When it comes to business intelligence (BI) and data analytics, there can be a certain amount of trepidation. Dealing with vast amounts of information can be rather daunting for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, which may not be able to invest a large amount of capital into the area. However, a fear of data analytics can be bad for business, especially when many rivals will be using it to boost their competitiveness.
Talking of the traditional BI and data analytics setup, SAS Head of Business Intelligence Marketing Travis Murphy explained that many companies have become used to having a single go-to data employee who’s asked to undertake all the analytical tasks. “When someone in the business needed some insight into the data they put in a request to the data guru, then the magic happened in the back office and they were simply handed back a result,” he explained. “These days there’s too much data, and also too much opportunity in that data, to leave the power of analytics locked away in the back office – we need to make it a mainstream business tool.”
Many businesses fear data analytics and BI simply because they don’t understand how to turn data into important insights and knowledge. However, Murphy said that modern tools allow for huge amounts of information to be gained without writing even a single piece of code. In fact, talking of SAS’s own solutions, Murphy explained that data doesn’t even have to be prepared. Instead, it can be loaded into a spreadsheet for almost instant results.
A lot of the modern visualisation tools can help companies find meaning in otherwise unstructured data sets. Text analytical solutions have moved beyond simple keyword searches. Now, tools can draw meaning and sentiment from text, particularly that of online comments and other customer feedback. Amid a sea of data, this can provide clarity and important insights. In addition, modern analytics don’t only look back either, with forecasting solutions able to make it simple for companies to look ahead, run scenario analysis and set targets.
“Typically, business intelligence tools act like a rear vision mirror – letting you look backwards – and it’s certainly useful to see where the potholes were,” Murphy explained. “Advanced analytics allow you to do much more, as well as looking in the mirror you can also look forward through the windscreen so you can see the potholes coming and even perform ‘what if’ analysis to steer your own course.”
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