Beyond the Numbers, BI Can Offer Customer Insights

Ann All

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.

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May 31, 2007 5:16 PM Joseph A. Montione Joseph A. Montione  says:
What does BI (Business Intelligence) have to do with ETL (Extract Transform Load)?Other than being the only buzz-words bigger than C in the late 80s; BI and ETL are the results of too much data and not enough Analysts who understand what to do with it and how to deliver it. The it is IT (Information technology) in the form of EIS (Executive Information Systems), two clicks to data answers, not data questions. Most people in ETL do just that, create more questions and a greater need to gather more Silo data.Lets start here:Wikipedia defines ETL as .. the way data actually gets loaded into the warehouse.This is where the problems start. The data living in the warehouse and not at the fingertips of executives results in the need for BI. This is the way the process works: Executives need information they do not have in their report, they send data miners to ETL their data into useable format. The data is presented in the context solving the initial need, which poses a new executive level question. Executives are constantly looking at static reports which do not have the data needed to run their business. By the time we get them the data, the question or business has changed.This leads us to the authors overlying focus in my opinion, it is evolving. BI and ETL are Rapid Application Development (RAD) Implementations, only they lack, in most cases, the Dynamic Application Delivery Method, leaving the data in the warehouse and on some static report.Business Diplomacy is the E(Extract) in ETL; only a diplomat can get access to someone elses data!Application Programming is the T (Transform) in ETL; change the data with code to make it look like I wantApplication Development is the L (Load) in ETL.All of this is BI with an emphasis on Load. The load must not forget the delivery method. Drill-down graphs and OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) are the end of the line and what is missing in most BI ETL scope projects. So next time you are on a BI ETL project, do not let them leave the meeting until you sell the need to be plugged in to the goals and objectives of senior management, or you will understand todays question and answer with tomorrows question. You should have delivered the data and software to have them graphically cross-drill into their own answers from any starting point to any destination.Know the business and why they are asking the questions? Match corporate goals with two-click technology.Joseph A. MontioneFounder: GTOpendatabase L.L.C.A Solutions Provider Reply

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