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How to Harness the Benefits of Advanced Data Analytics and Business Intelligence

December 3, 2020

An interview with Q Associates’ Head of Modern Workplace Practice,
Gerry Allan.

“Businesses today are built on disparate systems. When we’re talking about business intelligence, we’re talking about taking some or all of the data from a customer’s various systems and putting it into a new data set, which becomes their single source of the truth. It’s about consolidating that information into a reporting system that people from all levels of the organisation can use to really visualise that data and receive actionable insights.”

It might sound simple, but as Gerry explains, to actually get one view of your business that’s correct and consistent remains a challenge for most organisations.

“Your CRM system looks after your interactions with your customers and prospects. It could be where you produce your quotes, and you might also run your customer service from that system as well, engaging ticketing and time recording capabilities to let you know how long you’re spending looking after your customers,” says Gerry. 

“But you have a separate system for financial management and there’s no integration or consolidation of the data between the two. So you might be able to see how many quotes you’ve sent to a customer or how much time you’ve spent on the projects that have resulted from your quotes, but you can’t combine that information with any financial view of the customer.”

How can an organisation set meaningful KPIs if it lacks accurate benchmark data on which to base them? And how can it measure performance against those KPIs, and drill down into why a business unit or individual might not be hitting their target?

These are just two of the questions that Gerry and his department help businesses to solve. Read on to discover what is meant by advanced data analytics, how it is helping enterprise organisations to get insights from multiple systems, and how to access these benefits for your organisation.

Make accurate business predictions you can trust

Gerry’s role at Q Associates is to head up what we call the Modern Workplace Practice. That includes a small team of technical solution specialists tasked specifically with looking after advanced data analytics and business intelligence. What does that actually mean?

“When we use the word advanced, what we’re really looking to do is to take our customers’ analytics that step further, to the point where they can actually use their data to make accurate business predictions based on what has happened in the past.”

The commercial applications for advanced data analytics span sectors, but eCommerce illustrates them particularly well.

“If I’m Amazon or another eCommerce site and you’ve been trading with me over the last 12 months, I could use advanced data analytics to predict your propensity to purchase a certain product over the next 12 months,” explains Gerry. “I could do this based on the data I have around what you’ve done in the past and on other indicators I’m seeing in my data.”

Characterised by having more moving parts, more users, and more people who need different levels of information depending on where they sit within the organisation, enterprise businesses in particular will recognise this as an significant opportunity.

“The enterprise environment leads to greater complexity, which heightens the challenge of pulling actionable insights and communicating these effectively across the organisation. A single source of truth solves this, with the potential to transform how data-driven decisions are made.”

Showcase your insights with Microsoft 

“Our knowledge of the technology landscape means we will almost always recommend Microsoft as the winning solution when talking about advanced data analytics with our customers,” Gerry reveals.

Microsoft (MS) has a range of different data platform technologies that solve this particular challenge. Businesses looking to make strategic IT decisions to unlock their business intelligence still benefit from our consultative approach, which takes into account their unique environment and operational challenges, when investigating which MS solution to invest in.

“The benefit of Microsoft’s suite of data platforms is not just its data-surfacing capabilities but the visualisation tools. If you think of data consolidation as the plumbing, the visualisation tools help you to represent the different pieces of information in simple yet engaging ways,” says Gerry. “You might select a pie chart or a scatter diagram to quickly and easily highlight the overarching trends or actionable insights you’ve uncovered, for example. Whichever type you choose, representing the data visually is key to communicating your findings to other teams or stakeholders and making an impact without your audience having to study too hard.” 

How to harness advanced data analytics

As Gerry explains it, there are two sides to consolidating your data and harnessing your business intelligence.

“On the one hand, there are data management best practices around how you analyse your data in order to draw insights and make predictions. Look at the whole end-to-end process but for a limited amount of data. All too often, businesses take all the data at their disposal and pile it into one of Microsoft’s solutions in order to produce a great visualisation. They haven’t actually thought about what data they’re using. It can be really basic things – for example, you have a customer record in two different systems but the customer name is entered slightly differently. These sorts of challenges are what cause the issues, not whether it’s one chart type or another. The visualisation can be changed at the click of a mouse, but the data feeding it needs to be fit for purpose.”

Of course, businesses also need the technology solutions to consolidate their data in the first place. As we’ve already mentioned, Microsoft’s best-in-class data platforms are the best on the market for both consolidating data and representing it visually.

If you require support in either of these areas, Q Associates is on hand to step in and help you identify the best solutions to your business requirements.

“We can go in and build the data warehouse and all of the dashboards, delivering the end-to-end process for you. We’d usually do that on a limited scale, leading with a proof-of-concept (POC) to show you the process and the sort of realisations you can get at the end of it,” explains Gerry.

“We use a lot of advanced tooling to achieve the data integration and creating the single version of the truth. This means we can do it, on average, at 20% of the cost of the traditional way without tooling. It takes a lot of the manual work and the coding away. I can confidently say we are faster, more effective, and more cost-efficient than the alternatives.”

At Q Associates, we specialise in the design, deployment, management and support of enterprise computing environments. Find out more about our range of services

Predicting the future

The reason so many businesses are built on disparate systems is in order to gather and store information. As more organisations switch on to the need to consolidate their data in order to draw actionable insights from it, advanced data analytics and the data platforms underpinning them are going to become increasingly valuable.

“My prediction is that this is an area that will get a lot of traction over the coming months and we’ll look to grow the team in reaction to that.”

The technology solutions themselves are also evolving. Data visualisation experts are constantly coming up with more and more ways of visualising the data so audiences can look at something and immediately see the trend or measure the information.

“Of course, you still need to do all the plumbing first to get the data into one single version,” Gerry reveals. “Whether our customers are simply after advice or they would like us to take on the end-to-end process for them, we always tune our solution to each individual customer and their environment, so you can not only see what your data is telling you but trust it, too.”

 

To find out more about advanced data analytics and business intelligence,
get in touch today.

 

 

 

 

Donna Robinson

Donna Robinson

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