Business intelligence systems for your business

Business management

Benjamin Franklin – a politician, printer, philosopher, and above all one of the founding fathers of the United States once said, “drive your own business, because otherwise it will drive you.” Words that seemingly do not reveal much are actually the quintessence of responsible business conduct. Business management involves planning, organizing, deciding, motivating and controlling. If an entrepreneur, with the support of employees, will perform all these activities in accordance with the company’s main values and adds a bit of creativity, he has an almost ready-made recipe for a successful business.

There are entire segments devoted to Business management at universities as part of bachelor and master studies. Business owners often undertake these types of courses only when their company already has a position on the market. They can then confront the experience they have gained in running the institution with theoretical knowledge and the thoughts and reflections of specialists in management. However, we often forget about the vital elements that are important for this academic discipline, such as new technologies. Thanks to them, companies such as Google, Microsoft and IBM could build on their corporate power. By giving these examples, we can come to wrong conclusions saying that the industry in which all the above-mentioned companies operate has guaranteed them success. With this statement, it is impossible not to agree, but this skillful business management using the latest technologies has allowed the creation of new branches, production plants and the employment of new employees scattered around the world.

An important element in management is controlling, which largely focuses on business analytics (Business Intelligence). What exactly does BI mean, what are the available programs that facilitate the work of business analysts and how to effectively implement business intelligence systems for the company’s operations?

What are databases?

Since the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the fifteenth century (probably this invention was not his original idea, but it most likely came to Europe from China) humanity has gained a new universal way of expressing thoughts. Until then, books were rather an exclusive commodity, available only to an elite group. When they became cheaper and, above all, there were many more, the level of illiteracy in the world began to decrease. The press also developed, as information began to be transmitted much faster. Libraries have grown, which over time became available to all citizens of a given territory. The first collections of literature can be called prototypes and manual databases. Their appearance nowadays differs significantly from the information mediums from a dozen or so centuries ago. The computer has replaced paper. Digital data is processed by a special computer program (database management system).
Probably the first time the database was used was in 1963 during the “Development and Management of Computer-centered Data Base” symposium in the United States. The concept quickly gained popularity among the academic community. Charles Bachman is considered to be the propagator of the first databases. He developed a system enabling access to scanned data that were on magnetic tapes. For quite a long time scientists could not develop an effective database search key, the first ideas were modeled on the numbering used in libraries. The advent of personal computers significantly facilitated this task. The basic division of databases created by Zygmunt Mazur and Hanna Mazur in the book “Designing relational databases” is as follows:

A. SIMPLE DATABASES:

  • Card index
  • Hierarchical,

B. COMPLEX DATABASES

  • Relational,
  • Object-oriented,
  • Object-relational,
  • Stream
  • Temporal
  • Non-relational

Analytical databases

Analytical databases began to be popular at the end of the 20th century – this was due to the huge development of the economy and the expansion of global corporations. The information that is placed in the analytical database usually comes from a different operational database. The determinant of analytical databases against the background of other information sets is the immutability of files. They serve only as a basis for preparing analyzes or forecasts. Below is a table in which we describe the differences between analytical and operational databases:

ANALYTICAL DATABASE

  • static data (does not change),
  • used to track information obtained during a given business period,
  • on the basis of the collected data, analyses or forecasts can be conducted in business intelligence systems.

OPERATIONAL DATABASE

  • dynamic data,
  • used to process data (collection, modification) from a given period of a company’s operations
  • operational spine of the company, useful in the implementation of business processes.

Reports and Analyses

If we were to choose one of the most important words of the first decade of the 21st century, it would certainly be BIG DATA. This concept has become the subject of many academic works. Big data is so important because it raises one of the most important problems of the modern world – the processing of huge databases, which are calculated in terabytes, and even petabytes. Among other things, the profession of a business analyst has become so popular and desired in almost every company. A business analyst is a person who knows the databases well and with the right tools, such as business intelligence systems, he can create analyses and forecasts that affect the subsequent operation of the company. The process of completing the data for the report may take up to several months. Here are examples of the analyst’s activities:

1. INFORMATION – Collection of cases, ideas, problems faced by the company and making a hypothesis
2. METHODOLOGY – Determining the basic concepts, research methods, variables, the scope of research, duration of research
3. COLLECTION – collecting data using business intelligence systems, bringing them into one format, checking for any irregularities and for completeness of the material
4. OPERATIONALIZATION – data processing, graphing
5. RESOLUTION – drawing conclusions based on the acquired information, confronting them with the earlier hypothesis
6. CONCLUSION – creating a visual report, presenting statistics

What is business intelligence for?

Business intelligence is nothing more than a process that can be presented in the chart below:

Companies produce huge amounts of data each day. Thanks to computers that have a lot more computing power than humans, we can store the data relatively quickly, and even make this information useful for us. When the operating database records all transactions (ie data) taking place in the mid-market sales department, it provides us with a lot of information about the company’s situation, speed of operation and permanent and potential customers. For an efficient analyst, the trick is to use new technologies to change data into information and information into useful knowledge. Business Intelligence focuses on the creation of systems (programs, applications) that based on databases, will enable the collection of statistics as well as analysis and forecasts. Depending on the needs, different systems offer a number of functions, including business activity monitoring (BAM). This solution allows you to keep track of data flowing to analysts.
The use of BI systems also involves threats that are not so much the result of computer errors but rather human oversights. Here are a few of them:

  • data = analysis – at first glance this does not seem to be a mistaken statement, but many analysts often forget about activities that should be done between data collection and final analysis. All numbers that appear in the system should be processed, regularities found alongside deviations. The business intelligence system will largely do it for us, but the final look of the analysis is above all our task and responsibility.
  • clear-cut answers – we should not count on the fact that business intelligence systems provide us with ready solutions and simple answers to questions.

