How Much Do You Know About Your Customers?

December 5th, 2018

The common question many companies contemplate is; do I need a Business Intelligence (BI) tool? The short answer is, yes. All businesses, large and small, need to assimilate their data to make better decisions in gaining increased understanding of their customers and help maintain a competitive edge.


When looking at a BI tool, a number of things should be considered.  First, understand the target audience and what their desired achievement is by using a BI tool. Then define the following:  


  • who will be maintaining the data

  • who will be creating content from the data

  • who will be consuming the content created from the data


For selecting the tool itself, minimum requirements should be aligned with the product offering.  Does the tool function to the level of the business needs.  BI tools can be comprised of a full suite that allow the user to architect a warehouse or datamart.  A BI tool can create the ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) that will update the warehouse as well as create a presentation layer.  This will then allow end users to create simple or complex reports and visual dashboards. The most useful BI software these days are generally drag and drop and/or point and click, thus saving the end users time while creating reports and content.


It is recommended to avoid any software that requires the user to open other modules independently from the main tool. Having a tool that shows the data in a summarized visual way but requires the user to open another module to show the detail is not saving the user or the data consumer any time. A good BI tool will allow the user to drill into that visualization and see the detail from the main module.


A BI tool should connect to the data sources easily, provided the path to these sources is known and accessible with the proper security and permissions. These connections should be easily upgradeable without leaving the users stranded during the upgrade period.  If the user is taking too long to connect to the data, the company should look into BI tool that is more expedient and functional.


Does this sound familiar?  The standard “old” way of reporting involved the IT Department receiving a request from a department for a set of data for a certain date or range that could then be sliced and diced using, in most cases, a spreadsheet program that, while powerful, could only handle a certain number of rows and columns. If anything was left out of the data provide by the IT Department, the requested data had to be gathered again with the additional request, in essence, starting over each time. Over time, software became smarter and there were ways of automating the data extracts, but still, this method relied on an IT Department. In the current business environment, waiting for data can create a lag in decision making, and this is where self-service BI is now in the forefront. 


Over the last two decades, self-service BI has opened the business world up by allowing anyone with access to these tools to use data to better understand ways to run business operations. Given the right amount of hardware and budget thrown against a data source, you can have “real time” data that can give the user answers to the business questions in an instant!  There is a large push to implement BI tools in the Cloud. This can save time and money because it no longer requires companies to have physical hardware to store the data.  The Cloud provider only requires a path to access the data, which could be a desktop PC or even a mobile device. This can be done through a connection to a Cloud host, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure Service. Most BI Software manufacturers provide this as well, along with a pay as you go subscription model. No software needs to be installed, the users simply access through a web interface to their company data. The gaming industry is a rather unique environment where a large amount of data is not being stored in the Cloud due to regulations at a State and/or Tribal level.  Being a relatively new offering, a sense of distrust of the security in the Cloud is still felt in the sector.


Above all of this, once you have selected a BI Tool that suits your company needs, it is important to gain support from the leadership team.  If they have budgeted the funds to have all of this set up and everyone keeps doing things the old way, then they will have perceived the exercise of implementing a new BI tool as unsuccessful and funds not well spent.


Proper implementation and training to show the software value should be an easy exercise for the provider.  The goal is making sure the users are utilizing the tool in the most productive manner.

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