The best decisions are informed decisions. That’s a cardinal and universal truth. It is generally unwise to make decisions on the fly (unless that IS what the situation calls for) or from the hip. Especially in business, flash-decision-making isn’t the ideal way to go. Business decisions have far-reaching implications, both internally and externally, so decisions must always be made carefully. And for that to happen, decision-makers should be equipped with right information, the right data, and the right tools. This is where business intelligence and big data come in. A study conducted by the Northwestern University indicated that given the daily data generation rate of 2.5 exabytes, there will be around 44 zettabytes of data by 2020 (one zettabyte = 44 trillion gigabytes). There’s so much information to go around, and businesses stand to gain a lot by utilizing and maximizing that data.
What are business intelligence and big data, anyway?
Before we go any further, let’s define these two big concepts: business intelligence and big data. In a nutshell, it can be said that business intelligence is powered significantly by big data. They’re two peas in a pod, if you will.
Business intelligence refers to “technologies, applications and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information,” according to business intelligence resource Online Analytical Processing. Gartner, on the other hand, calls business intelligence an “umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.” Basically, business intelligence gives company executives and business decision-makers the proper resources to make better and more informed decisions. In turn, business intelligence is largely driven and powered by data.
Which brings us to big data. Big data is defined as “larger, more complex data sets, especially from new data sources. These data sets are so voluminous that traditional data processing software just can’t manage them,” according to software giant Oracle. On a deeper level, big data is distinguished by its volume, velocity, and variety. The first simply refers to the enormous amount of data. It largely begins as unstructured data, which is then refined, processed and analyzed depending on the industry that needs it.
The velocity of big data is another defining element to it, as the effect and impact of the flow of large amounts of data would be significantly reduced if it isn’t transmitted quickly enough; and with advances in data transmission continue to improve and evolve, big data is becoming more and more commonplace in various operating environments. Finally, the variety of data ties everything together — especially with many businesses operating on different degrees of globalization, big data sees itself made out of many different things.
Utilizing big data and business intelligence
It’s more than obvious how much of an impact big data and business intelligence have on how a business operates, regardless even of the size or what industry the business is in. As long as it is utilized and used properly, the effects of these two things are very profound and significant. The sheer volume of big data — which is then compiled, refined, processed, and analyzed into the appropriate business intelligence — can be used in a myriad of ways, depending on the industry. Even the same sets of data can have vastly different uses depending on the industry and company that chooses to utilize it.
Business intelligence and big data have become so important in today’s business operating environment that they have become a sort of currency in themselves. Just imagine the data being sold by companies like Twitter and Facebook. Despite being 100% free to use, they still manage to generate a lot of data on their users that they can generate more than enough revenue to cover the free use of their product. A large part of this is made possible because of business intelligence and big data.
An Inc.com story quotes former HP CEO Carly Fiorina as saying that the goal of many businesses today is to “turn data into information, information into knowledge and insight, and knowledge into competitive advantage, and to do it in a matter of minutes or seconds, not days or weeks.” This accurately encapsulates how important business intelligence and big data are to operations today.
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1. Business intelligence and big data spur development and innovation.
Big data, especially when it is refined into business intelligence, is responsible for helping a company grow significantly and retain it relevance in a highly competitive and ever-changing operating market. They give companies an advantage over competitors because they open avenues for profitability and larger market share and footprint that were previously unrealized and untapped. These two elements are a significant driver for companies to keep innovating and discovering new things — allowing them to stay relevant and keep themselves in the consciousness and preferences of customers who are now also more informed, more discerning, and more likely to switch to a competitor if his or her needs are unmet.