Remember that despite the large work that computers often do for us, we are responsible for giving meaning to the data, interpreting it and drawing conclusions.

The best (and free) business intelligence systems

The business world is filled with products that serve both clients and business owners. Effective management of an institution or company directly translates into consumer satisfaction. However, the market often offers a very large range of BI systems which has its positive and negative features. On the one hand, the entrepreneur has a choice, and on the other hand, it’s easy to get lost in choosing the right products for your company. Below are the five most popular and most effective business intelligence systems in the open source category (free software):

1. BIRT – is a system created by Eclipse Foundation, the basic function of the software is to create data from the reports and data visualization, Birt allows the publication of the final project in other programs;

2. Spago BI – the application of this system is almost the same as in the case of BIRT, however Spago BI is distinguished by a transparent, intuitive and easy to use interface for the user;

3. RapidMiner – the most important application in RapidMiner is data analysis and forecasting, in addition, the system seamlessly deals with the processing of files from other programs, such as MS Excel. RapidMiner is available in a free version of the Starter Edition;

4. Tibco Jaspersoft – a system that immediately after Pentaho ranks second among the most popular business intelligence systems, the feature that distinguishes Tibco Jaspersoft from the other systems is the availability of a simple to use mobile application;

5. Pentaho – is the most commonly used business intelligence system, its basic application is data analysis, reporting and forecasting, in addition Pentaho offers a report creator that presents data in the form of a visualization. In addition to the basic version of the system, additional applications are also available to enhance the capabilities of Pentaho.

Data visualization

The last element of the business analyst’s work is often the visualization of the collected information and presenting them to the company. The above-mentioned business intelligence systems offer a number of functions enabling such presentations, which can be displayed in the following formats:

  • Table
  • chart
  • diagram
  • infographics
  • presentation
  • movie

The key to understanding the vastness of data that each company produces is to present them in a concise, orderly and attractive form. In this case, you often have to decide between presenting a format that in the opinion of the analyst is the most important variable, at the expense of others. The selection of information means that the final message is consistent and understandable.

Advantages of Business intelligence

It can be boldly admitted that the constantly developing IT industry is the main reason for success of most large corporations. Thanks to the good use of the latest technologies, we are able to quickly and effectively perform many business activities, even at the same time. As it was stated in the paragraphs above, business intelligence are systems that significantly improve decision making processes in an enterprise. Other benefits of using BI include:

  • monitoring the current situation of the company and possible deviations – thanks to this function, we can currently compare the current situation of the company, for example with a previously set development plan or budget;
  • speed – thanks to business intelligence systems, we will perform every task faster, with greater ease, and also share the results of our work with other people;
  • creating visualizations – this function allows to present data analyses in a more accessible way for the recipient, understanding the content included in the visualization allows for its much faster acquisition even for people who are not familiar with economics or statistics;
  • creating forecasts – this is one of the most important applications and benefits of business intelligence, it allows you to invest in new projects or make decisions that are appropriate for the good of the company in difficult periods, such as: economic crisis, competition pressure, human error;
  • easier and faster decision making – the time that we will save on the excessive collection and analysis of data (BI systems do it to a large extent for us) we can devote to the implementation of other orders, or making further decisions;
  • limitation of human resources – employees do not have to waste time on the data collection process themselves, business intelligence systems do it for them, people can deal with the interpretation of stored data and making decisions or other duties based on them;
  • useful knowledge – in this case it will be accurate to quote Alvin Toffler, “knowledge is the most versatile of all resources that allows you to create wealth”; adequate and safe data collection, and above all cataloging and skillful use of wealth will ensure us guaranteed business success and no hasty decisions.

BI implementation within the company

In order to successfully implement a BI system for the company’s operation, it is worth following a few simple rules described by us, as steps:

STEP 1. – ANALYSIS
Even before looking at potential BI products, it is worth analyzing the company’s condition, finding its advantages and disadvantages, and the employees’ opinion on the implementation of the latest technologies.

STEP 2. – PLAN AND DECISION
If we’ve already answered the basic questions:

  • What is the company’s condition?
  • What problems does the company have?
  • Which business activities are worth improving?
  • What budget do we have?

Then it’s time to get acquainted with the business intelligence systems offers and adapt them to your needs. At this point, you should decide on a given product. It is worth remembering that the planned costs should include funds for additional unforeseen costs. Creating a coherent and detailed plan will allow you to avoid unforeseen situations.

STEP 4. – IMPLEMENTATION

Once we’ve decided to choose the right BI system, you can start implementing it into the company. The process should start off with training all employees to use the software so that unnecessary chaos and confusion does not arise on the day of starting real work with the new system. Let’s also try to be a bit more understanding with employees. We should not plan the implementation process together with the implementation of other activities that are important for the company and do not expect spectacular success just after a week of work.

STEP 5. – FURTHER ANALYSIS

Many managers often make a big mistake and finish the whole process of implementing the BI system into the company after the first wave of success. Please note that some abnormalities may occur after prolonged use of the system. It is important that in such situations our reaction is always quick and effective, which guarantees us continuous analysis of the operation and effectiveness of the BI system in the company.