We can try to come up with clearer ways to define Business Intelligence until we’re blue in the face. But as long as we're dealing in abstractions like “BI is collecting, analyzing, and visualizing data to give you insights into your business so you can make better decisions,” it’s going to remain difficult to get a sense of what all the processes and technologies make possible. So we decided it would be better to give you some more specific examples.
Instead of simply defining BI, or analytics and reporting, we’ve put together some brief case studies of projects our team has either completed in the past or is currently working on. This way, you’ll have a chance to see how BI is working for real businesses. In future posts, we’ll be covering how BI is used in other industries like manufacturing and healthcare. But to start us off let’s take a look at how it’s being used by retail businesses.
This company set up a system for doing customer surveys that could be conducted by employees who recorded the responses on tablet devices. The interviews focused on aspects of the shopping experience, but much of what the company was interested in actually came through in the demographic details. What the business leaders were looking for was information that could be used in targeted marketing campaigns, which would in turn help the lowest performing stores catch up with some of the higher performing ones.
Hardware and Home Improvement Supply
The goal for this company was to track which products were selling well in which regions so they could figure out ways to increase sales in regions where they weren’t currently moving as fast. The business also wanted to have a way to measure the performance of salespeople in all the different regions. The BI solution we helped them put in place was a Point of Sale (POS) system that recorded which products were moving the fastest and where. With it, they were able to identify which items they could focus their sales and marketing efforts on based on what was selling in other, demographically similar regions. It also helped them figure out who their best salespeople were so they could benefit as much as possible from their skills.
Water and Fuel Pumps and Filtration Systems
This project was another example of how useful data collected from a POS system can be. In this case, the company wanted to analyze sales figures so they could measure them against the backdrop of marketing campaign timelines. By comparing the sales numbers before, during, and after targeted marketing initiatives, they could see whether sales of particular products picked up as a result of the campaigns. Based on the results, they could then refine their marketing strategies, which would in turn allow them to devote more resources to the most effective campaign strategies, increasing sales and maximizing the returns on their investment in the POS system.
General Store Chain
This company’s BI solution incorporated data culled from stores, warehouses, and distribution centers. The most basic purpose of the system was to track sales and compare the numbers to inventory so they could make sure stores and distribution centers were adequately stocked. The system also allowed the company to compare each store’s expense-to-return ratio to determine its long-term profitability. In some cases, this would lead to major changes in the store’s operations, but it could also indicate that a particular market was currently being underserved, which would mean opening a new store might be advisable.
Business Intelligence is all about collecting data to help you make decisions about the future course of your company. These are just a few examples of how businesses have been putting their data to use in this way. There’s still no replacing strong leaders with good business sense, but measurable results are where the rubber really meets the road. Just by carrying on business as usual, your company is already generating all kinds of data. Having access to the right analytic and reporting tools will mean the difference between letting your data just sit fallow and putting it to work for you. And new tools for collecting, analyzing, and visualizing your business’s data (including video analyses) are coming online all the time.
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