As businesses become more complex and demand increased agility, current BI and analytics tools are evolving to add visualisation and self service features
Business analytics has become increasingly strategic to most businesses. Presently, data originates from far more sources than it ever has and exists in a variety of formats and types. According to Gartner, the BI and analytics market is in the final stages of a multi-year shift from IT-led, system-of-record reporting to business-led, self-service analytics.
“The shift to the modern BI and analytics platform has now reached a tipping point,” says Ian Bertram, Managing VP at Gartner. “Organisations must transition to easy-to-use, fast and agile modern BI platforms to create business value from deeper insights into diverse data sources.” As a result, the modern business intelligence and analytics platform has emerged to meet new organisational requirements for accessibility, agility and deeper analytical insights. According to IDC, the business analytics software market in India will grow at 9.6% year-on-year through 2019, reaching $583 million (roughly Rs 3,442 crore), as compared to 6.8% across Asia-Pacific region.
BI gets visual
As needs of organisations have been evolving, so have ways of leveraging BI and analytics. A case in point is Housing.com, one of the fastest growing real estate platforms in India. The firm is leveraging visual analytics tools from Qlik to enable its customers have a smooth and effortless experience in finding their dream homes.
Similarly, Eveready Industries India, one of India’s largest selling brand of dry cell batteries, is using visual analytics tools from Tableau to quickly analyse its sales data. The company already had a data warehouse in place to store data generated from its ERP system, which was installed in 2005. It also had supply chain management and Salesforce systems in place, which generated considerable data. In totality, the company had about three terabytes of data – most of it stored in an Oracle database. In addition, it also had some financial data stored in Microsoft Excel worksheets.
The company was keen to use its existing data to gain valuable insights, which would aid in better decision making. With this in mind, the company decided to invest in a tool that would analyse data from its existing data warehouse and provide insights in a visual format. The company’s 52-member sales team began using Tableau to track sales data such as planned versus actual sales, Year on Year growth rates, sales trends, profitability of each Line of Business (LOB), geographical distribution of sales, etc. Additionally, the team used the BI solution to study trends relating to customer buying patterns and cash-credit ratios. Later on, Eveready extended the use of BI software to its supply chain team. With its usage, the supply chain management team could get a real-time view into inventory trends, ensure adherence to stocking norms in storage areas, and track materials in transit. After just seven months of using a visual analytical tool, Eveready increased sales by about Rs 15 crore, lowered inventory costs by Rs 10 crore, and achieved over 500% ROI.
Digital era demands faster decision making
The rise of the digital customer, coupled with hyper competition, and enabling data-driven technologies are significantly disrupting several industries. Mihir Kittur, Co-Founder, Ugam, says, “Online retailers are aggressively investing in data and analytics tools across functional areas such as customer acquisition, distribution, customer experience, inventory planning and assortment. In the future, mobile will be key and play a more central role. Algorithms as a service will also slowly emerge. However, big data talent will be in short supply.”
The Indian e-commerce industry, which is on the path of rapid growth, is heavily investing in Big Data and analytic tools. “Regular retail has always had a huge element of demand generation being driven by retail analytics, and this trend has continued and intensified in the online e-commerce space. Online additionally affords the ability to do behaviour analytics. This behaviour data is, perhaps, more difficult to capture say in a store. As a consequence, one can really apply predictive analytics in the online context to influence conversion rates at a far more granular level,” opines K Jayakumar, VP & MD, WalmartLabs India.
Another trend in retail has been to go multichannel. A transaction may begin online, be investigated in depth at a store and complete on mobile. One can imagine any permutation or combination of the preceding interaction. The difficulty is in tracking such multi-channel transaction across all the channel interfaces. Companies are now beginning to touch the level of sophistication required to be able to collect the data around such multi-channel transactions and subject them to analytics to derive insights, all the while adhering to the strict privacy norms required at each stage.
There is also increased focus on enabling decision-makers throughout an organisation to independently explore and analyse data in the channel-of-choice. Kaushal Mody, MD– Delivery Excellence & Innovation, Analytics Lead, Accenture Operations outlines few trends in this area,”Democratisation of data is going to be vital. Business users expect interactivity, multi-channel delivery and self-service BI. We are seeing an increased focus on advanced visualization, better identification of complex trends and faster decision making.”
