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Business Intelligence 101

An essential idea of business is that data is enhanced into information and then into knowledge. Business use BI to gain an advantage in the marketplace by understanding their customer’s needs, customer’s decision-making processes, and economic, cultural, and technological trends. Business intelligence involves analyzing not only the customer but the entire industry as a whole. Finally, business intelligence is driven by a goal set by the company. The goal can be short term or long term.

History of Business Intelligence

Business intelligence was first referred to in Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” Tzu claimed that in order to win a war you had to have complete knowledge and understand of your strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your enemy. This is the core idea behind modern business intelligence. A company must know itself better than anyone else, and know its customers and competitors better than anyone else. It is ironic how much business and warfare are alike. In BI, one must sift through heaps of data (both external and internal) for management to then device strategies for marketing and where to take the business.

Key Performance Indicators

In BI, the present state of business is assessed by the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Data is becoming available to businesses faster as more organizations implement KPI. In the past, data was available after one or two months, which did not help businesses adjust their strategies in a timely manner. More recently, however, banks have tried to make data available sooner and with shorter intervals, especially for businesses that have higher operational/credit risk loading (I.E. wealth management and credit cards). Some companies can get data weekly, which helps them adjust their strategies more efficiently than ever before.

Business Intelligence Tools

Business intelligence involves collecting quite a bit of information and analyzing it. Many business use tools to achieve this. A few of the data tools are data modeling, data warehouses, and data mining. Data tools help employees collect the data and analyze it efficiently. Data tools are for organizational purposes mostly. Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) is used in the analyzing process. OLAP is sometimes simply referred to as Analytics, which is based on the hypercube or “cube” and dimensional analysis.

Some businesses also use software vendors for BI tools. There are quite a few enterprises offering BI technology. If a business does not get the BI tools themselves, then software vendor will provide a business with tools, and sometimes software support and BI professionals who will help the company analyze results and collect data. Some companies providing BI software are Siebel Systems, Microsoft, Altius Consulting, Business-Soft, and SAS Institute.

Conclusion

Businesses understand that knowing the customer is the key to success. Business intelligence is the path through which a business can collect data about the customer and analyze it. Business intelligence is also about knowing the market, including competitors and market trends. A business that has the most accurate understanding of its marketplace will be more adequately prepared for the continual changes that inevitable occur in markets. Business intelligence is an important concept for any company to understand, because it will help them to gain new customers, retain old customers, and see a positive ROI.

Give Your Home Based Business A Boost – With a Strategic Business Alliance

A hot trend in the home based business world right now is the forming of strategic alliances. Strategic alliances between home based business owners are generally not between competing home based businesses, but between businesses that offer similar products and services. The strategic alliances can be either short term or long term, depending on the need and desire for it to continue. If your home based business could use a boost, and whose couldn’t, right, you might want to consider forming a strategic alliance–or two. The advantages are many, and some of them just might surprise you.

For instance, forming a strategic alliance with a home based business that offers a similar but broader range of products and services than your own would allow you to offer your home based business customers more products and services. This way, you’d spend less time and money developing your own. Most home based business strategic alliances work out a commission plan that can make this extremely beneficial to both home based businesses involved.

Another way a strategic alliance can benefit your home based business it that you instantly have a greater number of sales people selling your products and services. This means you have to hire fewer sales people for your own home based business. Hiring fewer employees saves you a great deal of money–and time.

A home based business strategic alliance also allows you to compete at a higher level than you could by yourself. You can reach a larger target market through a home based business strategic alliance, while also increasing your existing customer base. This gives you the advantage of being able to compete with larger home based businesses and conventional companies without having to increase your overhead, since most strategic alliances work strictly on a commission basis.

Your home based business will also benefit from a strategic alliance in offering you an increased number of knowledgeable, skilled people working on a project. You’ll gain experience and knowledge from being with other home based business employees that you can easily put to use for your own home based business. Also, not having to pay these employees saves you a great deal of money that you can put to use growing your home based business and expanding it much sooner than you would be able to otherwise.

Also, your home based business advertising and marketing budget is increased substantially through a strategic alliance. That’s because you combine your marketing and advertising costs in a home based business strategic alliance. An added benefit to this is that you can reach twice, and sometimes more, the number of people on the same marketing and advertising budget. Since you are increasing a much larger target audience for your home based business products and services, you could hardly help but increase your sales as well.

