Business Planning – Short Term, Medium Term and Long Term Goals

As the owner or executive of a business, you have business goals. You have your 5-year goals or your long-term goals, and then there are steps along the way to reach those goals: medium-term goals and short-term goals.

If you were a retailer you might have the following goals:

Short term: sell a certain amount each sunny day, a certain amount each rainy day, a certain amount each holiday, weekend and weekday.

Medium term: Identify your best suppliers. Establish relationships with the most efficient, timely, reliable and innovative suppliers. Attract a higher number of baby boomers than your competition.

Long term: Continue to create innovations in the marketplace that can set you apart from your competition, such as innovative loyalty programs or bleeding edge point-of-purchase technology.

In business planning and business performance management, key performance indicators (KPIs) are fundamental to knowing where you are in your path towards a certain goal.

This is what Wikipedia says about KPIs:

A performance indicator or key performance indicator (KPI) is a measure of performance. Such measures are commonly used to help an organization define and evaluate how successful it is, typically in terms of making progress towards its long-term organizational goals. KPIs can be specified by answering the question, “What is really important to different stakeholders?”

Wikipedia mentions long-term, but that misses out on important short-term and medium-term goals which I’ll explain shortly. The other key term here is “stakeholders.”

Each goal, whether short-term or long-term, has different stakeholders.

If you have daily retail sales goals, then a store manager has to have access to data that shows him or her in real time what’s going on in the store.

If you have quarterly or yearly goals vis-a-vís your suppliers and different customer segments, then an operations person or sales director needs access to information that shows how you’re doing along these paths.

If you have long-term plans to create innovative solutions and become a market leader, then the CEO or owner needs access to key data to know how you’re doing against these plans.

Different time-frames, different stakeholders, different goals, different KPIs.

What tools are available to help you along the path?

David Abdo wrote a post entitled “Business Intelligence Software: Who Is It Really For?” where he argued for the democratization of business intelligence software across the enterprise.

The existence of a multi-tiered goal structure as illustrated above implies the requirement of a company to implement a business intelligence tool that’s accessible to all people within the company.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Importance Of Data Mining In Today’s Business World

What is Data Mining? Well, it can be defined as the process of getting hidden information from the piles of databases for analysis purposes. Data Mining is also known as Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD). It is nothing but extraction of data from large databases for some specialized work.

Data Mining is largely used in several applications such as understanding consumer research marketing, product analysis, demand and supply analysis, e-commerce, investment trend in stocks & real estates, telecommunications and so on. Data Mining is based on mathematical algorithm and analytical skills to drive the desired results from the huge database collection.

Data Mining has great importance in today’s highly competitive business environment. A new concept of Business Intelligence data mining has evolved now, which is widely used by leading corporate houses to stay ahead of their competitors. Business Intelligence (BI) can help in providing latest information and used for competition analysis, market research, economical trends, consume behavior, industry research, geographical information analysis and so on. Business Intelligence Data Mining helps in decision-making.

Data Mining applications are widely used in direct marketing, health industry, e-commerce, customer relationship management (CRM), FMCG industry, telecommunication industry and financial sector. Data mining is available in various forms like text mining, web mining, audio & video data mining, pictorial data mining, relational databases, and social networks data mining.

Data mining, however, is a crucial process and requires lots of time and patience in collecting desired data due to complexity and of the databases. This could also be possible that you need to look for help from outsourcing companies. These outsourcing companies are specialized in extracting or mining the data, filtering it and then keeping them in order for analysis. Data Mining has been used in different context but is being commonly used for business and organizational needs for analytical purposes

Usually data mining requires lots of manual job such as collecting information, assessing data, using internet to look for more details etc. The second option is to make software that will scan the internet to find relevant details and information. Software option could be the best for data mining as this will save tremendous amount of time and labor. Some of the popular data mining software programs available are Connexor Machines, Free Text Software Technologies, Megaputer Text Analyst, SAS Text Miner, LexiQuest, WordStat, Lextek Profiling Engine.

However, this could be possible that you won’t get appropriate software which will be suitable for your work or finding the suitable programmer would also be difficult or they may charge hefty amount for their services. Even if you are using the best software, you will still need human help in completion of projects. In that case, outsourcing data mining job will be advisable.

Difference Between Data Integration and Unification

Difference between data integration and unification is best to analyze through Data Warehouse. Data Warehouse is widely used technology and it is quite often being treated to help company with reporting speed and storage issues. Data unification is something what Data Warehouse does with ease since it is constructed to gather information from many sources with purpose to speed reports and to store data. All data are at same place and customized for reporting processes.

