Where do you stand with Business Intelligence?
If you’re like most companies, BI has been a priority of yours for some time now, but you’re unable to leverage data efficiently. You still need to cross a threshold in terms of data usage in your organization. And you’re not alone: According to the Harvard Business Review Pulse survey, 76% of companies say they haven’t been able to use data efficiently
Why is this? We think friction is to blame: in other words, the small hurdles that make it harder for business users to access, understand and leverage data. The traditional world of BI is ripe with these sorts of obstacles. New technologies and data structures are gradually making it easier, however, to get rid of this sort of friction. One such technology is cloud BI.
You’ve probably noticed that cloud solutions are becoming increasingly popular in the world of data analytics. This phenomenon was so striking to us that we’ve chosen to write a full ebook about it: you can read it here. But even though your competitors and partners are turning to the cloud, you might not be sure if cloud-based BI is right for you. Read on to find out.
What is cloud BI
Traditionally, most enterprises used to host their Business Intelligence on premise, which means their data was physically stored on their own machines and the analytics softwares they used to analyze and exploit them were also installed on their computers.
That was before the revolution of cloud computing: according to the 2020 IDG Cloud computing study, at least 92% of companies use the cloud for their IT environment to a certain extent, and only 8% of them host their IT entirely on premise.
Companies first started migrating some of their operations to the cloud: CRM and marketing were typically the first areas affected. And they soon discovered the convenience of accessing their softwares easily without the cost and hassle of having to install anything on hardware. They first made the shift for cost reasons, but more recently, the pandemic has shown the importance of relying on easy-to-use solutions that can be accessed from anywhere in these uncertain times.
When it comes to BI specifically, cloud based Business Intelligence means migrating your BI operations to the cloud: the tools you use to source, analyze, visualize, present and act upon your data are on the cloud. And the challenges of BI makes it particularly suited for the cloud.
The challenges of modern BI that are solved by the cloud
What’s the point of BI? It's to bring the right data to the right people at the right time so they can make better business decisions. Easier said than done: it’s still complicated for most companies to aggregate their data from different sources, blend different data types together and bring them to important stakeholders in a coherent and actionable way. But the cloud can help with these challenges.
Get the right data in front of the right people…
What makes a good KPI? Well it depends on who’s using it. Typically, high-ranking board members will not need to get into the nitty gritty of daily operations. They’re mostly interested in big picture performance indicators. On the other hand, team managers and department heads need more detailed information that will help them understand what they’ve been doing right or wrong. Take the example of a restaurant franchise: the CFO will probably be interested in the overall performance of branches in a certain area over time, but a branch manager will need to see the performance of their branch compared to other branches. Only then they’ll be able to know if a problem in performance can be explained by external factors such as seasonality or if there’s something they can learn from other branches. Cloud BI systems make it easier to fine-tune the KPIs you present to each business user according to their role. Administrators can easily set up different accesses for each user.
...At the right time
When it’s action time, you need to act. Timing is highly important when it comes to business decisions: wait too long and your competitors might beat you to the punch. If you aspire to promote data-driven decision making across your company, then you must make data available to your teams in a timely manner. Your BI needs to keep up with the pace of your business. The thing is, the time frame for business users to request a report from the IT team is often too long: let’s say your operational marketing manager needs to know the sales number of a certain product to decide whether an in-store promotional offer should be extended for a day. Waiting two or three days to get the figures is not an option. Cloud BI is typically faster than on-premise, making it easier for anyone to access data from anywhere without having to go through BI.
Create a single source of truth…
Here’s a nightmare scenario in terms of BI: the sales team and the marketing team have widely different values for an important KPI, say, conversion rates. Why is that? If you dig a bit, you’ll find out that what they call “conversion rate” refer to different things. This is why the definition of your KPIs should be normalized across departments. Or even worse, different teams might have different values for the exact same metric. They might be referring to data from different sources: the data analytics team might have up-to-date sales numbers that are refreshed by the hour, while the sales teams rely on their weekly reports. When these two teams sit around a table, they’ll find they’ve drawn different conclusions based on inconsistent numbers. That’s why you need a unique source of truth, and cloud BI can help with centralizing all of your data.
...by breaking down data silos
Modern companies have a great advantage: they gather data from a wide range of data sources. They collect different types of data, from streaming data to historical, stored data. The downside of this data diversity is that companies often find it hard to break down data silos and blend these various tables together. They’re missing out: it’s only by cross-referencing these data types that they can get a full picture of their business’s strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, your BI reporting will allow you to bridge that gap. Increasingly, data is stored on the cloud, in data warehouses or data lakes. Most cloud BI tools come with built-in connectors, allowing you to connect to your data quickly and easily, wherever it is.
Promote data culture
Ultimately, BI serves one important purpose only: building data culture across your teams. What is data culture exactly? It’s a way of doing things that relies heavily on data to make decisions. Instead of making assumptions based on intuition or gut feelings, your employees should increasingly refer to numbers. While everyone tends to agree that data-driven decision making is more effective, most people are discouraged by the hassle of having to go through a whole process to get the info they need before they make an important decision. This is why it’s important for you to allow them to access BI reports quickly and easily. By removing the usual barriers between business users and their data, you’ll be creating a “path of least resistance” and encouraging them to adopt new, data driven habits. This is exactly what Cloud BI does: it makes it simpler for everyone across your organization to access and leverage data, no matter where they are. If you’d like to learn more about how cloud BI can help democratize data across your organization, you can read our free ebook here.
How Cloud BI can help
Using cloud infrastructure for your BI can boost the ROI of your analytics efforts and make it easy for anyone to access data on the fly. How? These features that are specific to cloud solutions make all the difference.
1. It’s less costly
If you opt for cloud BI, you’ll pay for exactly what you need and what you use. You don’t need to make bulk investments in advance to set up your cloud infrastructure and to install everything on your hardware.
2. It makes it easier to scale up and down
One thing about the cloud: it’s flexible. In these uncertain times, you won’t have to plan your BI needs in advance. Most cloud BI providers can adapt to your needs as they arise.
3. You can connect to your data quickly and easily
Most companies store their data on the cloud. Cloud BI solutions offer connectors that make it easier for you to reach your data no matter where it is stored (even if it’s on promise) and to blend various data sources together.
4. Deliver data everywhere
5. It’s automatically updated
If you still think it’s on you to take the responsibility of updating and maintaining your analytics software, think again. Cloud-based BI solutions can be automatically updated by the solution provider, without requiring any effort or development time on your part.
6. It’s easy to deploy
Your BI solution is available everywhere, at any time, with just a few clicks. No more deployment issues!
7. It’s more secure
Traditionally, companies were wary of cloud BI solutions because they thought it was less secure. While this might have been true in the past, the industry now offers completely secure solutions to handle and use your data.
Try it for yourself
If you’re used to traditional BI, you might not understand how cloud can make a difference in your Business Intelligence. This is why we offer 15 days of free trial: see how our cloud-based BI tool can help your business.