Business intelligence, or BI, is changing the way small to mid-size companies are making decisions, and it is creating significant advantages for those that do it well. If you are an entrepreneur, you know how important information is when it pertains to decisions that involve the future of your business. Data-driven decision-making helps improve potential outcomes by reducing speculation in favor of analysis.
Industry experts are all talking about the ways in which data and BI are becoming essential tools for all business owners. Peter Sondergaard of Gartner Research summarized the importance of BI when he said, “Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.” Research firms like Gartner are not only predicting the importance of BI for decision-making purposes; they also think it can be monetized. A recent report projects that as many as 10 percent of companies will have profitable departments focused on “productizing and commercializing” the data they collect by 2020.
Forrester, another research firm, found that enterprise data is an untapped resource for most organizations. It reported that a mere 40 percent of enterprise data is ever used to enhance operations. Organizations that can use that information to improve existing processes will likely see significant improvements in their strategies, and those that learn how to market and sell that data will achieve higher revenues. The following are three major trends business owners need to know to better leverage BI for their organizations.
1. Self-service BI for small business.
Until recently, big data was inaccessible for smaller organizations. But the rise of platforms that provide self-service BI solutions is allowing access to anyone who wants to evaluate the data that drives their business. Many organizations that leverage internal data collect it from multiple processes or departments, which makes it difficult to aggregate in a way that makes sense for everyone. This is especially challenging for large organizations that have much more data to process. The result is often data-centric blind spots that open the company up to significant risks.
Uday Hegde, CEO of USEReady, a company that works to help business leaders leverage data and analytics, explains how companies are consolidating these functions. “Businesses are shifting toward using application program interfaces (APO) to transfer their data to user-friendly applications. As a result, they can trade clunky dashboards for more useful apps. Converting to an app-centric approach empowers companies to make their data more interactive across multiple connected devices. Self-reliant solutions help businesses make data more actionable.”
2. Data for visualization.
The good news is data is becoming more and more useful, as there are more companies working to provide quality data visualization that is geared toward being accessible to even the less technical members of the team.
Organizations like Tableau, Domo and IBM are all innovating at a rapid pace, aiming to gain market share by helping their customers improve the usefulness of their data. Tableau released its own predictions about where data analytics are headed in the coming year, highlighting visualization as the second most important development in big data.
Why is visualization such a compelling method for presenting data? Hans Rosling, a scientist known for his videos depicting interesting data, explains in a TED Talk, “The idea is to go from numbers to information to understanding.” Data presented in compelling visuals helps guide the viewer toward comprehension.
3. Security for data.
As self-service applications begin to democratize data for organizations, and visualization helps more members of the organization access and comprehend crucial information, the need for securing that information increases. More people accessing and sharing data means more opportunities for proprietary data to leak, and more potential points for external attacks.
Gartner estimates that by 2018 20 percent of organizations will be looking to develop sound data security governance plans to protect themselves from data breaches on the cloud. Those that fail to do so will likely encounter damaging security breaches and subsequent fallout.
Firms like USEReady take an integrated approach, helping companies use business intelligence tools while creating plans for securing their data. Hegde explains, “BI systems in large organizations often create security challenges when not managed correctly. It is important for these businesses to evaluate their data infrastructure and create governance strategies to keep it secure.” Businesses that successfully integrate security into all data applications will help prevent the hardships that come from breaches.
BI and big data have enormous potential for improving the quality of decisions and strategies. Companies that leverage self-service tools to collect and present their data to all members of the team will increase the number of informed decision makers and will likely see an increase in operational efficiency and business performance.
Hegde reminds us that effective business intelligence, “empowers leaders to ask crucial questions, the answers to which will help them make better decisions about allocating limited resources, how to refine processes, and where to place people.” In doing so, business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders can identify opportunities for growth, while limiting the potential for risk.
This article first appeared on Entrepreneur and was written by Sheila Eugenio and can be found here.