Just pulling all data from source systems and placing it into Warehouse does not necessarily mean business logic can be easily restored. Restoration and quantification of business logic means data is also integrated, not only gathered at one place as data unification or single point of truth. It is not easy to restore business logic within data set since data flow on production systems is usually not big enough to describe processes for reporting purposes. Inadequate data flow and missing data are main reasons why Data Warehouse cannot by default provide integrated data but only unified. Business side usually misinterprets two terms and considers implementation of Warehouse will solve all problems in reports. Core reporting problems lie on production level with too little data exchange between systems which Warehouse cannot resolve. “Garbage in” means also “garbage out”.

Example of integrated data is presented with following case. Number of customers have bought marketing package A. Total number of currently sold marketing packages A should be tightly related with difference between current and last month of newly connected and disconnected packages. Total number of packages should be integrated with newly sold and packages that are not any more in use, so called churners. If production systems and billing are only setup for processes, it could mean that company will bill service correctly but perhaps will not report service reliably. Production systems are usually set for processes not for reporting. If reports are not immediately implemented during production systems deployment phase, additional implementation of reporting procedures into live production system will be far harder. Integration is not same as unification.

It is deeper and harder to achieve integration then simply implement Data Warehouse and make data unification.

MARKETING POST MORTEM: The Engagement Crisis and the Search for Empathy

2016 was a year of crisis in Marketing. We put a record number of things ‘out there’ in the form of posts and tweets, ads and articles, banners and blogs. We used the best headlines and some of the most intriguing visuals we could find. So why didn’t we “engage” more? Why didn’t more consumers participate in our brand? Why didn’t our content translate into leads?

Well, apparently ‘the news’ was not the only thing that was “fake” last year. Marketing content also took a turn toward the fallacious. How many misleading claims can you pack into a tinyURL? How much ‘Sponsored Content’ has to fill the bottom of a page before you question everything you read above it? How much ‘Native Advertising’ does it take for an online publication to lose its credibility?

“But Wait There’s More” seemed a bit less dastardly when we could hash it out with a human being on the other end of the phone line. But when we fall for digital bait, we clamp down on a cyber hook that tethers us to every retargeting ad in our waterway. The truth is marketing has become more about luring and catching than about informing and educating. We seem more focused on data logging than customer interaction. We seem more passionate about Business Intelligence than intelligent business.

Just a few years back a Marketing professional could tell you all about their customer — not necessarily the blogs they read or the searches they keyed but what they wanted and needed. They could not only tell you where they lived but how they lived. So where has John Smith gone? Has he been reduced to the prevailing smiling emoticon? Is he a bounce rate on an interactive dashboard? Is he the top of a blue chart, the bottom of a red graph, or the far reaches of an orange heat map? Is he the negative correlation of a scatter plot?

Yes, automation as gotten the best of us, but it is actually far deeper than that. We have lost our empathy. Empathy is that innate ability that marketers have always had that helps them understand the motivation of others. It is that ‘fellow feeling,’ the kinship of circumstance and the mutuality of existence that those who sell for a living have understood for generations. It is the heart of a prospect.

While we operate on the World Wide Web, the reader is not a form of prey to be chased into some sticky trap. While we may auto-schedule our electronic outreach, the recipient is by no means programmed or required to read a single headline. While algorithms may sequence online search preferences, the end-user is not an automaton with fully quantifiable behavior. In a world where everything is predictive — John Smith is refreshingly random.

In order to relate to him, we must still prove that we know him and care about him. In short, our marketing campaigns must have purpose. Without it, they are the driverless cars of the internet. Our content must reflect those truths that matter to our reader. We must be correspondents, columnists and human reporters. We must be journalists — Murrow or Cronkite sitting at a ‘hot mic’ under bright lights telling the world’s stories in plain speak.

There’s no doubt that technology has transformed marketing into an analytic discipline of ratios, metrics and modeling but for the moment – and perhaps just a moment — the reader has been unchanged. We must still enchant them. We must still captivate them. We must still appeal to them via the primal whispers of core experience. We must tell good stories.

All those years ago Edward R. Murrow perhaps said it best, “The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.”

Importance of Market Intelligence

Whether you’re starting a new online or offline business, market intelligence cannot be neglected. But, what exactly is market intelligence? It’s nothing special, nevertheless it’s really crucial.

