Business intelligence tools: Learn from the big boys

This week I had the opportunity to look in on the big data team at ANZ. Wow, they are busy! With a two-year plan of work and a team that has just doubled in size they are seeing no end of opportunity in visualising their data, building dashboards that reduce the load on their business analysts.

Gartner has said that over the next three years only one-third of data analyst jobs will be filled for lack of available resources, so any work that can be done now to reduce the workload for the data analysis team is viewed as a sound investment. So invest they have, they have thrown the kind of money at it that only a top 100 businesses could.

The result is that they have reduced jobs that once used full-time analysts preparing reports to dashboards that constantly update.

When I asked if that had removed analyst jobs the answer was an interesting no, definitely not. So I asked what the analysts are doing now? Again, I got an answer that surprised me. The analysts are no longer spending all their time building better reports. They are actually doing business analysis that is improving processes and making a real difference.

So the investment in dashboarding to present big data in a meaningful way with live reporting is helping the bank to work smarter, it is removing tedious work that consumed the time of high-cost employees, and is allowing those same employees to do the kind of work they love to do in a way that drives the productivity of the organisation. It is great to see a large enterprise doing smart things to build a better future, so what does this have to do with us in smaller businesses?

We have a big problem in smaller businesses. We do not have access to the kind of analysts we so badly need to fix the problems we have. I know this because back in the 80s and 90s, my wife was one of those business analysts. She was a data scientist before the term ‘data scientist’ was invented. She had titles like analyst programmer. The work she has done on business process has set our company apart in our industry. I know the value this has created for Combo that others cannot compete with. Of course we have not paid the real cost of this work as it would have taken our small business out backwards. So the opportunity to build dashboards in smaller businesses to ensure better productivity and to create alignment and focus around key metrics for the business can drive the success of smaller organisations without the need for massive investment of analysts’ time.

Retailers with multiple stores, smaller banks and building societies, brokers, multi-site organisations and franchise groups doing benchmarking and sales metrics, food chains and hotel chains can now access lower cost options for dashboards to get more powerful insights into day-by-day performance.

A great example is to look at a telesales team’s sales targets for the year and breaking them down into charts that express the targets in terms of the required sales today based on the number of active selling days left in the year when compared to the overall sales targets and the sales made so far this year and so far today. This level of feedback can be achieved on a live dashboard, and as such a good few days of sales can reduce the day-by-day targets, afternoon targets can show that the morning was not good enough and it is time to ramp-up activities. This kind of watch over key metrics stops a team member who thinks the morning’s work was enough from coasting in the afternoon. Thus improving total performance.

This kind of up-to-the-minute tracking of metrics can be applied to many aspects of the business with customer satisfaction for a service company, occupational health and safety for a mining or construction company, or web clicks for an online marketing company. Imagine for a moment a single dashboard that gave you your Google Analytics on the same page as your sales report and financial performance. What if it had creditor info too? The point here is that these dashboards should help you, the business leader, to have a better overview of your business while it gives your staff a better idea of what they need to do to meet their performance targets. In this way communication flows upwards to the leaders and downwards from vision to action for the staff.

How could you make use of big data, business intelligence and dashboards to build powerful insights in your business?

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.


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