“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” – Daniel Keys Moran, an American computer programmer and science fiction writer.

The support software and application used by businesses such as logistics, manufacturing and healthcare generally comes with added Business Intelligence (BI) solutions. It effectively helps them in efficiently management of operations, better resource utilization, improved visibility and tracking and ultimately increasing customer retention and profits is altogether a different matter.

The Observations of ESSPL

Over the years, precisely 20 years, ESSPL while supporting & helping its customers have observed that its business users are not in content with the default BI solution which comes with the product they are using. Most times the cost of additional development is so high that they prefer not to go with application vendor. This problem is not immediate and starts creeping in after few months or years of usage. The scenarios changes and business users want to look at the data which has been accumulating over the period. To do this, they only have few pre-developed reports which come with the application, and it does not let them analyze the data the way they want it.

They have come back to us many times, to help them with their business requirements, generating various operational and financial dashboards, helping them generate ad-hoc reports and providing a solution so that the users are equipped to create and run on-demand reports. That is effectively requesting to create a Self Service Business Intelligence (SSBI) solution.

The Problem

How do we at ESSPL succeed every time in providing an effective and usable BI solution to our customers? To understand this we first need to know why the majority of the BI project in IT industry fails, the reasons are plenty but main ones are:

  1.    Being over budget
  2.    Exceeding way beyond the estimated timeline
  3.    Last but not the least, not understanding and capturing user’s requirement correctly

Most of the times, pt. 1 and 2 are an indirect outcome of pt. 3, i.e. the companies developing BI solution spend lesser time in analyzing business and understanding business users requirement. It may be easy to understand overall business by spending time with CEO, CFO and maybe with CTO but these people at the top also most of the times unaware about the problem users on the ground are facing.

The Approach

The approach which most of the companies follow, which is kind of flawed is, to analyses the business, design a data warehouse or reporting database, identify Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and generate dashboards and give it to users telling them, use this, this will help to grow your business and help you in fixing problems.

The approach looks perfect and should have worked without any issue except for one problem. The users do not know all of about their problems or maybe none of his problem. It is business as usual (BAU) for them, and, since they were not having any problem, they are also not sure what problem this new BI system will fix and how it will improve operational efficiency and increase profits.

How we do it

The approach here at ESSPL we follow is very simple. We understand the business in its entirety like everybody else do, over 20 years of experience in software development for different clients in different business domains helps us in doing that more effectively. Once that is done, we spend time with different business users or groups of users. We understand what they are doing, owing to our business knowledge we also try to find out an effective way of doing that. We analyze every single business process; we identify gaps in the process if any. We analyze and identify ways to improve and optimize processes.

Once business analysis, user discussions, process and gap analysis is complete we come up with presentation for different stakeholders providing details on gaps in processes, how we are going to improve it and its benefits in measurable terms most of the times in $ terms i.e. how much they will be able to save over the period. The cost-benefit analysis is the cost of implementing the system and overall benefit in the current time and over years. This presentation or discussion follows with more questions and more insights from users and to users, as by now they understand what we are trying to do.

Different stakeholders look at different statistics we prepare a different presentation for them and show them gaps in their process area and also the improvement area.

  1. The BI solutions we develop help them monitor these processes which also can be called KPI’s in BI term. It also helps them measure the performance of these indicators so that they get visibility on the health of their department of business.
  2. We also help business departments to set goals on the process improvements or performance indicators and show their progress in achieving it. It directly results in operational efficiency, revenue and profit growth.
  3. These goals are set on the BI dashboards and provide a comparison between operational and planned statistics. It also helps business users observe the deviation if any on real time and work on course correction.
  4. Users are able to monitor the business health in real time with different indicators on a dashboard which they understand. It helps them fix the gaps on an immediate basis or at least take corrective measures of fix responsibility.

Conclusion

We have been following these practices for our logistics, manufacturing and healthcare customers and every single instance we have succeeded with happy and satisfied customers at the end. This proves we are doing something or most of the things right.

And finally: “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

im Barksdale, former Netscape CEO