Market intelligence basically possesses the knowledge of what is currently going on in your niche market and the overall market in general. If you’re planning on entering this market with your new business products, you should know exactly how it functions and what could happen in the near future. Knowledge of what your competitors are doing as well as the upcoming marketing trends also falls into this category.

Market Intelligence – Customers

Irrespective of what products or services you’re selling, it is really important that you understand the needs and demands of your customers. You should have an answer to the questions – ‘What is the customer looking for?’ as well as ‘What kind of modifications would my customers want to see in future products?’

The first step to success is finding answers to the above questions and implementing them into your marketing strategies. Therefore, you should invest in financial services by marketing analysts so as to know exactly what’s going on in your customer’s minds or in other words – Marketing intelligence.

Understanding the market

In this fast moving world, noting remains constant. Each and every day there are thousands of changes and improvements. This is the reason you should also know what’s going on in the market place. Are there any possibilities that the products you’re manufacturing will not make any sales at all, or will they go viral?

Irrespective of the marketing trends, you could make a profit; but, this could be done only if you know what’s coming at you. Therefore, your marketing analysts need to be trained and possess extraordinary skill.

Timing is another important aspect to look out for

Market intelligence also includes time. When are you going to release a new product into the market? Obviously, you would want to sell lots and make a huge profit – but, when is the best time to do so? Analysts study market trends over years and finally come up with the right solutions.

Let’s say you’re manufacturing Pre Lit Christmas Trees – Anyone in their right sense would transport them into stores beginning September rather than January, because that’s when people are looking to buy them.

However, if you’re into mobile manufacturing there are people waiting to buy all through the year. Hence predicting when exactly to launch the product could be a challenging task. That’s the reason you should hire financial advisors and marketing analysts.

IT Training Needs For Insurance Professionals

Information Technology is now being used in every walk of life. Insurance Service Organizations are among the biggest users of IT. It is a challenge for Insurance Companies to keep their manpower updated on IT knowledge so that they can make best use of IT deployment. It is often seen that huge amount of money is spend on implementing a technology and at a later time found that either this was not the one needed or it remained under utilized.

If we try to categorize the use of Information technology in Insurance service, we can put various uses in following three categories — Document and Knowledge Management, Workflow automation, and Analytics and Business Intelligence. Let us map these with some of the important Insurance functions such as Underwriting, Product Design, Product packaging, Policy Administration, Claims Management, Customer Relationship Management etc.

Activities like Underwriting risks and Product design/ packaging depend a lot on Knowledge management, powerful analytics and Business Intelligence techniques. Every Insurance Organization must be having some software for Knowledge management and Business Intelligence or if not so, they must be implementing them in near future. For making best use of knowledge management and business intelligence techniques, users must have sufficient knowledge about when and where what technique can be useful.

At the same time, they also need sufficient working knowledge on the software/ tool implemented or to be implemented in the organization. This knowledge is software dependent. If the software is changed in future, the screens and options will change and users will need to be trained again on the new software. However, the first set of knowledge that is about the techniques itself is not dependent on software. This knowledge keeps getting enriched with use and experience and make user more powerful in applying them in practice.

Policy Administration and Claims Management are such activities where document management and workflow automation techniques are mostly deployed. Customer Relationship Management requires good analytics and Business Intelligence techniques as well. In all such implementation and applications, we find that two sets of knowledge are required at users level to make best use of them. First set of knowledge is about the techniques itself and the second set is about the tools implemented to apply the techniques.

For example, Business Intelligence (BI) is useful in almost all the functions of an Insurance organization. For this, the organization implements some Business Intelligence software. To make effective use of it, first a person needs to know about various BI techniques such as clustering, association rules etc. A user need not know the algorithm used in these techniques, but he should be aware of the meaning and use of them. Learning the features available in the software implemented for this purpose is relatively easy and can be learned easily by use. But, if one only learns the software and the features available in that and thinks that he can use BI with that knowledge, then it doesn’t work.

In Insurance Organizations, IT Project implementations are regular activities. Project Management techniques such as CPM/ PERT (Critical Path Method/ Program Evaluation and Review Techniques) helps the project team manage the project better. There are more failure stories in IT Implementation Projects than success stories. IT personnel in the organization have to work as interface between the internal users and technology partners. Knowledge of project management techniques and skill to interpret data to convert to smart decisions play important role in success of IT projects.

