Most companies associate business intelligence with crunching numbers rather than cozying up to their customers.
But increasingly, companies want to use BI to unlock insights that are buried within text-based data like customer reports. They want to find out what folks like -- or don't like -- about call centers, for example, says Mark Smith, CEO of Ventana Research in an interview with IT Business Edge. It doesn't do much good to determine that 60 percent of customers report a negative call center experience, unless companies can also find out just what is bugging them.
"BI doesn't typically provide a great interface to analyze text, it's mostly around numbers. Think about all of the information already being stored in companies -- so much of it is text data, and companies want to leverage that," says Smith, noting that they see integrated search capabilities as one way of doing so.
When Ventana asked companies which business functions would derive the highest value from integrated search/BI capability, sales and marketing was the number-one answer, cited by 51 percent of respondents. Smith says it's the area where most companies are focusing their efforts in the first rounds of deployments.
Respondents also tapped integrated search capabilities as a key way to access unstructured data. When asked what kind of unstructured data was most important to them, 82 percent of companies cited customer data, followed by product data at 62 percent. Customer satisfaction, mentioned by 61 percent of companies, also led the way when respondents were asked which metrics were most important in measuring the success of integrated search/BI.
"There's a desire to have these search capabilities find out additional information about customers, to increase customer satisfaction and increase revenue," Smith says.
This will likely mean abandoning -- or at least modifying -- the traditional view of BI , which emphasizes pulling data from transactional systems like CRM or ERP, moving it to data warehouses and then generating reports.
One vendor that appears to be hip to this Microsoft, which is packing its new Dynamics CRM product with BI features such as ad hoc analyses of customer information. While some analysts have knocked the package as a lightweight line-of-business tool, it does offer simpler reports and enhanced visualization, which go a long way toward simplifying decision-making.
A Yankee Group analyst interviewed in a CRM Buyer article notes that pairing CRM with BI tools could help revive interest in CRM applications.