This month we have a guest Blogger: The Actuate Corporation Team. Acutuate is an Open Source Business Intelligence Software vendor. Hope you enjoy their post-Phil Morettini
Thanks to the global recession, companies worldwide are looking for ways to streamline their organizations and cut costs. Increasingly, they’re turning to business intelligence software to help find solutions. Developed by vendors like SAP, IBM, and Oracle, this highly customizable software enables businesses to analyze and mine data more effectively.
BI software is particularly useful for large-scale organizations with correspondingly large customer bases and data streams. With access to data analysis from across their organization, companies can respond to problems and implement change more rapidly. And in cases where a company needs to make layoffs, BI software can tap into data to track employee productivity.
In this way, business intelligence and reporting tools (BIRT) enable large organizations to be nimble. Fast food companies, for instance, can utilize BI software to see how sales, inventory and operations compare regionally and internationally. BI software can also track operational functionality, determining, say, the optimal staffing scenario for a financial services firm for any given economic conditions.
BI software can also be used to run detailed financial analyses on everything from revenues and expenses to cash flow, accounts receivable and profit statements. This analysis can be broken down further by business unit or region, and can point to trends across an organization. These reports can then, in turn, be implemented in planning, budgeting, monitoring and forecasting.
From a big-picture perspective, BI software can be used to inform strategic decisions. Some companies might analyze the most effective marketing techniques for a product launch in a particular region based on demographics and past performance data. Others might run the numbers on potential partnerships to forecast the likelihood of success.
In the case of direct mail marketers, BI software can be used to mine customer data to track new sales opportunities. Companies can pinpoint which potential buyers to target based on demographic information and prior purchase history, and likewise refine their messaging to reach those customers more effectively.
According to a recent article in BusinessWeek, companies from Carnival Cruises to Proctor & Gamble are utilizing BI software to beat the recession. P&G; recently turned to software to analyze how the rise in gas prices was impacting consumer-shopping behavior. Carnival, meanwhile, mined their database to determine which prior customers to target as potential repeat sailors.
Even the federal government is jumping on the BIRT (URL: http://www.actuate.com/why-actuate/birt-to-actuate/) bandwagon, with the Environmental Protection Agency offering business intelligence software to its offices on a fee-per-user basis. As EPA program manager Timothy Hinds told NextGov.com, “We provide…business intelligence tools [and] analytics tools on a software-as-a-service model, as if we were a contractor. [Users] don’t have to install anything.”
Because BI software is highly customized, it can be quite expensive. BusinessWeek reports that “companies can spend as little as thousands of dollars on BI software, or up to millions of dollars. A typical business intelligence deal in a large enterprise with a large vendor is somewhere from $150,000 to $300,000.”
BusinessWeek also points to a survey released by Gartner in January of more than 1,500 CIOs worldwide. That survey ranked BI software as the top technology spending priority for companies in 2009.