To summarize, the IT training needs for Insurance professionals fall under two categories-One related to techniques and the other related to tools deployed to use those techniques. Training on Business Intelligence techniques, Workflow design, project management techniques, document and knowledge management techniques etc. are necessary. Tool specific training is generally provided during implementation. There should be some plan to train more number of people on tools by those who are already trained. These tools can be best learned by using and practicing. However, these can be of use only when the user understands the techniques to workable level.

In addition to these topics, everyone should be fully aware of the information security issues and IT policy of the organization. With properly designed training based on above considerations, an Insurance Organization can make best use of Information Technology.

The HUMINT Side of Competitive Intelligence

One of the oldest documented professions in the world is not only considered a profession but is considered an art as well. The art of espionage has been documented in the Bible, manuscripts of the Byzantine Empire, and the Art of War by Sun Tzu. This profession has developed over centuries, ranging from a myriad of clandestine collection, subtle debriefings through skillful elicitation, and internet based spy-tech. Collection activities focused on both tactical and strategic operations providing the world renowned chess game of cloak and dagger activities pitting one intelligence service against another. Yet as capitalism began to flourish, there was no surprise that intelligence collection had begun to intermingle amongst the corporate world. As corporate espionage became a taboo term, the suggestion of competitive intelligence, competitor intelligence and business intelligence began to find mild acceptance throughout the battlefields of the boardrooms, industrial complexes, and social networking events.

Before exploring the true essence of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) in correlation to Competitive Intelligence (CI), one must gain an understanding of the various forms of business related information collection and how each may be related. The most widely referred explanation of competitive intelligence, is the acquisition of publicly available information of the competitors of an individuals company to gain a distinct advantage in business. The acquisition of a competitors critical information such as strategic decisions, financial performance, and productivity to name a few, is referred to as competitor intelligence. Additional information acquired which is not considered competitive in nature is referred to as business intelligence. The information acquired, no matter the title given, has strategic implications in the business environment and is considered a strategic necessity in the corporate world.

The acquisition of the information in the realm of competitive intelligence is often acquired from publicly available resources. Often, many individuals believe that competitive intelligence is collected solely from journals, articles, employment notices, internet pages, and other written publications which may provide data points for analysis. What many fail to realize, is that although collection from written publications may occur, this collection may only equal 10%-20% of the information which exists. The other 80%-90% is acquired through spoken communication. From interviews, lectures, webinars, and even conversations at the local coffee shop. Yes, the local coffee shop near the company headquarters is a prime collection opportunity for the HUMINT Competitive Intelligence collector. Whether the information is derived from written publication or HUMINT collection, the data points or information acquired is only one piece of the larger puzzle.

The analysis of the information collected and that which is unknown, may often be deduced in an effort to develop an overall picture of the situation. But to understand truly how competitive intelligence works, and how HUMINT may be interwoven, one must recognize the elements of the intelligence cycle. Though controversy may exist in some circles regarding how many steps or elements may exist in the intelligence cycle, for this article we will use the following five as our accepted measure:

1. Planning
2. Data Collection
3. Analysis
4. Communication
5. Decision/Feedback

No matter the type of collection, the initial Planning stage must be developed to guide the collection emphasis to place one ahead of his or her competition. During the planning phase, a business or organization must identify the intelligence needs and requirements one directly has of his or her competition. These intelligence gaps an organization has, in turn develops the collection emphasis which will assist in guiding the remaining elements of the intelligence cycle. To ensure success, one may desire to outline the specific requirement in detail to ensure the collection effort has the potential for success.

As the planning stage is the initial development of requirements, the data collection element is often considered the most interesting and challenging of the group. Often an individual who is collecting the information, will find the necessary information in print or through electronic media. These collectors may range from professional researchers, executives, sales, and independent information research specialists. All individuals who have a vested interest in collecting the competition’s information and using the information to surpass their competition. As society becomes more technological dependent, collectors are able to explore the vulnerabilities of technology and collect raw data needed for the next element of analysis.

The collection of raw information may develop piece meal, therefore, the element of analysis is essential in understanding how the information may benefit one’s business or organization. The analysis phase is able to disect information in to financial, economic, trend, risk, pattern, event, and opportunity analysis which will assist in the strategic decision-making process. Once the information is analyzed, the information is shared with the appropriate decision makers which will allow one to move ahead of his or her competition.

