Beginners’ Guide to Business Intelligence Solutions

Current Condition of the Business Intelligence Tools Market

The sustained interest in Business Intelligence applications has driven large corporations, offshore software development centers as well as custom software development companies to focus on developing a wide range of Business Intelligence Tools suitable for each and every industry. The use of Business Intelligence tools in key industries from aerospace to iron and steel has also increased in recent years due to the uncertainty in global markets. Currently available tools including the Microsoft Business Intelligence software include numerous paid, freeware as well as open source and proprietary software, which are often customized by a custom software developer to suit the requirements of a specific client. Some of the additional categories of Business Intelligence Tools are discussed here and these constitute only a few of the business intelligence reporting tools commonly utilized by the enterprise.

Data Mining

Data mining combines key elements of statistics and computer science with the objective of identifying patterns in large data sets. Currently implemented data mining methodology includes various elements of database systems, statistics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to deliver actionable intelligence to managers, decision makers and data analysts in an enterprise. Apart from the analysis of the available raw data, additional operations performed by data mining process include online updating, visualization, discovered structure post-processing, complexity considerations, metrics to determine interest as well as data management. Data mining is distinct from information processing or large-scale data analysis as the process is based on “discovery” i.e. the detection of something new. As data mining deals with large data sets, various automated and semi-automated solutions are available to carry out the task. Data mining applications developed by any software development company focuses on performing the following tasks- anomaly detection, association rule learning, clustering, classification, regression as well as summarization. Current business applications include data mining in applications related to customer relationship management, determination of successful employee characteristics using HR department data, identification of customer purchase pattern by the marketing department as well as much more. Leading companies engaged in providing data mining tools for use in business intelligence reporting include Extra-Data Technologies, Clarabridge, Versium Analytics, emanio and Polygraph Media.

Data Warehousing

Data Warehousing in simple terms refers to any database utilized for reporting as well as analyzing enterprise data. The data in an enterprise is usually obtained from all over the organization including the HR, Marketing, Sales, Customer Support, Warehouse, administration departments. In some cases, the raw data may undergo a small degree of pre-processing prior to being used for reporting in a Data Warehouse. A traditional data warehouse (a warehouse operating on the extract-transform-load mechanism), houses the key functions by using separate staging, integration and access layers. The staging area stores all the raw data obtained from various enterprise-wide sources. In the integration layer the raw data stored in the staging area is integrated to transform it into a form suitable for analysis and stored in the data warehouse database. The data stored in the data warehouse database is arranged in hierarchical groups, which are accessible by the user through the access layer. Each data warehouse is often subdivided into data marts, which store subsets of the data integrated in the warehouse. The key objective of a data warehouse is thus to store data in a format suitable for analysis by the user using various techniques including OLAP and data mining.

The earliest data warehouses used by an organization were offline operational data warehouses. In these warehouses, the data was updated periodically (fortnightly, weekly or monthly) from operational systems and stored in a report-oriented format. In the next stage of data warehouse evolution, offline data warehouses came into existence. In offline data warehouses, the data was updated regularly from operational systems and the structure of the stored data was designed to aid the reporting process. The offline data warehouses later evolved into Online Integrated Data Warehouses, which updates the data in the warehouse in real-time by recording every transaction performed on the source data. Further evolution of data warehouses has resulted in the creation of the integrated data warehouse, which compiles the data obtained from the various departments of the enterprise to provide users with real-time access to actionable intelligence from all over the organization. Leading data warehousing solutions companies include Accenture, IBM, Igate and Infobright.

Decision Engineering

Decision Engineering is defined as a framework, which unifies various leading practices in the field of enterprise decision-making to improve the overall decision-making procedure by providing a structured approach. The decision engineering process is designed to overcome problems resulting from a “complexity ceiling” of the decision-making process. This “complexity ceiling” usually results from a mismatch between the complexity of a particular situation and the sophistication of the decision-making procedure being implemented. Decision engineering acts as a framework for providing advanced analytic techniques to a non-enterprise user while simultaneously integrating machine learning and inductive reasoning techniques to streamline the organizational decision-making procedure. The use of Decision Engineering as a business intelligence tool by enterprises is still in its infancy and further development would be required before decision engineering develops into a viable business intelligence reporting tool.

