If you are exploring the Business Intelligence (BI) marketplace, you will immediately notice vendors use the terminology for everything from simple Reporting to Data Visualization. According to Gartner, “Business intelligence (BI) is a multi-functional 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.” That is still a very broad definition.
In this blog, we will provide some useful information on how to distill a broadly defined market to some practical business applications.
These are the four functions within a Business Intelligence solution:
- Data Warehouse and OLAP Cubes
- Automated Reporting/Budgeting/Forecasting
- Data Visualization
Data Warehouse and OLAP Cubes
A Data Warehouse is a specialized database with data from multiple data sources used for all the functions of the BI solution. The Data Warehouse contains a set of data marts created within the Microsoft SQL Server. Data Marts are created using OLAP Cubes in SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), providing foundational data for all the BI functions. Every business process will have one or more OLAP cube(s), created, customized, deployed, and managed by the BI software. These are some of the functions of a Data Warehouse data cube:
- Roll-Up - Data aggregated along a dimension
- Drill-Down – Accessing Transactional data details
- Pivoting - Rotating the data in a Cube to be looked at from different perspectives
- Slicing and Dicing – Viewing Sub-set data in a Cube to gain a different view for analysis
Data stored in Microsoft’s SSAS database is the way to make it easy to retrieve data whenever and wherever it is needed. Storing the data in a Data Warehouse means there is only one version of the truth and includes:
- Real-time data entry on any device
- Storing data correctly and it is never lost
- Entering data via Excel or online forms
- Feeding data directly into reports
- Providing secure data capture and storage
BI solutions follow Data Warehouse design guidelines to promote performance and data consistency across the organization.
Automated Reporting, Budgeting, and Forecasting
With a BI solution, Digital Transformation allows you to spend less time on repetitive tasks and more time on your business using more accurate information. The automation Reporting, Budgeting, and Forecasting are possible because data is no longer scattered across multiple spreadsheets and systems. Data is now more accurate, timely, and easy to understand.
Automated Financial Reporting
BI solutions facilitate the creation and automatic distribution of presentation quality financial reports to company stakeholders. It allows the management and viewing of financial data in an easy-to-use, real-time environment. Report creation should leverage existing skills, like Microsoft Office, and provide Secure Web access to information from any place and at any time.
Automated Budgeting will significantly improve the accuracy of budgets and help teams better understand the impact of business decisions and plans. Budgeting within a BI solution means there is only one tool for everything, including HR, Financial, Operational, Capital Expenditure, Cashflow Planning, and any additional planning functions that might be required.
Automated Budgeting incorporates the process into a larger, corporatewide closed-loop system which facilitates a holistic approach to the Monthly Financial Rhythm of achieving corporate objectives. Automated Budgeting will support operational plans allocating resources to the activities needed to achieve the goals and objective of the corporate Strategic Plan. Additionally, Automated Budgeting allows for better internal coordination and controls.
Automated Forecasting will be future-proofing your business by improving the accuracy and simplifying your forecast process. Forecasts will be created quickly, and allow for comparison against actuals, budgets, previous forecasts, and KPIs. Automated Forecasting will show what’s driving the business, allowing for adjusting scenarios to help make more accurate business decisions. Automated Forecasting includes:
- Automated rolling forecasts;
- Compare forecasts to actuals instantly;
- Top-down and bottom-up forecasting;
- Easy to create and manage; and
- Instantly flows through to reports and budgets.
Self-Guided analytics give business users the ability to analyze information without the need for specialized business skills or separate tools. Information in a report, such as an interesting trend or indicator, will allow for a simple point and click to view the next layer of analysis. Drill down to the original transaction, up to business KPIs, or across to related data. This technique is referred to as Self-Guided Analytics. This capability gives business users valuable insights and access to the information they need to understand and act on their data. Here are some aspects of Guided Analytics:
- Perform proactive root cause analysis on your own
- Give users Self-Service access to act on their data
- Save time on closings, audits, and investigations
- Fast and accessible on any device
- Seamlessly integrates into other apps
- Improve collaboration with colleagues
Data Visualization in a BI solution is a graphical presentation of business performance. Dashboards provide custom visualizations based on user-specific roles to facilitate decision making by displaying the status of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and Operational Metrics.
In a modern BI, solution Dashboards are Dynamic, with access to live data, as well as the ability to drill up, down, and across to supporting reports, views, and transactions. Additionally, Dashboard availability should be Web-based to access the latest data at any time on any device. Here are some functions of modern Data Visualization:
- Track KPIs, Manage Risk, and Act
- Quickly Access Templates and Reports
- View on the Web using any Device
- Incorporate Third-party Data
- Dynamic Charts and Images
- A Modern BI system gives you everything you need in an All-In-One solution, automating your everyday high-value tasks so you can stay agile and focus on your business.
- A BI system combines operational and financial data to gain deeper insight that matters, allowing you to better measure success and improve planning.
- A Modern BI system has a full range of features that will drive greater efficiency, collaboration, and productivity across your organization.
- A Modern BI system facilitates a holistic approach to the Total Rhythm of your Business.
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