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Organisations that are able to quickly store, structure, access and give data to their customers are the ones that will come out above the rest, says PREMIE NAICKER.

Organisations off all sizes, and across all industries, understand how vital business intelligence (BI) is to the effective and efficient running of the business. Data and information, and the ability to harness these effectively, can be the difference between a thriving and a failing business, particularly in times of economic uncertainty. Effective BI helps companies maximise their resources, optimise their business processes, improve their customer service, as well as launch new projects and initiatives.

Businesses that understand that getting the right information, to the right individual, at the right time, is crucial to the business succeeding,” says Premie Naicker, MD of Yellowfin South Africa.

According to Naicker, recognising the importance of information is only the first step. “On its own, information lacks context. Businesses need tools and processes to deliver information and analytics in a way that meets the needs of the business decision makers.

This delivery, or the lack thereof, she says is the major cause to companies battling to get real value out of their BI investments. “Too often users say they cannot access the information needed to support their decisions. They struggle with incorrect or irrelevant data, insufficient or inaccessible data, and turnaround times that are way too long, in the ‚Äòinstant access’ times we live in.

Naicker offers several tips for businesses wishing to maximise their BI investments. “One of the most common reasons for failure of BI initiatives is a lack of the correct data. While BI is needed across all levels of the business, additional effort and preparation of the data are required in order to make the BI initiative successful, and the correct ownership of this is therefore essential.

Next, she says to ensure there is a solid governance platform. “Both the data itself, and the BI initiative, must have a governance foundation. Data can only provide a competitive advantage, and improve operations, if the business understands what information they have and from what sources, and what value the data has. Following this, they need to define the data, and what rules apply to the capture, storage, processing and access of that data. Governance will ensure the correct rules are in place, and keep in charge of processes relating to creating reports, ownership, usage and distribution of the data.

Naicker says agility is also key to BI success. “The development methodology must be suited to the BI project, or the desired results will not be achieved. Agility can assist here, as it will boost the initiatives’ chances of success. Agile BI is about a company’s ability to adapt its BI projects to meet the evolving needs of the business, and the environment it operates in.

This incorporates both a technical and process-oriented approach to managing the delivery of BI initiatives. “To achieve this agility, companies need to provide and establish the tools and conditions needed to allow them to deliver BI initiatives that can respond quickly and effectively to the changing and imprecisely articulated needs of the BI user. This goes beyond building and developing things rapidly, but building and developing the right things rapidly.

The way organisations harness the data that is available to them will be a strong differentiator, and can mean the difference between success and failure. “Applying these practices will help make the business more data driven, and will allow the BI projects to be agile, appropriate, and to strike the right balance between control and flexibility,” Naicker concludes.

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