The communication of the processed or analyzed information must be packaged in a clear and concise manner which will allow the decision makers to process the data quickly. The flow of information, the manner to which it may be presented, and the intended audience all must be considering factors while communicating the competition’s information. This information will then allow the appropriate decision makers to determine the next step an organization or business must take to remain one step ahead of the competition. But one question may still remain, one question which may be asked by those in the corporate world, the tactical battlefield, or the strategic political realms. The question remaining, is how does one know the information or the analysis of the information is truly accurate. This question, opens the door for the element of HUMINT collection of competitive intelligence.

When one begins to think of competitive intelligence, an individual first thinks to rush out and attempt to acquire as much information as they can about their rival or competition. This is the first true misconception many managers have regarding the purpose of competitive intelligence. Competitive intelligence requires the collector to know their sources and to develop accurate assessments of both the sources and the information shared. Interesting enough is the fact that those two requirements are the same that exists for HUMINT collectors when dealing with tactical and strategic collection to support the actions and polices of a country. Just as a true intelligence professional considers two specific factors, so must a HUMINT competitive intelligence collector consider the same two factors.

In intelligence collection, time and focus are two key ingredients which must be considered before conducting or even accepting any collection operation. True intelligence officers do not appear as the cinema may portray. Intelligence officers use time honed techniques to develop and acquire sources who will provide the desired raw data which becomes analyzed and eventually turns into intelligence. In competitive intelligence one must determine how much time they are willing to spend on a project. When considering the time, a collector must identify how they will spend their time collecting raw data, how much time will be spent developing an assessment of the source and data, and how they will justify their time to the appropriate managers. In order for an individual to effectively use their time appropriately, the collector must develop a focused approach to the operation. While developing focus, the collector identifies exactly what they desire to collect. The focus allows the collector to ask the right questions while attempting to collect the raw data. The focus further allows an individual to focus on the correct sources, so that the time is used appropriately. Information collected remains raw data until the information is analyzed and is validated by another means or source. The validation of the information collected and analyzed may be reverified through the careful art of elicitation of individuals who have either direct or indirect access to the desired information.

HUMINT Collector

Once question which develops when discussing the collection of information from another individual or from an organization, is the difference between a HUMINT collector and a spy. The misnomer exists that an individual engaged in competitive intelligence is spying. This concept happens to be extremely far from the truth. In the world of HUMINT collection, a HUMINT collector is an individual who acquires information by locating an individual who has or has access to the desired information a collector may desire. The collector establishes rapport, and through a pre-planned agenda develops a series of suggestions and questions which allows an individual to answer with little to concern to what has been said. Millions of books have been written about conducting this activity in the sales industry, in personal relationships, dating, and management. Though the skill set has been identified time again, the idea often appears new to many individuals once identified in the appropriate manner. The question soon develops if the skills of HUMINT collection are readily available and easy to learn, where does the trench coats and the cloak and dagger mysticism exist. The majority of the mysticism may be found in the old spy novels and movies which has attempted to glamorize the art of collection. This coupled with the modern day action figures found in the cinema who jump from twenty story buildings unscathed, romance beautiful women, and have the most lavish of accessories and accommodations at their disposal. These cinematic hero’s are often referred or classified by the term of spy. Interesting is the fact that those who engage in the art of intelligence collection are really known by the term of HUMINT Collector, Case Officer, or even the illustrious Spy Master; but never do they refer to themselves as a spy. The spy is the individual whom the collector has recruited and has tasked to collect a specific amount of information from their country, company, or organization. When an individual whom the collector meets intentionally returns to his or her place of business, and removes data with the intention of selling or providing the material under malicious intent, the individual may be considered a spy. The ethical HUMINT competitive collector does not task their source; but rather acquires the information through the well-crafted conversation using basic and advanced elicitation techniques.

Those who are or have been involved in HUMINT collection, may have recently discovered the advances of technology have opened vast opportunities for the HUMINT collector. Just as the aforementioned intelligence cycle had a number of elements which explain the intelligence process, the HUMINT cycle has similar elements.

1. Spot
2. Assess
3. Develop
4. Recruit
5. Manage
6. Dismiss

To best describe these steps, one must look at why this is the greatest time for the HUMINT collector. On any given day, one may find a secretary, personal assistant, office manager, or information technology professional who may go the majority of the day with little to no true human interaction. Individuals in today’s society find that communication through e-mail, internet chat, internet dating, text messaging, and even the telephone have replaced previous face-to-face personal communication. These individuals could go to the gas pump and never have to interact with another human being, they can go to the grocery store and use self-checkout to avoid interaction with a sales associate, and they can either do their banking online or through the automatic teller machine. The avoidance of the personal interaction leaves an unrealized psychological desire which allows the HUMINT collector an advantage against their unwitting subject.

