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What is business intelligence - and what problems can it solve?

What is business intelligence?

Often when we think about business intelligence, we think about algorithms and machine learning and artificial intelligence. Sure, that’s part of it – but it’s much broader than that.

At its core, business intelligence (BI) is about taking the data you have on your business and your market and making it work harder and smarter for you.

In a low growth environment, BI can be one of the tools in your armoury to drive profitable growth in your business – but there’s a misperception that using it means spending a whole lot of money on new systems and processes and collecting a raft of new information. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

Businesses today have so much information at their fingertips - in fact many are collecting this without even meaning to - the real challenge is not so much collecting the information, but knowing how to use it to your advantage.

Last week, I gave a talk to a group of senior executives and members of The CEO Institute on this topic. During the talk, I outlined some of the key outcomes you can achieve through BI and some common problems that it can help you solve.

What BI can do for your business

There are a few outcomes you can achieve by using data to inform your strategy. 

  1. Translating data into insight: not only does data help you make evidence-based decisions, it can also help create a narrative or a story that people can relate to. Those might be your employees, or they might be your customers – either way, evidence-led conversations have far greater impact than those that are based on opinion alone.
  2. Driving engagement: want to get closer to your customers? By using what you know about your customers to demonstrate your understanding of their personal needs, and taking a segmented approach to marketing and communications, you are increasing the relevance of your brand, building trust and ultimately improving customer engagement.
  3. Profitable growth: by gaining a deeper understanding of what your customers want from you, you can make changes that aid in improving satisfaction and retention. By exploring the needs of your broader market or prospective customers, you can also boost customer acquisition – all of which will contribute to business growth.
  4. Transformational change: data-led decision making can have a profound impact on an organisation. Whether there is an external force driving the need for change, such as regulation or disruption in your industry, or an internal force, such as recognition of the evolving needs of your customers, BI can turn your business into a market leader and help you remain ahead of the competition.

Common problems BI can help solve

You may not have thought much about how BI can be applied to problems you face in your business, but there are some common challenges business face where data and insight can help.

These include:

  • Retention: why are my customers leaving? What would make them stay?
  • Awareness: how can I increase awareness and consideration of my products and services?
  • Relevance: how can I get the right information, to the right people, at the right time, through the right channels?
  • SEO: how can I drive more people to my website so they find out about my services?
  • Customer insight: how do I know if my customers are happy and loyal or thinking about switching?

Leveraging data you already have

In many cases, you have much more information than you think that can be used to help you solve some of these challenges.

Businesses transacting in the digital world have a clear advantage, in that they’re typically capturing far more information at the point of sale than a business that’s not.

The gaps in your data tend to be related to attitudinal rather than transactional elements of the customer relationship. What do my customers want? What are they likely to do next? And what does their life look like outside their relationship with my business.

This is where primary or secondary research can come into play, helping you plug some of the knowledge gaps to provide you with a fuller picture of the value – and potential future value – of your customer relationship.

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Follow Kristen on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristenturnbullcoredata 

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