Category Archives: Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence

Big Data supports decision making!-

BI_July15_CAs a business owner or manager you likely need to make small decisions on a regular basis, and have likely gotten good at making them. There has also likely been a time when you have had to make a big decision that had a big impact on your business. This can involve a challenging process and is one reason why many businesses are turning to Business Intelligence (BI). While BI is popular, there is a new sector that is gaining business fans: Big Data.

You’ve likely seen or heard the term Big Data, but do you know what it is? Here is a simple definition, along with some examples and ways businesses can use it.

Define: Big Data
If you search for definitions of Big Data, you will likely come across something along the lines of: Big Data is data that focuses on harnessing and using new forms of unstructured data that move into or through a business with high volume, velocity and complexity.

But what exactly does this mean? Well, many find this definition vague, at best. We found a definition, an equation in fact, that better explains Big Data:
Big Data = Transactions + Interactions + Observations

Transactions
This is highly structured data related to events. It always includes: Time, a numerical value and refers to an objective, or objectives. Examples of this include, invoices, travel plans, activity records, payments, etc. The vast majority of this information is stored in databases and can be accessed quickly and easily, usually through SQL (Structured Query Language).

Interactions
This covers how people interact with one another, or with your business. This includes interactions such as Facebook posts and Likes, social feeds, generated content and even blogs. Basically, this encompasses any data you can collect through any type of interaction that this isn’t limited to business transactions. Many experts expect this part of Big Data to really take off and become more valuable as social networks become ever more integrated with our lives and the corporate world.

Observations
This is information gathered from the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is associated with unique, individual things that have a virtual component that can be observed, and are connected in an Internet-like structure. Some examples of this include GPS coordinates from a person that visits your website on their mobile phone, or RFID chips in ATM cards. This data can be stored and potentially used to make better, more informed decisions.

When you combine these three things together, along with the data associated with it, you get Big Data.

Some sources of Big Data
Here are just a few of sources of Big Data:

  • SMS messages
  • GPS coordinates associated with mobile interactions
  • HD video, audio and images
  • Product logs
  • Affiliate networks
  • Purchase details
  • Facebook Likes and shares

Ways business can use Big Data
There are numerous ways small to medium sized businesses can employ Big Data:

  • To provide better service - You can use Big Data to better tailor products for individual customers based on their buying habits, Facebook Likes and even personal preferences such as favorite colors.
  • Identify key customers - It can be hard to identify who your key customers are, especially if your company has a large customer base. By using Big Data, you can better identify who your primary customers are and their demographics. This makes it easier to make customer oriented decisions and marketing strategies.
  • Identify new business opportunities - If your company is harnessing Big Data, you will be better able to spot upcoming trends and better equipped to predict if these will prove popular.
  • Identify potential problems - If you monitor social media feeds, incoming calls and forums, you should be able to pick up potential problems more quickly and easily. This gives you the chance to fix issues before they escalate and cause any damage to your business.

There are many uses of Big Data, and as the world continues to generate more and more data, it will become increasingly important to employ Big Data techniques in your business. If you are looking to learn more about this topic, or any other part of Business Intelligence, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Four main types of BI

Data and what businesses do with it has become a popular science. Many take some steps to track and analyze important data, and from that make decisions or changes to their current strategies. The use of data to make better decisions is commonly referred to as Business Intelligence (BI). But, did you know that there are more types of BI you could be using?

Business Intelligence is generally divided into four different categories which are comprised of different types of BI that businesses working with data should be aware of.

Reporting
Reporting focuses on developing documents with valuable information, telling the reader what happened. They usually cover a time span that is determined by the writer of the report and can provide information on the whole company’s activities, or be as simple as a weekly report which looks at your Facebook campaign.

Many BI professionals will call the reports generated from BI efforts Standard Reports – a record of past activities and data.

Analysis
Analysis looks at why something happened. This is an important part of BI, because data by itself is useless. It only become useful when it has been analyzed and turned into something that we can interpret and understand. There are three common types of analysis:

  1. Spreadsheet Analysis - Analyzing data contained in spreadsheets with the goal of evaluating or anticipating company wide, or specific unit performance. E.g., using Excel to track hours your employees work.
  2. Ad-Hoc Query - Software that allows users to develop their own specific data queries. E.g., creating a query that displays how many of one item has been sold in a specific time period.
  3. Visualization Tools - Software that takes raw data and creates a visualization that users can read and understand. E.g., a pie chart that compares the method by which customers contacted you in a one-month period.

Monitoring
One of the more useful functions of BI is that you can often monitor data and information in real-time, or close to it anyway. This can be interesting for getting snapshots between reporting periods or when making decisions. The three main types of monitoring are:

  1. Dashboard - A central location where all useful and actionable metrics and data are contained. They are usually represented graphically to make it easier for users to read. E.g., the new Google+ dashboards which can be accessed by logging into your business Google+ page and selecting Dashboard from the drop-down menu on the left.
  2. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) - KPIs measure the performance of a specific action or project. E.g., Return on Investment (ROI).
  3. Business Performance Management - A system that is designed to ensure that performance goals for your organization or projects are being met and results are being delivered. E.g., number of new customers acquired. Some businesses and BI providers will call this the Balanced Scorecard.