>> Recommended reading: Business Innovation Starts with an Innovative Leader
2. Business intelligence and big data are responsible for making businesses more efficient and cheaper.
There are countless ways business intelligence and big data can be used to make an organization much more efficient, internally and externally. Take customer service, for example. These two things have the potential to enable companies to better respond to concerns and inquiries by showing preferred mediums of communication by customers, common problems customers encounter, as well as making communicating with customers more efficient by offering automatic troubleshooting solutions, leaving the more complicated problems to service agents. Business intelligence, especially, can also be responsible for allowing companies to pool and collect best practices from various industries and then select and adapt the ones that can be put to use in its own operations.
On a related note, more efficient operations also mean better cost-effectiveness. Businesses can reallot resources to other departments or aspects of its operations that need more funding. Business intelligence reduces redundancies and because of better development and innovation, even more possibilities for cost-reduction are possible down the road.
>> Recommended reading: Technology and Data Analytics Boost Operational Efficiency
3. Business intelligence and big data have a profound effect on security.
Business intelligence and big data allow companies to secure themselves and their customers better. Especially in this increasingly digital world, it also by extension means that there are some who choose to bring their criminal activities online. Fraudulent transactions, and identity theft, for example, are becoming more and more common. Business intelligence and big data give companies the ability not only to catch fraud, but also prevent it from happening in the first place.
4. Business intelligence and big data are stepping stones toward greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Business intelligence and big data allow companies to answer questions like, “What do customers today REALLY want?” And given how fickle, discerning and informed customers today are, that answer is constantly changing. Companies that fail to keep up doom themselves to becoming irrelevant; on the other hand, business that utilize business intelligence and big data can continue to be relevant to its customers, and even attract new clients. Happy and satisfied customer also tend to become more loyal, and can potentially be brand advocates. This in turn gives a company more customer legitimacy and boosts its reputation.
Three important business intelligence trends to watch out for
Yellowfin Co-Founder and CEO Glen Rabie writes for Forbes, “today’s business environment is extremely complex. Data comes from an ever-growing number of sources, and it needs to be easily consumed by diverse business users — not just data analysts. In order to keep up with dynamic business changes and growing data complexity, BI [business intelligence] and analytics need to change, too.” Rabie is an expert on the matter, since Yellowfin is an analytics and business intelligence company.
1. More compact, more mobile.
With more and more businesses, executives and decision-makers taking their work in mobile in order to better stay on top of things, this also means that business intelligence and big data will need to be more compatible with mobile initiatives and solutions. There will be a greater demand for more mobile access due to this and there is the potential for mobile solutions for big data and business intelligence to have a significant impact on the way businesses are run. This is especially true for smaller and medium-sized businesses, who usually do not have the same amount of resources at their disposal compared to large corporations.
2. Artificial intelligence and business intelligence will become more closely related.
He predicts, among other things, a rise in the utilization of artificial intelligence in business intelligence and big data. The more data collected, the more complex it is to sift through and refine, but an AI would be able to get things done faster and more accurately. For example, there is a growing segment of customer service at can resolve common problems through automation, instead of through a customer service representative. This leaves more time for actual agents to respond to and solve more complex problems, thus offering savings on staffing cost.
>> Recommended reading: Artificial Intelligence Technologies: Top Tools and Trends
3. A rise in the need for concise data generation tools.
Data doesn’t fall out of the sky. It needs to be based on something, and it needs to be collected (properly) by someone. This is why Runrun.it’s Smart Time Tracker works — because it can integrate seamlessly with your current operations system. Runrun.it is a work management tool and its Smart Time Tracker not only makes mundane but important tasks like timekeeping seem much easier and less tedious, but it can also collect and generate a plethora of time-based data in the workplace, such as how long a team on average manage to complete tasks, or how time is managed in the workplace. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Other tools like the Dashboard are capable of collecting and quickly generating even more data, and giving managers and decision-makers right and accurate business intelligence, which in turn paves the way for more efficient operations and workflow inside the organization, as well as improved expense, staffing, and resource management. These tools are highly customizable and work with any company in any industry. To see how these can help your organization specifically, checkout Runrun.it’s free trial here.