Business Intelligence for Mid-Size Companies – The Case for Better BI and How to Succeed

May 17


Matthew Scullion

Matthew Scullion

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This whitepaper explains the importance of Business Intelligence to midsize companies, examines the challenges found in BI projects and explains how to be successful in improving visibility in your business.

Executive Summary

To underpin growth,Business Intelligence for Mid-Size Companies – The Case for Better BI and How to Succeed Articles efficiency and profitability, organisations need accurate, useful and timely management information. Where and how are we making money? How is our supply chain performing? Which of our customers, product lines and sectors are growing? The answers to these questions allow executives to react.

Delivery of management information is a challenge for many businesses however. Reports are often, in a part at least, created manually. Executives cannot self-serve – rather they have ask the finance or IT function to produce reports for them, which is costly and time-consuming. To fill the gap, managers may produce their own management information using spreadsheets, which is costly and error prone leading
to conflicting conclusions. Or more common still, the information required to make a business decision just isn’t easily available.

Business Intelligence addresses this challenge by delivering timely and useful information in a way that is productive to consume.

Historically though, business intelligence projects have been costly and prone to failure.

Complexity,expense and slow time to value have meant that Business Intelligence has often only genuinely delivered in enterprise organisations. Those that have the means and capabilities to deliver.

This whitepaper examines the case for better management information, the challenges associated with traditional Business Intelligence projects and how medium sized business can improve decision making and drive greater profits by implementing a successful BI solution.

Why BI for the Medium Sized Business?

The following are representative of the challenges midsize organisations face in decision making and management information If one or more of these apply to your company, Business Intelligence can help:

Inability to see the detail:
You can see the top line figures, even broken down by product area or sales channel. So you know what your top selling product is and who your biggest customer is. But you can’t drill-down into your reports to find out how and why the figures are as they are.

Manual effort to create management information:
Your finance team or IT function creates dozens of reports. People’s time is used to create and send these reports and you don’t know how and if they’re all used. Business users and executive have to ask for management information which you’re often too busy to provide. The cost of providing MI is high.

Spreadsheet chaos:
Business users improvise, creating their own management information using data in spreadsheets. Differences in interpretation lead to conflict. Inaccuracy (or lack of trust in the numbers) mean you are not confident on the basis of all your decisions.  Business choices are sometimes made by “hunch”.

Prioritsing problems and opportunities:
Whilst every opportunity will hopefully be capitalised on and every problem  addressed, lack of meaningful insight into business performance makes it hard to align resources with priorities and business goals.

Existing BI and reporting technology is limited to certain users as it is expensive or involved to use:
Not everyone who needs to ask and answer questions about your business can.

Retention and location of management information:
You can see this year’s sales figures easily, but comparing to the analysis of the last 3 years is harder. You’ve seen a report that someone else uses but don’t know where to get it yourself. Your finance and IT teams create dozens of reports for users, some of which are similar, not all of which are used.

Statutory and operational reporting is expensive:
You spend time and money creating reports for statutory requirement or the day to day operational requirements of the business.

A well implemented Business Intelligence solution can address these issues. By allowing the people who need to, to ask and answer the questions they have about your business themselves.  Agility is increased and profitability is improved whilst removing manual processes and their associated costs.

The Challenges with Business Intelligence Projects

Well implemented BI solutions allow you to manage your business more effectively, react faster and make better informed decisions - delivering positive bottom line impact.

Whilst BI can address the challenges described above, Business Intelligence projects for the medium sized business can in themselves bring problems. According to Gartner, BI solutions traditionally score quite poorly in user satisfaction ratings due to the challenges associated with them.  Some of the reasons why are as follows:

Upfront capital investment is high:
Business Intelligence products, like much enterprise software, are priced with the enterprise in mind. As such they are expensive to acquire. Add hardware, operating systems, backup software, databases and integration technology to the mix and up-front costs for BI projects are sizeable.

Projects are involved and expensive:
The biggest cost in any BI project is the definition of the reports, analyses and dashboards you wish to see and the associated design of data integration and data warehouse to support them. The complexity here requires not only significant involvement from your own business but also expensive consultancy engagement from BI and integration experts. For these reasons, 6-figure project costs are the norm for traditional Business Intelligence delivered to key areas of your business.

