Business Analytics: Numbers and Nuance

In Summary

  • Who: IT leaders from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Gartner, Deloitte Consulting, Hertz and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, among others
  • What: Discussing how to leverage business intelligence and business analytics
  • Why: To transform business processes and introduce near real-time decision making

A car-rental giant seeks solutions to get fast, accurate information about customer comments. A health care benefits provider is utilizing IT tools to obtain a complete picture of patient medical histories. And a global nonprofit is deploying the same technologies to ensure that donor contributions are well-spent.

Like many companies, these three organizations are discovering new ways to deploy business intelligence and business analytics tools. By now, using BI/BA is nothing new. What is new, however, is the eagerness of CIOs to seek out an ever-expanding list of capabilities and applications for this kind of technology, and to use them across the enterprise.

This interest is fueling considerable demand: Worldwide BI software sales are expected to reach more than $11.3 billion by 2012, up from just over $9.7 billion this year, according to research firm Gartner.

New solutions are emerging that allow for improved change-data capture, management and cleansing. And there are more self-service tools to make it easier than ever to access and use the data throughout the enterprise. For CIOs, however, a frequent and possibly more perplexing challenge goes beyond finding the right technology. The real challenge is in finding and retaining top BI/BA talent.

Leveraging BI/BA, after all, doesn’t simply require high-end aptitude for data analysis, reporting and management. It demands a deep understanding of the intended business process, says Steve Cranford, a director in the advisory practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a global professional services firm. “These ‘hybrid’ qualities are usually found in individuals with several years of business knowledge who have emerged from either the business or the technology organization,” he says. “They also have experience with the BI processes, methodologies and tools that are driving the decision processes of the organization. Given the drought of top BI talent, these qualities become a ‘perfect storm’ retention challenge as adoption of BI increases in the overall marketplace.”

Traditionally, BI/BA tools have been used to target a specific campaign, market segment or other niche. But the current push is to incorporate BI/BA into the day-to-day operations of an organization so that it’s routinely applied at all levels. This means that the BI/BA process must be collaborative across the enterprise, says John Lucker, principal at Deloitte Consulting.

“CIOs should look for ways to actively participate in the process,” he says. “They must team with business groups to find new ways to do things and new approaches for analysis. They should look for new tools to make things easier or possible, and new external data sets to augment institutional data.” This collaborative approach is already delivering ROI for the Cincinnati Zoo, which implemented a business analytics system tied to its POS.

What CIOs really need are BI/BA solutions that can bring their companies to “next-level” business performance. It’s about more than simply gathering and analyzing data. It’s about maximizing the value of data throughout the enterprise. CIO Insight recently spoke to three top technology executives at high-profile organizations–Hertz, Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation–to learn more about what “next-level” BI/BA solutions mean to them. Here are their stories.

Dennis McCafferty
Dennis McCafferty
Dennis McCafferty is a contributor to CIO Insight. He covers topics such as IT leadership, IT strategy, collaboration, and IT for businesses.

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