Democratised Business Intelligence
The ability to analyse customer data can give an organisation a depth of knowledge that sets it apart from its competitors or helps elevate it to a market leading position. Business intelligence (BI) unleashes data to give a greater understanding of customer behaviours, market trends, and how the organisation can evolve.
Data analytics, once required investments of millions and was the preserve of large multi-nationals, is now available to all. The way data can be accessed has changed through cloud platforms and data visualisation tools.
This benefits business of all sizes. Allowing smaller organisations to truly focus on their client needs, and large organisations to streamline their existing operational functions.
‘Customers’ in a BI sense can fit a number of different types of entities. They could be individuals or businesses, in a traditional sense, who buy commodities. Or they could be Health Care patients. Or internal customers. Thus making BI a tool that can provide greater understanding into all human activities.
In a recent report, Microsoft estimated worldwide savings of $1.6 trillion over 4 years as organisations identify trends and patterns that allow them to reshape services that are lower cost and more effective.
Benefits to End User
In larger organisation data analytics has traditionally been the responsibility of the Management Information department but advances in technology are enabling end users to access, manipulate, and draw their own conclusions from data, allowing them to make faster decision based on real time data. For example:
- Hospital Consultants can identify trends in new admissions earlier and flag it as a potential risk.
- Retailers are able to spot which items are being commonly bought together but are not an obvious combination, and reposition stock to increase sales.
- In manufacturing, an engineer could quickly identify potential causes of machine breakdowns or find slow points/blockages within a production environment.
- Pension providers could produce more sophisticated longevity models to ensure retirees are get the most from their retirement savings.
The opportunities BI opens up to an organisation are limitless and above all it is now affordable. Through cloud based data centres, such as Microsoft Azure, simplified software analytics has opened up. Anyone can now hire, by the hour, the huge infrastructure sometimes needed to crunch the numbers. And with Azure, Microsoft have brought simpler interfaces and ease of use to the previously difficult and mysterious and enigmatic software used for analytics.
This gives greater control of finances to organisations using analytics. And it lets data be accessed from wherever the end user needs to be, whether this is on the ward, down a tube tunnel, floating on the North Sea, or sat at home. Analytics generates insights. This data can be broken down, segmented and presented as defined by the business or the user to optimise effort and resource. All of which give the end user greater insight to make smarter decisions.
This may sound like the prelude to Skynet (from the Terminator films) but it is when programs or algorithms (machines) are applied to a vast volume of historical data. The algorithms spot patterns and so learns how to predict future trends. This could be which products customers frequently buy together to identifying signs of cancer earlier. And as the data is constantly added the predictions can become more accurate, allowing for an evolutionary state to be established.
Within Azure, Microsoft’s Cortana Analytics enables people to have really low cost and on-demand access to predictive technologies that were, until recently, the sole preserve of the likes of Google and Amazon. As a result we have seen a surge of interest for Azure Machine Learning proof-of-concepts across all users.
The affordability and availability of analytics software is due, in part, to the rise of cloud computing and data storage. More and more BI and analytics software solutions are cloud based, enabling users to access the data from wherever and whenever they need it. But the big benefit for any organisation is the ability to use 200 powerful servers for an analysis but only to pay for an hour of their time. Making this form of “big data crunching” affordable through pay-as-you-consume subscription models.
Tangible benefits of analytics
Probably the fiercest competitive arena that data is used to get the edge is within sport. In an interview, with the Harvard Business Review, Sir Dave Brailsford, the head of British Cycling, explains how breaking down every conceivable piece that goes into competing and improving it by just 1% would give them the advantage to win. They looked at everything, from the dust on the floor to the mattresses that the riders slept on, and analysed it all.
Another sporting example is Formula 1 where the stakes and prestige is large. F1 teams invest a lot of resource into looking at their data analysis, trying to find an extra hundredth of a second which could be the difference between winning and losing.
BI analytics isn’t just about winning or going fast
Our work with The Christie NHS Foundation Trust is an example of how BI can change lives for the better. The Christie needed to manage its resources in a systematic manner; as such, it committed to the use of Statistical Process Control (SPC) to deliver clinical process improvement against set baselines, and to thoroughly measure improvements.
The Christie used Tableau Software as its underlying BI Solution, providing it with fast and effective data analytics. In order to further enhance its data analytics capabilities, The Christie wanted to be able to create SPC charts in Tableau that would enable the Trust’s staff to monitor change impact and iterative improvement projects on a daily basis.
Working alongside The Christie, Trustmarque developed Scutari as a companion tool for Tableau to provide staff with a simple and mathematically robust view of the metrics that impact the quality and efficiency of patient care. The Christie can now rapidly generate colour-coded SPC charts in a matter of minutes, rather than the hours it took previously to create them manually. This means the trust can invest their time in implementing change to reinforce positive change and negate negative change, rather than simply identifying when these changes occur.
The intelligence revolution
Implementing a BI project across an organisation can have its pitfalls by trying to do too much at once which can lead to high cost both in resource and finances. Sorting the hype from the reality and deciding how to move forward can feel daunting.
One way around this is to identify key areas for improvement and tackle each one on its own, whilst learning from the previous as part of an agile project. Our latest whitepaper The NHS intelligence revolution, written by Nathaniel van Gulck, our expert Business Intelligence Solutions Architect, highlights how BI can shine light on certain areas and shape how improvements can implemented.
At Trustmarque, we are running free Analytics Everywhere workshops which helps customers answer the questions “why would I do analytics?” and “what could it do for our organisation?” It provides a simple way for your organisation to start analysing and optimising your data. Find out more about Analytics Everywhere workshop.
Alternatively, if you have a specific challenge in mind or are seeking to use your data better speak to your account manager or contact us to arrange a discussion with one of our BI experts.