Collaboration is becoming an increasingly important facet of our business interactions. For years, research groups like Gartner , Ventana Research and the Aberdeen Group have provided insight and predictions about this phenomenon, and today we’re seeing how collaboration within the business intelligence space has moved from knowledge sharing and self-service BI to a whole new level of innovative decision-making for the business team. So let’s take a look at some of the shifting points of view about Collaborative BI and where it’s headed in the future.
Web 2.0 technologies and the social media boom have had a tremendous impact on what business users expect out of their business applications, especially in the collaborative space. Collaborating does not simply mean exchanging emails, making calls or holding meetings to facilitate decision-making (though they are the most-used ways according to Wayne Eckerson’s Collaborative BI report). These days, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube have taught us how to share, rate, like, comment on, and especially make use of user-generated, helpful information. In our work lives, business users have learned to embrace information from various data sources – both formal and informal – as well as perform ad-hoc analyses without help from IT and share this information with colleagues. Collaborative BI as it exists presently is about facilitating the innate desire of business users to collect and share the information necessary for their everyday decision-making, while at the same time preventing duplicate work and allowing colleagues to draw on each other’s strengths. Users have an expectation that social media concepts will be available to them in their business environment, and so many Collaborative BI systems, like our own arcplan Engage, incorporate rating, tagging, etc.
However, we’re seeing a shift in how analysts define Collaborative BI and they are now calling for an even higher level of engagement.
Perhaps every generation says this at least once, but I believe we’re in the midst of a very interesting time. The world is getting more social everyday with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, where we can find old friends, colleagues and even relatives online with a single click. We may even find new people to follow through social media tools’ recommendations and can form relationships online and offline with them. Hundreds of millions of users are making decisions online all the time – who to follow, what content seems interesting, what topics to promote.
Our social media feeds make it obvious who to engage with about a particular topic – a friend may post frequently about sports and you can go to him with thoughts or questions – but that type of insight is not widely available at the place where we spent most of our time: work. We lack intelligence when it comes to the enterprise decision making process. It follows that we should apply the same principles of social media in our corporate environments to identify which colleague can help us make decisions. Applying social media functions that allow users to rate, tag, and comment about corporate content is the answer. Enterprises gain insight into the most used reports and dashboards at the company, report authors get instant feedback and enhancement requests from users, and users gain from the existing expertise of colleagues.
This idea has led to a new category of business intelligence software that Gartner describes as Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) and Collaborative BI. Gartner considers such platforms an emerging trend to fill the gap in decision support for tactical and strategic decisions most often made by knowledge workers.
“By 2013, 15% of BI and analytic applications will combine BI, collaboration and social software in decision-making environments.” – Gartner Group
BI vendors are following this path, creating matching solutions that serve as an interface to your wealth of corporate data. Is the market ready to deploy these solutions?
This post on BI for retailers is co-authored along with Raj Kutty, CEO of iVEDiX.
Retailers are frequently challenged with a new definition of multi-channel marketing. The marketing landscape includes more than the traditional components of print advertising, direct mail, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It also rolls email, social media, mobile and web (e-commerce) into the marketing mix. Customers engage with brands and make purchasing decisions on a new array of platforms, which has increased the amount of consumer behavior data available for retailers to manage. This subsequently makes the marketing campaign management process much more complex—from budgeting and planning to predicting consumer behavior to providing superior customer service.
With the rapid advent of new, innovative technologies, Business Intelligence (BI) has seen a great deal of change over the past few years. BI has reached a state of sophistication where it is being adopted as a key strategic initiative by retailers. BI solutions aggregate information and provide retailers fast and easy access to data for business reporting, analysis, planning and decision support. By transforming data into actionable information, BI helps retailers make better fact-based decisions at every level of an organization.
Social media, an influencer of consumer behavior
Most retailers are aware of who their customers are. They are equipped with the technology to reasonably ascertain demographics, buying patterns and influencing behaviors. However, the proliferation of numerous social media channels in the consumer market—like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare—has exponentially amplified the challenge of identifying and understanding target markets. Next generation Web 2.0 communication has altered the frequency and intimacy with which retailers interact with their customers.