Previously mentioned was the fact that the majority of information to be collected was accessible through spoken communication. At every exchange of information, or every transaction which occurs some type of information is exchanged. Although one may not consider to acquire information during this specific time, the HUMINT collector realizes that this will soon be the environment which he or she has been patiently waiting. The HUMINT Collector will latch on every word stated, and each networking opportunity as an opportunity to acquire additional sources. As the HUMINTer begins adding names and numbers to his or her rolodex, this individual must return to identify the precise requirements to choose the correct source to invest time.

The HUMINTer begins by identifying the intelligence requirements which an organization may be lacking against their competition. As with the planning phase, the individual must plan and identify the specific individual whom may have the placement and access to the obtain the desired information. Once an individual is identified as to having the proper placement and access, the HUMINTer may now use a myriad of techniques to meet and elicit a desired response from the intended target. Those involved with HUMINT understand that most individuals have a unique desire for human interaction, especially when the individual is able to speak about themselves or able to speak about a subject which they have a distinct interest. As the relationship develops, so does the freedom of information through skillful elicitation of conversational gates which lead the individual into sharing information either wittingly or unwittingly. Often people consider this a form of treachery, especially because true elicitation is a serious activity that is considered a professional activity by those who understand how to employ this activity in their occupational duties. Many unsuspecting individuals find talking about themselves is self gratifying as they feel a sense of pride or accomplishment. Others feel they are subject matter experts in their respected fields and wish to impart their knowledge onto others. And yet, there are still those who find the necessity to share information with others and gossip about situations they may not be actively involved.

Once the HUMINTer is able to engage a person in conversation, the HUMINTer is able to begin developing an assessment to what makes the individual tick. This assessment explores the motivations and vulnerabilities of an individual, as well as further exploring their placement and access to the desired information which one is attempting to acquire. Though many desire to place a specific profile or scientific equation to how long or what measures should be used to develop assessment, the time honored tradition of developing a friendship has continued to work throughout the world. Other techniques such as bribery or coercion push the collector into the realms of corporate espionage, and should avoid the use of those particular techniques.

The use of human intelligence techniques to acquire information is considered a fine line to walk by those who misinterpret the actions as corporate espionage. Corporate espionage crosses both the legal and ethical boundaries which exist in the world of competitive intelligence. For this reason, many individuals believe that HUMINT collection is the same as corporate espionage. Corporate or industrial espionage refers to the stealing of trade secrets or information, blackmail activities, bribery, and even surveillance of equipment and computer media through various technological surveillance and collection activities. As one can obviously identify, the differences between industrial espionage and HUMINT collection are often misconstrued since a well defined line exists between these two disciplines. As a result of the blurred lanes in the road and the misinterpreted definition, many collectors have steered clear from the HUMINT collection in Competitive Intelligence. What one must remember is that a collector is only having what some may consider as an innocent conversation, and is not asking the individual to do any activity which may be construed as illegal.

As corporate espionage has become a taboo term amongst the business community, the suggestion of competitive intelligence, competitor intelligence and business intelligence has found acceptance throughout the battlefields of the boardrooms, industrial complexes, and social networking events. This acceptance has further led to a path of Human Intelligence collection of Competitive Intelligence amongst our modern technologically advanced society. The time has arrived again for HUMINT collectors to use their distinct skills, their art, their unique trade to answer the intelligence gaps and or requirements which are unknown and will place their organization ahead of their competition.

IRACIS – A Roadmap to Business Intelligence ROI

So often when companies are considering a business intelligence project or software purchase, a question arises that seems to stump everyone involved.

“Where is the ROI in this project?”

This question has stopped many a business intelligence project in its tracks. Maybe it’s asked by the CFO or CEO. Maybe it’s brought up in one of the meetings with a vendor or consultant presenting a solution. The sad truth is if you can not answer this question with hard numbers in specific areas, the ROI probably isn’t there.

I.R.A.C.I.S. is a simple acronym that can be used to quantify a business intelligence project’s worth to a company. It stands for the following:

Increase Revenue – How will this application and functionality drive more sales to new or existing customers, shorten the sales cycle, and/or bring down the cost of sales?

