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BI: Useful analytics delivers many gifts

Maryfran Johnson | June 16, 2010
Dedication to business intelligence and data analytics yields customers, productivity and credibility for IT.

FRAMINGHAM, 16 JUNE 2010 - “Data starts to tell a story,” says CIO Tim Fleming. “We can help them find that story.”

Fleming’s industrial technologies sector at Ingersoll Rand dedicates the biggest portion of its IT staff to data analytics—using the info they uncover to enhance decision making, catch errors and rework various business processes at the $13 billion heavy-equipment maker. “This gets you back in front of your user groups very frequently, so they’re seeing the value of IT,” Fleming says.

As you’ll see at all of the leading companies profiled in our cover story (“Analyzing the Future.”), faster turnaround of more useful analytics delivers many gifts. It boosts IT credibility, spurs dramatic productivity gains and can save a great deal of money. Yet perhaps most significantly, new revenue-generating opportunities can arise from finding actionable insights about customers and sharing them with your business colleagues.

At insurer CUNA Mutual Group, for example, business analysts discovered that fully half the company’s $2.8 billion annual revenue was coming from only three of its dozen customer segments. So ramping up new business from those nine flagging customer groups—such as Gen-Y consumers who want mobile access—became a big priority for CIO Rick Roy.

By consolidating customer info into a single data warehouse that business analysts could explore more easily, he shaved their analysis time from weeks to hours. “It’s a game-shifting change,” Roy told us. And changes like that are happening more often than ever before. When we surveyed 335 IT executives recently about their use of business intelligence (BI) and analytics, 65 percent of them had used these tools to make significant business process changes in the last year.

The expanding capabilities of these tools—whether provided in-house or externally in a software-as-a-service arrangement—are moving well beyond demographics and purchasing patterns to more revealing information about how people behave on a website or what clues they leave behind with call center operators. Contemporary BI and analytic tools can also pull data from enterprise software in much more useful ways, churning out in an afternoon results that once took weeks and a PhD in statistics to produce. As one analyst put it: “Business people don’t have to worry about how the sausage gets made.”

What they need instead is a data whisperer who can help them to see the patterns, understand the implications and, ultimately, analyze the future.

 

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