Prediction
The reason many businesses employ BI methodologies is to try and predict what will happen based on the data currently available and other trends. Prediction can be an incredibly complex form of BI, so many companies often contract this out to firms, or rely on software that automates much of the process. There are two main types of prediction:

  1. Data Mining - Is the act of finding patterns and relations in and between large sets of data. The main goal of data mining is to extract or transform data into something we can understand and further use.
  2. Predictive Modelling - Any modeling that sets out to predict the outcome of an action, or the probability of an outcome.

While Business Intelligence is important and popular among many companies, it can be complex. If you would like to learn more about BI and how we can help you get the most out of your data, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Tips on creating dashboards

Humans are generally visual creatures. We need to see something to believe it, or be able to digest and use it. For most companies wanting to gauge their performance and success, they need to analyze existing data. The problem is, data by itself is useless. It only becomes useful once it’s collected and analyzed and presented in a way we can understand. For many businesses this is done through the use of dashboards.

A dashboard is an easy to read and comprehend representation of data that indicates the current status of a company. Most dashboards look at a company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPI), and display information graphically, and more often than not in real-time. This study of performance is often referred to as analytics, and companies can use KPIs, and the dashboards that represent them, to predict, describe and even change performance.

Dashboards have become an integral part of any analytics process, and can really help a business. However, they need to be implemented properly if a business is to benefit. Here’s five tips that can help you launch useful dashboards.

1. Focus on the important
Dashboards allow you to track almost any form of data. This doesn’t mean you should, however. In fact, it’s a good idea to step back and identify the most important, or most integral processes of your business. You could start with two or three of these that you can clearly track from beginning to end.

2. Do your tech due diligence
The number of programs and full solutions that offer small businesses dashboards are plentiful. You should think about what exactly you want to track and your overall goals before you talk to a vendor.

With the information and metrics identified, you should look for a solution that allows you to track these to the level you want. If you’re only being offered once a week views, for example, and you need updates once a day, you’re better off continuing your search.

Beyond this, you should be careful to look at the options each dashboard has, and the information it follows. You don’t want to be tracking information you don’t need, as this could throw off the effectiveness of the solution.

3. One solution won’t fit all
It’s important to bear in mind that different departments or roles will want to track different information. You should include the different team wants, along with their representatives, when looking at solutions, so you can get a better picture as to what you need.

4. Benchmarks
Once you have set your goals or objectives and before you implement your new dashboard, it is a good idea to track any related information. This should give you a solid idea from which you can compare changes once the dashboard is implemented.

This pre-system tracking doesn’t have to be long, maybe three to six months – enough time to give you a solid grasp of what you want to look at. After implementation, track the same data for six months and look again. Any changes will become the new benchmark which will allow you to launch new solutions, or gauge effectiveness of the data you are collecting.

5. Back up your data
As with any tech system, all dashboard software will have the occasional bug or glitch. It simply cannot be avoided. Developers and vendors know this and many have backup solutions to ensure data loss is minimized. It is a good idea to consult with them to ensure their backup meets your needs, or look for one who can work with existing technology to ensure data won’t be lost.

Tracking data and information that is critical to a business’s operations can help you gain not only a clear picture of just how well your company is doing, but also highlight any need for changes or improvements. If you would like to find the right dashboards for your business, please contact us, we may have a solution that will drive your success.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 major tech oriented marketing trends

One thing many managers are concentrating on this year is marketing. Marketing has been going through some pretty huge changes brought about by tech. It no longer works to just have a newspaper add. Now, marketing relies on tech to be successful, and to develop good marketing platforms you should be aware of possible tech related marketing trends will pop-up in the coming year.

Here’s an overview of what we think will be the five biggest tech-marketing related trends for the this year.

1. Increased mobile demands
With a crop of excellent, affordable and capable devices released this past year, it’s a sure thing that many of your clients will be getting new devices for christmas. This will result in an increased demand for mobile friendly sites that are simpler, lighter on text and more interactive. 2013 will be a good year to review your website and optimize it for mobile users.

2. Increasing local demand
With the increasing adoption of mobile devices many users are changing the way they use the Internet. Computers and laptops are increasingly being used for general searches while mobile devices are used almost exclusively for local searches. If you don’t have a local presence that’s optimized for local searches (e.g., Google Places) you will be missing out.

This ‘localization’ trend is referred to as SoLoMo (Social-Local-Mobile) and is the idea of businesses adding local information to their online platforms to capitalize on the increase of mobile users. 2012 has seen many companies begin to really use this by pushing locally oriented ads to mobile users. It’s highly likely SoLoMo will become even more integral in 2013.

