Gartner: Strategic Companies Will Use Business Intelligence to Weather Tough Economic Times
October 22, 2008
By Mae Kowalke
, TMCnet Contributor
What does it take to survive in a competitive and/or economically challenging market? Companies that successfully answer that question know that it involves a multi-pronged approach to choosing winning business strategies. Technology obviously plays a large role in today’s global marketplace, but so do concepts and approaches like business intelligence.
What is business intelligence (BI)? Usually this term is used fairly broadly to refer to applications, technologies and practices for collecting, integrating, analyzing and presenting business information. Sometimes it is used to refer to the information itself. Any BI system, regardless of how it is implemented, has the same goal: to support better business decision-making. Because of this, it is fair to say that BI can also be thought of as a decision support system (DSS).
One example of BI is a telecom expense management (TEM) system. TEM involves taking a business approach to managing telecommunication expenses (such as landline phone service, cell phone plans, and Internet connections). To accomplish this, a combination of software (for automation) and human labor (manual auditing) are used. Typically the software compiles invoices from various service provides, and performs some level of automated calculations or analysis on that information. People then look at the compiled information and identify any problem areas (such as billing errors).
TEM also involves, as part of the audit process, performing and maintaining a thorough inventory of telecom assets — which include services subscribed to and hardware those services are used with. For example, employees might be given mobile phones to use for travel, along with voice plans with a certain number of minutes allotted per month. Both the plans and the phones would be included in an inventory, with this information stored in a TEM system database where it can be cross-referenced and analyzed to make sure the company is paying the amount it has budgeted for these assets.
The inventory aspect of TEM is a good starting point for seeing how this particular type of system fits into the larger BI universe. Typically, BI involves establishing key performance indicators (KPIs), which are then used to assess the current state of business operations, and to prescribe courses of action. Inventory turnover is one example of a KPI. With TEM, inventory turnover analysis would involve keeping track of each individual mobile phone, and making sure that when an employee leaves the company, that phone doesn’t also walk out the door with him or her.
The importance of BI can’t be overestimated and, even if not all companies are familiar with the term, they’re engaged in BI practices nonetheless. In a recent report, industry research firm Gartner (News
) said that BI will be one of the top ten strategic technologies for businesses during 2009.
What exactly does “strategic” mean? Here’s David Cearley, an analyst at Gartner, in the report: “Strategic technologies affect, run, grow and transform the business initiatives of an organization.”
Cearley went on to say that the strategic technologies on Gartner’s list are items companies should examine and evaluate as opportunities for adding value to their operations. Understanding these technologies — which include cloud computing, enterprise mashups, social networking, green IT and, of course, business intelligence — can help companies detect and evaluate the value of new opportunities in the marketplace.
In its report, Gartner said that BI “can have a direct positive impact on a company’s business performance, dramatically improving its ability to accomplish its mission by making smarter decisions at every level of the business from corporate strategy to operational processes.”
BI, Gartner added, is especially strategic because it is directed toward knowledge workers and business managers — the very folks who run, grow and transform businesses. BI encompasses the tools that let these users make better decisions, faster. That’s definitely a winning strategy given the current economic climate.
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Mae Kowalke is senior editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae's articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Mae Kowalke