A quick example of how BI & BP (business process) should go hand in hand…
Working with statisticians from Central Michigan University, we’ve jointly developed PVForecaster, a product that allows hospital administrators to forecast their patient volumes on an hour-by-hour, specialty-by-specialty basis. Tactically, the result is better control over scheduling and costs. Strategically, PVForecaster helps administrators forecast changes in demand and react accordingly (e.g. build more capacity, etc.)
The PVForecaster business process design is a good example of how BI (and predictive analytics) applications should integrate with business processes. In our case, rather than just accepting data and ‘spitting’ out forecasts, users drive the system as follows:
1) A planner uses PVForecaster to develop a number of forecast scenaria for the hospital. For example, what is expected to happen if we increase our advertising budget? What if we reduce it? What if our operating territory’s population increases by 2%? Stays flat? Decreases?
2) The planner uses the BI tool to review these scenaria with hospital executives. Together they decide which scenario will be the one that the entire hospital will work from. They use a routine in the BI application to designate this as the ‘working assumption.’
3) Department managers from across the hospital are given access to the ‘working assumption’ forecast in the BI tool. They can use the tool to slice and dice through this forecast along all the relevant dimensions (e.g. date, specialty, time of day, etc.).
4) Using this information, the department managers can plan accordingly.
Yes, we could analyze data and build forecasts without implementing this business process. But, the tools may not ever get used. They may become the unused toy of some isolated planner. On the other hand, implement a business process wherein all the relevant parties have, and need, access to the BI tool to do their jobs and you’ve developed a powerful tool that will get used and will provide enormous value.
Do you have any other good examples of business process / business intelligence synergy? Put them in your comments. Thanks!
Business executives already know our secret. The best business intelligence systems are not about the system. The best business intelligence systems are about the business. Sometimes it’s up to us, as IT professionals, to remind ourselves of this reality. When talking to a business executive, don’t use keywords like analytics, data mining or data warehouses. Instead, talk to them about their business.
Ask them if they know which of their customers are the most profitable and which are actually draining resources. Ask if they want to find ways to reduce the amount they spend in legal costs. Ask if they want to be able to predict the future demand for their products and services, so they can match capacity and staffing levels accordingly.
As experienced IT professionals we know that the way to provide these answers is to use the data already being collected by organizations in their operational systems (like ERP, CRM) and present it in new, visually appealing ways, with Business Intelligence (BI) tools. But, occasionally we need to remind ourselves that no matter how cool the technology (to us, even that first program we all wrote that displayed the words “Hello World” was really cool), that’s not what sells BI.
Executives appreciate technology, and many are quite savvy, but when it comes to how they spend their day, they’ve got problems to solve, opportunities to capitalize on, and stakeholders to please. To them, the best systems are like dishwashers – tools that get a job done. Executives are not interested in how the dishes get clean, just that they do get clean in a fast, reliable, budget-friendly way.
In other words, executives are interested in the benefits of BI, not how it gets delivered. So, the next time you’re discussing BI with an executive, sell the benefits, not the tool. Sell the value of sales force ranking, not the BI system. Sell the patient volume forecast, not analytic algorithms. Sell the ability to direct your valuable purchasing dollars to the lowest cost vendors, the ability to have your sales executives use their limited time to court the most profitable clients, the ability to gauge the effectiveness of your latest promotion… you get the idea.
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