Retailers, more often than not, have data on their customers’ online and in-person shopping habits stored in separate repositories—a CRM system and an ecommerce database. For a complete analysis, this information can be combined with social media data—customers who “like” a particular store or product or who tweet about a specific brand or product—as well as fundamental demographic information such as income level, gender and age. These layers of information can be superimposed on a geographical map to create very powerful campaign segmentation visuals. Going even further, tying in customers’ actual receipts can give the retailer an incredible perspective on the customers’ buying behavior and thought process leading up to their purchasing decision.
Today’s TDWI newsletter, BI This Week, featured an interview I had with writer Linda Briggs on how Web 2.0 functions boost the power of BI. I thought our readers might like to check it out, so here’s an excerpt and a link to the full text. Enjoy, and if you have additional questions for me beyond what’s answered in the Q&A, leave a comment!
Q&A: Web 2.0 Functions Boost BI’s Power by Linda Briggs
Bringing search and Web 2.0 into next-generation BI improves user access and the decision-making process.
Combining BI with simple search capabilities and Web 2.0 functions such as user-contributed content can make it more powerful and pervasive — leading to the era of BI 2.0. “BI users should be able to create an iGoogle or myYahoo,” says Tiemo Winterkamp, senior VP of global marketing at arcplan, a company that offers BI analytics and search tools that access multiple data sources in their native environments.
“That’s when BI gets personal, because it has your own content,” Winterkamp adds, “and if you can share the content and make it searchable for others, you close the loop. That’s BI 2.0.”
BI This Week: When we talk about bringing Web 2.0 functionality into business intelligence, what sort of functionality do you mean?
Tiemo Winterkamp: Primarily, I mean the functions that all of us already know how to use from Google, Amazon.com, Ebay, Facebook and other Web 2.0 sites. First, it’s search — most of the things we do on the Internet today start, more or less, with an unstructured search. Then it’s commenting — usually by writing text, but lately we’ve seen the addition of audio and video commentary becoming more popular. Rating is another quick feedback option, represented by stars, +1′s, or Likes. Perhaps the best part about these Web 2.0 functions is that nearly everyone knows how to use them by this point, so no education is required.
The idea of bringing Web 2.0 into BI is important because it allows employees to use these already acquired skills to enhance the business information they use every day. It encourages them to interact with the data in new ways and share information amongst themselves so the best data rises to the top, investments are made in keeping the best and most-used systems and reports, and decision makers better understand the value of their overall BI investments.
Social media monitoring is an emerging trend that’s here to stay as the popularity of sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ increases. Business intelligence is past the trend phase – it’s commonplace at companies large and small, who will spend nearly $11 billion on it before the year is over, according to Gartner. These are two powerful segments of the analytics market and the question that’s begging to be asked is: are social media and business intelligence friends or frenemies? Do they have to play along to keep the peace or do they actually go hand-in-hand?
For us at arcplan, social media and BI are two sides of the same coin, two pieces of the puzzle that is your business. For a complete picture of your customers, your brand, and your position in the market to emerge, you need information that’s collected from social sites and from your corporate data sources. After all, your data warehouse isn’t going to tell you that the off-handed Twitter comment you made last week contributed to a drop in sales unless you can associate your sentiment analysis to your sales data.
We’re all striving to “do more” with our data – to roll out ad-hoc reporting to our business users so they can take ownership of analysis, make data easier to access so we can rely on IT less, create high-level dashboards for our executives, build scorecards to manage our KPIs, master every chart type… but we haven’t truly begun to do more with data until we incorporate information from outside traditional BI data sources into our everyday analysis. And be aware, the amount of data we’re talking about can be huge. That’s why some in our industry call this Big Data – but this is a story we will review in another article.
It’s important to understand how you, as an organization, can structure social information and associate it to the other data you have about your customers. All kinds of companies – B2C and B2B – are seeing the need to better understand all dimensions of their customers – not only demographic information and purchase history, but also what they’re saying in the social space.
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