Tools are complex to use and designed for the analyst or power user:
The busy line-of-business manager or executive is unlikely to use your BI solution even though they are the people who need the information.

Time to value is slow:
The complex and bespoke nature of BI projects means 12-24 month time to value is common.

On-going costs are high:
Your IT team need to look after your data warehouse and associated IT infrastructure. This means that profits realised through better decision making are diluted by on-going costs. Server management, backups, user security and upgrades all take resource from your IT team.

Due to the high costs and complex deployment traditionally associated with BI projects, medium sized business and departments of larger enterprises are often left without this vital capability. Management information that is labour intensive and time consuming to produce can make it harder to make educated business decisions and evaluate business performance.

Why The Answer Is In The Cloud

Matillion BI is different from traditional Business Intelligence solutions. It is designed to be fast and easy to implement, requires no significant upfront investment, is paid for as you go and is designed with the business user in mind.

Matillion BI is a cloud based solution - meaning there’s no hardware or software to buy or look after. The business content that’s at the heart of Matillion BI means you’re up and running in days, with relevant reports, dashboards and analysis populated with your business data.

Matillion BI costs and deployment times are fractional compared to traditional alternatives.

Pre-built, industry specific business content:
As discussed above, the biggest cost in a BI project is often the creation of the data warehouse and the reports, analyses and dashboards that use it. At the heart of Matillion BI is a data warehouse designed according to industry standard Kimball methodology. Its modules are designed for your industry and company size. This
means it has “spaces” for all the business entities you have in your organisation - customers, suppliers, products, orders, stock locations, production lines and employees being just some examples. Why is this important? Well, the Matillion Data Warehouse allows us to provide you accurate, timely business information that can easily be used by business users. The data warehouse turns the data you have buried in your production systems into knowledge with which you can work - bringing information together and enriching it.

Integration made easy (and cost effective):
A best of breed data warehouse is no good without your business data in it. Matillion BI uses ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) technology to integrate with your systems. We clean, transform and enrich the data and load it into the data warehouse. This happens on a scheduled basis (usually nightly) which means your data is always up to date and yet we don’t interfere with the day to day performance of your business.  Our ETL integrations are pre-written and can be quickly mapped by our engineers to dozens of different packages and bespoke systems. We integrate with 28 different databases and scores of business applications and if your system isn’t on the list yet - or is bespoke to you - we take on the integration costs ourselves.

Designed for the business user:
Unlike many traditional BI tools, which are complex to use, Matillion BI is designed for use by managers and executives and requires no special skills. Users who need information to make decisions can access it themselves using an easy to use but powerful Web 2.0 interface. There’s no need for IT or power users to create reports and analyses - business users can do it themselves. Business nomenclature in Matillion BI are configured during setup to match the terminology of your company - so if you call a product a product, it’s called a product in Matillion BI - but if you call it an item, or an SKU, then that’s what it will be. Because Matillion BI is based in the cloud it can be accessed from where your business users are - the office, at home or using a mobile device.

Fast time to value:
Because Matillion BI is in the Cloud and because of our data warehouse and integration technology, project times are measured in days, not months or years and your “go live” solution is completely populated with your data.

Low Up Front cost – Low On-Going Cost – Low Risk:
No hardware or software to buy, no staff required to look after the solution and no big up-front investment. Matillion BI’s business content means that the large consultancy engagements usually associated with BI projects are not required. In this way, Matillion BI project costs - both up-front and on-going - are fractional compared with the alternatives.

Business Intelligence In The Cloud – What About Security?

Security is often top of the list of concerns about Cloud based solutions and as a cloud based solution provider we know about its importance. As such, our security provisions are, to say the least, extensive. Any data leaving your building is encrypted. Our data centres, support centre and development offices are, as
you would expect, highly secure.

It’s also worth remembering that much of your data is already “in the Cloud” or at least regularly leaving the confines of your office or data centre. Examples of this include laptops with business data on, VPN access, high availability solutions and off-site, service-based backup solutions.

For high security applications, such as PCI compliant data or personal information Matillion can provide extended security including 2-factor authentication and on-site encryption appliances.

Matillion BI allows you to control exactly who sees what. Using groups and roles as well as row and column based security, you can ensure a user only gets the information they need to see and nothing else. In this way you can share BI with managers, employees and even suppliers or customers.