Avoid Costs – By far the area most focused on in BI project justifications. How will this application help us improve efficiency, put more information in the hands of our business people and eliminate wasteful processes?

Improve Service – Will this application affect our client base noticeably? Will we be able to provide more timely and valuable information to our customers, prospects, and suppliers?

Many times in a business intelligence effort, there are outcomes that are deemed desirable. Things like ad-hoc report generation, more informed operations staff, and less lag time in financial reporting are nice. But they will not justify the investment in a business intelligence solution from a quality software vendor without direct and secondary benefits quantified in the there areas mentioned above.

Let’s face it, business intelligence solutions are not cheap. There are many scalable solutions on the market today that range from traditional software implementations, to SaaS (Software as a Service), and even open source solutions. Large companies have long embraced the benefits of business intelligence and now with these diverse offerings the small and mid sized companies are also taking advantage. However, any business intelligence project is only as good as the planning, effort, and data that go into whatever software platform you are using. Hence another phrase often heard in many BI projects, “garbage in, garbage out.”

By using the I.R.A.C.I.S. model to quantify the value of the solution to the company, you provide everyone with a clear roadmap to what is deemed a successful project. From the executive sponsor at the company, to the vendor you are working with, there is no ambiguity as to what is expected as a final outcome. I would challenge any company that is considering a business intelligence project of some sort, that if you can’t find a solution that addresses at least one of the three areas above, if not all three, that the project is probably not worth doing at all. And if the solution or software product is incapable of scaling to address all three areas in the long run, then it probably isn’t the best product for you. This may seem like harsh criteria, but in an era where most large companies own 3 or 4 separate business intelligence tools, it’s apparent that more critical thinking is needed before a solution or platform is purchased.

Not only is this acronym a good way to quantify a project’s worth to a company, but it can become a brainstorming tool for the types of applications you are looking to create. Above I noted that the Avoid Costs portion of this acronym is by far the most focused on for business intelligence projects. Why is that? Is business intelligence only good for eliminating waste and making an organization more efficient? Can it not be used to increase revenue by putting valuable information in front of prospects you haven’t been reaching yet?

I would argue that some of the best and most successful business intelligence applications I know of, focus on the first category of Increasing Revenue. Business intelligence is all about putting the right information into the right hands at the right time. For some company’s that might be an internal business analyst. But for so many others it can be putting information in front of your customers, prospects, and partners to provide new insight on a purchasing decision. When companies are selling complex products and services, sometimes you need to track the customer down where they live. You need to reach out to them with a compelling message about your product or value proposition and give them a reason to act on that information.

If you got an e-mail from a major car insurance provider, showing your current car insurance provider and the estimated rate you are paying, and then a graph showing a $700 savings in rate comparisons for the same coverage over one year, that would be a compelling e-mail to receive. It would probably motivate you to pick up the phone or go to a website to instigate further.

This would in turn Improve Service and Avoid Costs. Being able to present this kind of accurate and timely information to a prospective customer shows them that you have systems in place to save them money and provide the best possible service. It shortens the sales cycle and the cost of sales, driving up margin and profitability. It instills confidence in the company from a customer standpoint and also gets people talking about your product or service.

In the Information Age we live in, the data and information that companies have are their most valuable assets by far. Getting this information out in a usable format to the correct audience can be the role of business intelligence in any company. This should be a goal when looking at what business intelligence can do for a company. Don’t limit yourself to just eliminating waste and automating internal processes. I certainly think projects that focus on those topics are worthwhile and valuable to a business. But when you expand your thinking and remember that using the internet to deliver information in a variety of formats is the most cost effective way to reach a critical mass of people, only then can you realize your full ROI on the purchase of a business intelligence solution.

So the next time a discussion breaks out about a business intelligence project or initiative, think of the I.R.A.C.I.S. model as a way to discuss and evaluate a projects worth to your company. You might be surprised what you can come up with when your thinking turns towards revenue generation and service improvement. Just remember, after you’re done creating a new line of business or increasing an existing one, to ask your boss for a commission.

Business Intelligence and Root Cause Analysis With CRM Solutions

Most organizations today can point to internal systems that provide data to answer most of their business questions and to meet corporate reporting requirements. But how many of them are really using all the available data to support business decisions that will drive organizational improvements?

In the current economic climate companies are succeeding or failing based on their ability to react to customer expectations and demands. Customer feedback, therefore, has enormous value to an organization. By not capturing and utilizing such valuable and freely available insights into how the business is perceived by its market, organizations are surely missing a tool through which they could gain competitive advantage.

