Organisations use business analytics to solve problems

By Gordon Clubb*
Tuesday, 14 September, 2010

Business analytics empowers organisations to solve complex business problems, manage performance to achieve measurable business objectives, drive sustainable growth through innovation and anticipate and manage change. It allows organisations to make a difference, providing the insight and understanding to support fact-based decisions and confident actions - and providing the feedback that is needed to create a learning organisation.

Organisations today are dealing with diverse issues more than ever, a wider range of regulations and heightened global competition. Meanwhile, they are producing and collecting more data: structured data from databases and point-of-sale systems as well as an avalanche of unstructured data from email, call centre transcripts, graphics and collaboration tools. There has never been a greater need for proactive, evidence-based decisions and agile strategies. Knowing is no longer enough - it’s also about doing; organisations must outthink and out-execute the competition.

By delivering insights that are gleaned from data about customers, suppliers, operations, performance, public domain and more, we know that one of the key goals of IT is to consolidate all this data so that it can be analysed to create timely, high-quality information to support proactive decision-making. But with systems already stretched to the limit, managing, controlling and monitoring incoming data presents immense challenges: insufficient data quality processes, information silos, tight budgets, redundant tools and too many spreadsheets are inhibitive issues.

CIOs realise they need to satisfy the ever-growing demand for information that leverages the past, monitors the present and predicts with accuracy, enabling effective decisions and course correction. They want to enhance operations and achieve success by increasing data consistency, streamlining administration and providing easy-to-use reporting tools backed by powerful analytics. They understand they need to empower the organisation now and meet future needs in a timely fashion. The real value comes when you are empowering people with data to make efficient, effective decisions earlier. We’re looking at tomorrow’s problems today.

What is ‘business analytics’?

According to IDC, business analytics refers to the software used to access, transform, store, analyse, model, deliver and track information to enable fact-based decision-making - and extend accountability by providing all decision-makers with the right information, at the right time, using the right technology.

Organisations use business analytics to gather and interpret data in order to make better business decisions and optimise business processes. Ultimately, business analytics enables executive leaders to exploit data for a competitive advantage - enabling strategic decisions that truly optimise performance. At the highest levels of organisations - across all industries - business analytics addresses the needs of executives faced with the unique challenges of a volatile economy, compliance, skills shortages and increased competition.

Where does analytics fit in?

As a main component of business analytics, analytics itself is defined as the extensive use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, explanatory and predictive modelling and fact-based decision-making. Many organisations already use analytics in some form. Operating metrics and performance gauges, such as the balanced scorecard, are familiar to most managers. However, only a handful of companies are using analytics as a foundation for their business strategies.

Research has found that high-performing businesses - those that substantially outperform competitors over the long term and across economic, industry and leadership cycles - are twice as likely to use analytics strategically, compared with the overall sample, and five times more likely to do so than low performers. For top companies such as The Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Myer, business analytics creates a competitive advantage.

What the future holds

It is indisputable that organisations which have adopted enterprise-wide business analytics have a clear advantage over their peers who are still employing an unformulated and siloed approach to decision-making. Increasingly, leading organisations are turning to information management programs that traverse the entire organisation.

If you strive to become a high-performance organisation but face resource and performance challenges, look no further than to the exceptional organisations that are leveraging their data through business analytics - and turning out remarkable, consistent results. Analytics is the new frontier of management science and practice, and winning companies know they must use sophisticated data-collection technology and analysis methods to wring every last drop of value from their most important business processes.

*Gordon Clubb, Managing Director of SAS Australia and New Zealand.

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