It is imperative that traditional BI tools and techniques have taken a huge maturity improvement primarily due to business demanding agility. Traditional business intelligence tools had focused a lot on descriptive analysis and rear-view mirror like dashboards and KPIs/Metrics validations. Today, there is increased focus on advanced analytics as organisational needs are shifting from structured reporting (“what happened”) to actionable intelligence and predictive insights (“what will happen”). Data-driven point-of-interaction decisions are shifting to the front line. Hybrid models are quickly becoming the new reality.
Soumendra Mohanty, Senior VP- Digital, Mindtree, states, “The current business demands much more agility to slice and dice data, in-memory processing and virtually no involvement from IT. Business is driving these scenarios and continue to challenge the status quo with IT delivery mechanisms of the past.”
Citing a customer example of BI morphing itself to meet agile business needs, Roger Nolan, Director – Solutions, Informatica says, “Prior to Indian Oil Corporation’s IT architecture transformation from a distributed to a centralised model supporting 6,500 distributors across India, the detection of diversion of subsidized LPG of a domestic connection to a commercial establishment could only be determined from a post-facto analysis of their distributors’ operations. Today, by leveraging technology to put in place business rules and processes that deliver real-time information, Indian Oil Corporation has been able to detect malpractices and irregularities and thereby ensure prompt enforcement.”
Led by an internal IT team at Indian Oil Corporation, a centralised architecture built on Informatica’s data integration platform enabled data synchronisation between thousands of distributor sites as well as with external data providers and consumers such as other oil marketing companies and state banks for critical government projects, such as direct cash subsidy.
Another example is India’s biggest automobile company – Maruti Suzuki, which is leveraging Qlik to analyse and provide business insights and improve operational efficiency across the enterprise. With Qlik’s solution, Maruti Suzuki has been successful in streamlining its sales and distribution management. It has also been able to monitor supplier and dealer performance more effectively; manage complex after-sales and service opportunities efficiently and improve the process of spare parts management.
“Intelligent” organisations know that smart decisions come from the use of data, but where that information comes from matters. To truly gain context around trends and industry happenings, organisations must look into both internal and external data sources. Simply focusing on their own data, and shying away from the accelerating data boom, is a mistake. Organisations who utilise comprehensive solutions to process the information from multiple sources and in multiple views, are able to stay ahead of the game. Explains Jaydeep Deshpande, Regional Marketing Manager, QlikTech India, “BI can only be meaningful if it caters to the questions that business users across the enterprise have. In the past BI tools were used to capture a description of what was occurring within an organisation. More organisations today are looking for “diagnostic” analytics to not find what is happening, but to ask questions and find out why.”
Another trend that will gain ground is the shift in BI platform requirements, moving from reporting to analysis. This will enable companies to get insights at a glance. Visualisation is key as users need to be able to understand their data in a way that is natural to them, breaking down the barriers between people and their data.
Says Anuradha Saihgal, Head – BI Practice, Blue Star Infotech, “When analysis is done in silos, it can be difficult to share findings with others to drive a consensus. BI is no longer about collecting reports, it’s about interactive decision making. Therefore, data storytelling will be very critical to create a compelling narrative to convince team members and executives to take action. However, static stories can lead to unanswered questions and the end of a successful meeting. The option to dive into the data to answer questions in real-time is key to one’s success.”
What the future holds for BI
Visualisation and self service analytics will be the norm, rather than the exception. One more trend that is fast gaining traction is the concept of ‘Data Lakes’. “Organisations are using the data lake for innovation and testing out new ideas. Once Big Data analysis proves useful, organisations will look to operationalise that analysis. That means, they will make the analysis repeatable and ensure that it is based on trusted data with structure, metadata, data quality, data governance and security,” explains Nolan of Informatica.
While the BI landscape changes dynamically, the importance of clean data will remain as critical as ever. “While organisations are increasingly looking to compete in the marketplace based on analytics, they must ensure that they have updated data to ensure success,” observes Deepak Ghodke, Country Manager, Tableau Software.
One can also expect development of browser-based dashboards. “Simple graphical elements on mobile devices and tablets will be the highlight of the features offered by BI and Analytics platforms. The conventional reporting involving rows and columns will gradually be phased out,” predicts Jayakumar from WalmartLabs India.
Mobile-analytics tools are also expected to be a dynamic part of the analytics process. Industry experts believe that a mobile-first BI platform will be used by more enterprises as the combination of cloud and mobile can help enterprises analyse more data faster.
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