One of the most important advantages a strategic alliance can have for your home based business is that it will make it possible to expand your business a lot more quickly. And not just because of the increased customer base and sales force. The money you save, and make, can be used to grow your home based business into new markets. You may also want to develop some new products and services as well. This can only be good for the future of your home based business and for the business you’ve formed your strategic alliance with too.

Improved customer service is another benefit of a home based business strategic alliance. You work hard to meet your home based business customers’ needs and to solve any problems that may come up. But when you’re on your own, this can be very hard to do quickly because you have so much to do. And customers don’t like to wait. The strategic alliance gives you access to a larger number of customer service people who already know your products and services and who can be of immediate help. And of course you know that customer service should always be the number one priority of a home based business owner–because happy customers are loyal customers!

Charles Fuchs

http://www.charlesfuchs.com

http://charlesfuchs.blogspot.com

I grant permission to publish this article, electronically or in print, as long as the bylines are included, with a live link, and the article is not changed in any way.

Why You Need a Business Planning System NOT a Business Plan

When someone mentions business planning we have been conditioned to think about writing a business plan. There are hundreds of books and articles, tons of software, an army of consultants, and a multitude government programs to help you write a business plan. There are virtually no resources to help you set up what today’s business environment really demands – a continuous, ongoing planning system.

A commonly accepted theory is that for a business to survive and prosper it must be flexible and nimble. It must be able to turn on a dime as conditions warrant. Having a written five-year plan is not part of this picture. In fact, trying to follow a long-term plan during rampant change is not logical. It is applying linear thinking to a non-linear situation. It just doesn’t work.

Having a formal, written business plan is so accepted as being crucial to success that there haven’t been many studies or surveys to test this premise. If business plans were such a wonderful thing, there would be a significant and conclusive difference between businesses that have them and those that don’t. Interviews of 100 founders of companies on 1989s “INC 500″ list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. found only 28 percent had “full-blown” business plans. The 1993 AT&T Small Business Study found that 59 percent of small businesses that grew over the previous two years used a formal business plan. A 1994 survey of the country’s fastest growing companies found 23 percent lacked a business plan. “The Relationship between Written Business Plans and the Failure of Small Businesses in the U.S.,” by Dr. Stephen Perry, surveyed 152 failed and 152 non-failed small businesses in 1997. He found that 64 percent of the non-failed firms had no written business plan. He also found that non-failed firms had more extensive written plans than failed firms, 23 percent compared to 9 percent, respectively.

As you can see the results of studies and surveys are all across the board and don’t prove anything. Clearly, a significant percentage of successful businesses don’t have written business plans. None of these studies reveal the nature of the process that created the plan. Was it the result of an annual process with occasional updates or an ongoing, continual process? As Professor Albert Shapero said, “Companies that plan do better than companies that don’t, but they never follow their plan.”

The focus needs to be on the PROCESS not on the plan. If a continual, ongoing planning process is in place, a written business plan is just not important. Writing a business plan without a planning system in place is a massive effort that is done very infrequently. Many businesses write three to five year plans and update them annually. The plans are reviewed periodically during each year to analyze the plan vs. actual variances. Little, if any, thought is given to strategy between the annual updates. Strategy should be the focus everyday. Setting up a planning system allows and sometimes forces you to focus on strategy.

A planning system consists of two functions. One is a goal setting and attaining process, and the other is a trend watching or environment scanning process. Setting up a planning system takes several steps. The first and foremost task is to set aside or make time for planning on a regular, ongoing basis. It must become part of your routine, not an occasional event that can be easily postponed. In the evaluation phase, the owner or management team and the company are analyzed. From the analysis, key or critical areas of the business are identified. These areas are filtered down to focus on the most important ones. Performance measures are determined and systems to gather and process the necessary data are set up, if needed. A base of current performance is used to set goals.

Now the regular, ongoing stuff begins. Strategies are formulated, tested, implemented, monitored, and reworked until the goals are achieved. Each planning session is split between working on strategies and trend watching. As goals are achieved, the goal setting and strategy formulation process begins again.

Let’s put the focus back where it belongs on continuous, ongoing planning instead of writing business plans. As Karl Albrecht said in his book Corporate Radar, “The majority is not always right, the conventional wisdom is not always wise, and the accepted doctrine could well be flawed. The more fashionable an idea, the more it is likely to be exempt from critical evaluation. Breakthrough thinking sometimes calls for contradicting the most widely held assumptions and beliefs.”

Copyright 2005 David Coffman