It is no surprise that in many high-performing organizations, business intelligence and root cause analysis have emerged as top strategic initiatives and priorities for senior management. This reflects the focus organizations are now giving to the analysis of key information to drive business objectives such as customer retention and market penetration.

Effective root cause analysis of customer feedback relies on the organization collecting the relevant data to ensure meaningful insights can be extracted from it. Therefore the feedback provided must be recorded effectively and analyzed promptly to implement corrective actions.

When followed successfully, this process should ultimately result in a reduction in the total volume of complaints. The knock-on effect being that, because a commercial enterprise’s customers receive a better-quality experience across the board, brand loyalty is engendered, driving up their likelihood to buy more products or services and thereby increasing revenues.

Implemented correctly, root-cause analysis and business intelligence strategies will help drive specific actions and organizational change programs that operational reporting will not.

Successful root cause analysis and business intelligence rely on good-quality data that is consistent and dependable and is supported and maintained by robust processes and systems.

Often the benefits of gathering feedback and data in a consistent, dependable manner are compromised during an implementation that is focused too heavily at a transactional level. Errors in data capture or broken processes across the business may only come to light when analyzed in the context of the bigger picture.

Successful root cause analysis initiatives require data that is:

1. Comprehensive

2. Accurate

3. Consistent

4. Timely

Effective Root Cause Analysis can only work over the long term if the culture and ethos of a company embraces it. The commitment to sharing and gathering data on an enterprise-wide scale is an essential aspect of Root Cause Analysis. An entire organization must commit to gathering customer data from a number of different sources, including customer complaints data, and logging it in a complaints management solution. Effective root cause analysis can only take place when all members of an organization embrace their role in the process of improving customer service and an infrastructure designed to capture and monitor customer feedback is established.

There are clear and tangible benefits for organizations that embrace root cause analysis as a process of continual improvement. The key to successful root cause analysis is not solely the responsibility of the analyst, but starts at the point where feedback is captured within the organization. All areas of the business share the responsibility of ensuring a quality-driven process collects the data that will drive future strategic decisions within the organization.

When looking at the end-to-end process for root cause analysis, the data that support it needs to be comprehensive, accurate, consistent and timely.

Companies that implement such a strategy, supported by the right technology, will gain valuable insight to drive organizational improvements, resulting in service improvements, customer loyalty and increased revenues.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Having Business Intelligence On The Cloud

Cloud computing application is an emerging computing technology that uses the internet and central remote servers to maintain data and applications. The impact of cloud computing is broad and deep, it is the sort of technology that companies will need to either embrace or be run over by. Some of the key benefits of cloud computing include rapid implementation, ease of use, and subscription pricing.

Cloud computing has great potential for organizations, and it’s having a profound effect on the business intelligence (BI) also. Business Intelligence helps Companies to process raw data and convert it into Usable Business information. This process still requires significant amount of work on large data warehouses (DW). For most of the traditional companies, the data warehouses and most of the business systems entering data into those data warehouses are on-premise. The impact of cloud computing is broad and deep, it is the sort of technology that companies will need to either embrace or be run over by. Some of the key benefits of cloud computing include rapid implementation, ease of use, and subscription pricing. Organizations thinking of implementing Business Intelligence in the cloud require moving all the data in data warehouses and the associated processes in the cloud. That has its own advantages and challenges:


• Companies with different sizes have different business requirement. Cloud-based software can be easily modified to specific requirement. Even the smaller business enterprises get the capability to tailor make a Business Intelligence system which fits their specific requirements and improve their business processes.

• Initial set up costs to get a traditional IT system functioning can be very high. However cloud-based Business Intelligence solutions can decrease that initial high cost significantly as third party service providers can manage all systems through remote access.

• Temporary use of cloud based software without have to buy a full license is another great benefit. This is known as subscription-based system and this greatly helps the companies to only pay for their organization’s usage.


• A lot of questions still remain unanswered about the security detail of cloud computing platforms as a whole. There is still some concern regarding its data protection ability.

• This is a very new concept and as with any new concept, and there are unforeseen and unexpected glitches. Organizations will have to adjust to them adequately.

• Companies will also have to accept the movement of internal data outside of their internal systems in contrast to an in-house system.

However, if all the pieces are put together properly, it shall be worth it. And what we will get will be very fast Business Intelligence at a fraction of cost with pay-as-you-go subscription model.