It’s nothing short of extraordinary just how sophisticated computers and software programs have become. Science fiction has long held a fascination with the idea of super intelligent computers who become self-aware and wreak havoc. In Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, the chillingly calm sounding HAL computer program murders the crew of a space mission, as the computer feels that they will hinder the overall success of the project. In the Terminator series of films, the Sky Net computer system is used to control all the weapons systems in the USA, and the computer assesses its greatest threat as being humanity itself, and so launches all the nuclear weapons in an attempt to rid the world of this threat. While this is all (hopefully) the stuff of fantasy, there are many intuitive computer programs that exist in order to make life easier for us flesh and blood creatures. In the business world, it’s becoming a necessity to have intelligent, decision-making software to streamline operations, making the business far more efficient in its objectives. But why exactly does a company need business intelligence (BI) systems?
What Does BI Actually Do?
A good business intelligence package is the scourge of IT departments, since it makes them somewhat obsolete. Data is packaged and analyzed by the BI system, without the need for complex reports to be run. Therefore, information about a wide ranging areas of company operations can be immediately accessed, giving information on everything from purchase history, to shipping information, to inventory, to anticipated future growth, to individual employee performance. If you were a wholesaler of heating appliances, your BI tools could show you what your customers have purchased, and in what quantities. It could also show you that sales have gone up dependent on the outside temperature, and that since a cold winter is expected, you might need to order more stock to meed demand.
Only The Information You Need
It used to be that when certain pieces of information needed to be reviewed, the information would need to be manually accessed, whether literally pulled from filing cabinets, or accessed using the less than precise search available on most operating systems. If you were lucky, it would already have been collated into a spreadsheet, but if not, then you would need to manually assess the information, which is a time consuming affair, prone to the potential for significant errors. The selection of data to be used for BI purposes is important, as accurate, relevant data allows the tools to work at their premium.
Decentralize Your Operations
Most BI tools utilize a variety of remote servers to store information (often referred to as cloud computing), and this information can be securely accessed by anyone with suitable authorization, anywhere in the world. The information is recalled and sent to a laptop, tablet device or smart phone, making BI ideal for customer facing employees who might need to access real time data about a customers specific needs prior to a meeting. Not all companies need a literal office to house all their staff, and decentralizing operations is a great way to reduce costs.
Where To Get It?
The BI world has expanded greatly in recent years, with many software developers launching a multitude of comprehensive BI systems and apps. Technically speaking, any type of tool that is partially automated can be classed as a BI system, although an Excel spreadsheet that adds up numbers for you is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what’s available. Apple has a number of basic downloadable BI apps that are good for very small businesses and sole traders, but for something that will greatly benefit your company, you might want to consider an easy to use user driven BI system that can be upgraded as needed, like those offered by Domo.
While business intelligence won’t take over your company and run it to its own objectives like the computer systems of sci-fi, it will take a lot of the labor-intensive analytical work out of your hands. BI is the future, and you certainly don’t want your company to be left behind.
Samantha Priest is an Australian freelance writer, a huge fan of blogging and a technology expert.