but now they can do so instantly online — mixing and matching various corporate data, blending in external data and creating reports and snapshots of market trends, customer buying patterns and so on … all in the pursuit of information that can be turned into growth and profitability. In the process, business analytics and intelligence are moving beyond analyzing what happened in the past to trying to predict and influence the future.
CRM, Business Intelligence Get Smarter
In the Web-driven age, businesses want information that is instantaneous, more useful, more convenient, and more user-friendly. A recent report shows that a growing range of customer relationship management (CRM) vendors have incorporated deep analytics features into their customer service capabilities. It reveals that most of the vendors provide embedded, out-of-the-box business intelligence (BI) features such as reporting, query, online analytical processing, dash-boarding, score-carding, and key performance indicators (KPI) prebuilt to support their customer service applications.
That’s no surprise, as these core BI features enable enterprises everywhere to keep track of how well they’re providing customer service across diverse CRM interaction channels and to identify opportunities to improve satisfaction, retention, upsell, agent productivity and other key metrics. Vendors now offer embedded predictive models to drive real-time ‘next-best-offer’ recommendations in call centers and portal-based customer service scenarios.
Open Source Business Intelligence
A good Business Intelligence (BI) tool or suite makes the difference between acting on facts and assumptions, which can drastically influence sales and profitability. The most pervasive use of a BI toolkit is KPI reporting and dash-boarding. Every report or dashboard includes a KPI or other metrics to compare performance to targets — and that keeps the focus on accountability. Analytics can be used to uncover opportunities, validate assumptions and solve problems associated with its sales, marketing and customer service performance. In one example, a company was able to identify ways to make their e-commerce purchasing process more effective using data analytics. The result was a 25 to 35 percent improvement in Web-based credit card approvals on their website. That improvement has translated into increased sales and ultimately more satisfied customers.
Another key area for analytics is targeted marketing. BI tools can identify customer groups that are likely to be interested in new products or services allowing for targeted marketing campaigns and promotional offers exclusive to the customers identified. Such data analytics also allows tracking and analytics on the effectiveness of the campaigns and then implement what the company has learned in future campaigns.
Continuous improvement process enables companies to better tailor promotional offers with specific customer groups, thus increasing profitability. The major bottom-line is that BI analytics can give a company information that was not previously available by tracking sales trends at a level that was impossible without BI software. Information can be accessed in near real-time across all sales channels allowing sales and marketing teams to more quickly respond to competitive threats and measure the effectiveness of new product introductions.