Social Change

By Bedell, Denise | Global Finance, March 2011 | Go to article overview

Social Change


Bedell, Denise, Global Finance


Business Intelligence

Mobile and social networking technologies are helping bring heavy-duty analytical capabilities to every level of a business.

Anyone who thought social networking was useful only for catching up with old school friends is in for a shock. New tools, based on social networking and deployed on mobile devices, are enabling companies to streamline operations, enhance customer satisfaction and improve financial performance across their entire businesses.

The next-generation tools have predictive and real-time analytics embedded within them and are connecting with new technologies, such as internal socialmedia solutions and mobile devices. They hold the promise not just of vasdy improving efficiency within operations and sales but also of helping finance teams plan and forecast more effectively, collaborate in real-time for improved decisionmaking and get a clearer picture of operational processes.

Business intelligence (BI) tools are not new, but in the past they were difficult to use, often requiring complex data-modeling by a company's IT department, and offered little flexibility in terms of selecting criteria or building reports. Now analytics providers are working to embed analytics within regular business workflows. The new tools are integrated in such a way that users are shielded from the complexity that allows them to do sophisticated analysis.

This advance is primarily the result of the introduction of two technologies that are changing the way data analytics and BI operate, namely complex event processing (CEP) and in-memory analysis (see box for definitions.)

Jason Rose, head of business intelligence solution marketing at SAP BusinessObjects, explains how in-memory analysis can be used: "We see a great deal of innovation around in-memory computing ... to not only look at alerts or exception cases but to also perform detailed analysis in either a predictive fashion or more traditional approach, all with sub-second response times regardless of the size of die data set."

These two technologies are the main drivers behind predictive analytics and real-time analytics, which are the keystones to next-generation business intelligence and will change the way companies look at their data, operational costs and future planning.

Predictive analytics will be a key tool for CFOs and treasurers to improve risk mitigation. Enrico CamerinellL senior analyst at consultancy Aite Group, explains: "It will allow them to build different models, to assess different possible actions and outcomes and act accordingly." Dr Pepper Snapple Group, for example, uses a business analytics and financial performance management system - IBM Cognos - to increase efficiency in die production line. The company can use it on the operating side to evaluate efficiency in real time, pulling out data on production line repairs, downtime and other factors. Plant managers can choose variables, run reports and get dashboards for graphical displays of information without die assistance of die IT team.The system can provide information on expected sales, where those sales are corning from and thus what plants need to see capital investments - all of which is invaluable to the finance team. The software can also help determine when and how those investments will affect efficiency and production at those plants. As a result, the company can allocate its capital more effectively to projects that will garner the greatest return on investment.

The Benefits of Access

New solutions are also making information available to the entire organization, which improves and speeds up decision-making. For example, a manager could conceivably get a dashboard or graph showing current production and forthcoming production needs and plan expenditures around it. Information on current production could be updated in real-time for the supply team, which could use it to manage schedules for an order. …

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