Why Your Business Lacks Intelligence

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

A few weeks ago, a company named Yellowfin began offering a free version of its cloud-based business intelligence software for a year to those customers on the Microsoft Azure platform. According to this report, Yellowfin has offered a similar free usage plan in the past on Amazon Web Services. “You can spin up an instance of Azure and just install Yellowfin on it,” said John Ryan, the company’s Director of Product Marketing. “Really this is about making it faster and easier.”

And therein lies the problem with “business intelligence.”

Yellowfin makes a great business intelligence product. The company has more than a million users. Its software is visually brilliant. It’s mobile. It provides its customers the ability to configure intuitive maps and colorful charts from data ranging from an internal database to a cloud hosted system to a simple spreadsheet on your desktop. And Yellowfin is not the only game in town.

There are other, excellent business intelligence tools on the market today that can enable people to do things that weren’t possible just a few years ago. Domo, for example, is a popular application that, like Yellowfin, produces great reports and information across platforms and on any mobile device. Domo has connectors to hundreds of very varied systems, fromSalesforce to Hubspot to Outbrain to Exact Target. Domo is a well-funded, venture-backed business that was recently named one of Utah’s fastest growing companies and I predict will be a major player in business intelligence for many years to come. Domo and Yellowfin, two relatively new companies in the space are competing against powerful tools from Microsoft, Tableau Software, QlikTech, Logi Analytics, Pentaho, Targit and dozens of others.

Every client I have bemoans the lack of good data to run their businesses and complains about the insufficient reporting tools they have. They lack business intelligence. And yet, here are a bunch of great applications to solve that very problem. But all of these great applications and services are missing something. And that something is what excludes most of my small and medium sized clients from using them. Figured it out yet? Here are a few hints, taken from case studies on the companies’ websites.

Yellowfin’s Ryan says that you can “spin up an instance of Azure and just install Yellowfin on it.”

“Going with Domo is like going from the Dark Ages to Buck Rogers in the 25th century,” Ross Moncur, the Group Head of Business Analytics at brewing and beverage company SAB Miller says.

Philip Dean, the Head of the Department of Pharmacy and Quality Control at the North Tees and Hartlepool National Health Services Trust (a UK based hospital and community-based organization that services around 365,000 people) says that “linking data for analyses was something we couldn’t do before. With Microsoft’s Power BI, it’s simple.”

“We have people who are just absolutely world class and outstanding at using big data and combining third-party external data feeds with clients’ internal information to be both predictive and prescriptive,” according to Ryan Renner, a Strategy and Operations principle at the multi-national consulting firm Deloitte. “But we were looking for how to relay that information to our clients in a way that’s much more digestible for them.” Tableau solved that problem for them.

Does your firm have a “Group head of Business Analytics,” or a “Head of Pharmacy and Quality Control?” Can you just “spin up” an instance of Azure? Do you have world class and outstanding people who are “outstanding at using big data and combining third-party external data feeds”?  No, I didn’t think so. I don’t either. And few of my small/mid-sized clients do. And this is the problem. All of this great technology, stuff that never existed just a few years ago, tools that could transform our businesses…they are basically useless for the grand swath of companies in this country because we don’t have the people to properly implement them for us. We lack the intelligence for these business intelligence solutions.

So what to do? You get help.

You, the small/medium size business owner can search online at places like LinkedIn or UpWork or Guru and find a qualified consultant. Or you could send someone from your company for software training, which is offered by most of these business intelligence services. Or you could outsource the work to a certified partner. If business intelligence is important to you, and it should be, then you can make use of these tools. But it will come at a cost. You will have to invest in a person. Your job is not to become an expert in business intelligence. Your job is putting the money and resources behind someone who can use these tools to get you the intelligence you need. And if you can prove that the cost to do this is worth the return on investment, then you’ll be making a smart decision.

 

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