A recent infographic from Monetate highlights the importance of SoLoMo and how mobile users shop. The most interesting finding in relation to local search is that many customers use their mobile device to find out what’s around them, and then will purchase either in-store or online. This trend should continue well into 2013.

3. Apps with better mobile ads
Let’s face it, smartphone users have gone app crazy. In the past few years many of the apps have come to include mobile ads shown to customers. Many of these ads aren’t targeted to the user, but this is slowly changing as ads that are shown are becoming more trustworthy and targeted. There should be an increase in both the number of click-throughs and apps through 2013 which means it may be the perfect time to either develop your own app or invest in app advertising.

4. Increasing adoption of new payment methods
The way customers pay for their purchases is changing. With the steady adoption of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, mobile payment systems like Google Wallet, and coupon systems like Apple’s Passbook, 2013 should see a shift away from paper and plastic to electronic.

This has already started with huge companies like Starbucks announcing they will be launching payment services provided by Square which allows for mobile payment. It’s not hard to see that 2013 will be a big year for mobile based payment.

5. More mobile marketing competition
With the general increase of mobile adoption it makes sense that 2013 will likely see more companies looking into mobile related marketing. This will make this medium a little more crowded and competitive. What this equates to is that companies should move to take advantage of mobile related marketing, or at the very least take steps to optimize their processes for mobile.

All signs point to 2013 being a year of mobile oriented advancements. Indeed, most of the customer/consumer oriented tech advancements of the past two years have almost been exclusively mobile oriented. Mobile adoption and the data that comes from the different advancements and trends should be something companies factor in when they are making operational decisions for the coming year. If you would like to learn more, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Do you delete or archive emails?

The most common goal amongst most business owners and managers is to stay organized. One way in which this tidying up is evident is with emails. With the high amount of email we receive, our inboxes can become more than cluttered. This barrage of messages leads to users trying to reach the seemingly mythical ‘Inbox 0′. Many users delete emails in hopes of reaching the elusive 0, something which can cause trouble in the future.

When it comes down to it there are usually two options for users to keep their inbox from overflowing. They can either archive or delete emails.

Archiving or deleting emails
These are features that are available to most email clients. By archiving email you essentially remove them from your inbox, usually into another folder. When you archive emails, they are still retrievable, and you are still able to search for them and access the information within them.

Deleting emails on the other hand is different. Yes, your emails are removed, but they will usually not disappear instantly. Most email programs move deleted emails into a trash folder. Some clients are set up to empty the folder on a daily basis, while others delete instantly or when they’ve set the program to. However, once you empty the trash, it’s very hard to get these deleted emails back.

To archive or delete?
The issue of whether to delete or archive emails is a bit cloudy. For personal accounts it’s a little easier: If the email is junk, spam, or contains useless information, it’s safe to delete it. For businesses, you can go ahead and delete junk emails, but for many other emails it may be a better idea to archive emails. Here’s a number of reasons why:

It’s the law
Depending which country and industry your company operates in, there may be rules and regulations that state how long you should keep emails in your system for. For example: The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FCRP) in the US state that if a company can anticipate legal action from information contained within a message, or series of messages, it must keep/store (archive) them.

The EU has similar, yet slightly more complicated rules. The Data Protection Directive (DPA) of the EU states that, “Personal data must be stored, but no longer than necessary…The subjects of emails, the “Data Subjects,” have the right to access information about the storage and access to their personal data and to request accurate copies. If you operate in the EU, you must furnish personal information stored in email or otherwise, if asked for it. The kicker is: If you’ve deleted emails with such information, you are obligated to provide these as well.

Most other countries have laws similar to these, so it’s better to err on the safe side and check with a lawyer to ensure you know exactly what the rules are.

Storage isn’t an issue
In the past, emails took up precious storage, so you really had no other choice but to delete messages. Nowadays, that’s not an issue, especially for users of services like Gmail who get upwards of 10GB (more than enough to store all of your emails). This allows you to archive emails while keeping your inbox clean, and not having to worry about the law.

Email is a form of data
Data is becoming big business. While it’s highly likely that many small to medium businesses won’t be implementing Big Data practices anytime in the near future, data in emails is still important. Say for instance you get an order for X amount of Y last year, and you were so busy you just filled the order but didn’t fill in the proper records. When that client emails again, the only other information you have is from previous emails. If you delete it, that information is gone.

Beyond that, many decisions are made through and recorded in email these days, delete that important email with next year’s budget decision on it and you could be in trouble.

Archive or delete?
We’re not suggesting you should keep all of your emails. In fact, the above reasons for archiving all have one thing in common: Useful information. This is key, as if information in an email isn’t useful to you, your company or colleagues, or is stored in another location, you can probably delete messages.

Some people disagree with this view though and in fact some lawyers advise deleting emails due to the fact that they could turn out to be a liability one day. There are tons of stories of someone sending an inappropriate email to friends, only to have it leak to an unintended recipient. Situations like this could ruin your company.

What do you do/think? Do you delete your emails or archive them? Let us know.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.