Reporting and Querying Software

Reporting and querying software are designed to provide users with access to the data stored on enterprise databases subsequent to submission of user-queries. Such tools are designed to provide a logical format to the available data sets to support enterprise-wide data accessibility as well as speed-up the organizational decision-support process. Currently, various open source business intelligence tools as well as commercial business intelligence reporting software are developed by software development companies all over the world. Some of the leading reporting and querying tools are mPower, Zoho Reports, Cognos BI, GNU Enterprise and JasperReports. Many offshore software development companies in India also provide customized versions of reporting and querying software to streamline the overall enterprise-wide decision making process.

Spreadsheets

A spreadsheet is defined as an interactive computer program, which allows the analysis of available information by use of a tabular format, which originated from the use of paper-based accounting spreadsheets. On a spreadsheet, users can modify the values in each cell of the spreadsheet and are now used widely by the financial sector as a replacement of paper-based accounting methods. The digital spreadsheets allow users to automatically calculate values after making modifications to the available data as and when necessary. Apart from the standard arithmetic calculation support, currently available spreadsheets also features support for a wide range of statistical and financial operations built into this commonly used business intelligence tool. Spreadsheets are probably the most widely used and easily available among a wide range of proprietary and open source business intelligence tools. The first spreadsheet introduced for a micro computer was Visicalc, which was overtaken by Lotus 1-2-3 at a later date. Currently Microsoft Excel, available as part of the Microsoft Office Package, is the leading spreadsheet solution utilized by enterprises all over the world.

Business VoIP Solutions – Enhancing A Business’ Communication Lines

Communication forms an integral part of any business or a company. During the older days, most offices transactions and business processes relied on the use of folders, couriers, mail and other media for communication. Companies and business during those days have to go through the burden of having to use slow, inefficient, and costly modes of communication. There was no seamless integration between present communication platforms and tools, each of which had a unique function and capability. This has resulted into the inefficiency of the course of offices transactions and other business processes and into a ballooned cost of operations.

Companies and businesses today can now make use of a new and emerging communication technology called business VoIP solutions, which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP makes it possible for transmitting voice communication services including voice, facsimile, and voice-messaging applications through the use of the Internet rather than the public telephone network. This technology converts analog voice signals to digital format and compresses and translates the signal into Internet protocol (IP) packets for transmissions over the Internet. This process is reversed at the receiving end.

This new technology can provide businesses with an efficient, flexible and cost-effective communication platform which can gradually reduce their operational costs. VoIP technology has helped many businesses in terms of communication efficiency and reducing operational costs. The introduction of this new technology has benefited a lot of businesses by reducing communication response time, which is vital in decision-making and acting upon instructions. The efficiency in communication and its being economical particularly with regards to monthly phone costs has forced a lot of companies to switch to VoIP solutions and abandon their traditional copper-wire telephone systems.

The cost for calls with VoIP solutions is cheaper as compared to regular phone calls. VoIP calls are charged depending on the amount of information or data that was sent over the Internet and not according to the duration when the call was connected to the telephone network. VoIP also provides free 3-way (or more) conferencing, caller id, automatic redialing,, and IVR, call forwarding features which are often being charged extra for by telecommunication companies.

VoIP can also perform tasks and services that a public switched telephone network cannot do. This communication technology is very handy and can be used in any location with a fast and stable Internet connection. It also capable of handling and transmitting numerous telephone calls over a single broadband connection even without the extra lines. The hassles of securing telephone connection using standardized protocols as well as the digitizing and digital transmission of calls which are the usual problems with using traditional phone lines, are being effectively addressed by VoIP. VoIP also enables for the integration of services that are only found through the internet, things like video chatting, messaging, or even sending files through the messenger program.

Starting An Online Business? ECommerce Solutions – The Conclusion

Over the past few weeks we have covered the various aspects of setting up an online business and what a business owner needs to create to become successful with their ecommerce solution. Operating any business is hard work offline or online, so by managing both, the business owner takes on the responsibility of dictating offline and online strategies to best suit their business.

By going over the various guides that I have previously created, the business owner will have an online plan of what it takes to operate a successful online business. There are a few extra points that I would like to state that will encourage a business to start trading online, whether it be using ecommerce software or finding a web development company.

Starting and managing an internet business is very similar to managing any other business. Solid, good business practices such as customer service, good appropriate advertising, supplying products and services at a good price and forming long-lasting business relationships, are relevant to an internet business as they are to an offline business.

Some differences that relate to an online business are:

Low Start-Up Costs – When setting up a business online it does not need to cost the owner a great deal. Ecommerce software can be utilised to build and create a solution to sell online for little cost. If the owner decides to go with a web development company then prices can be much more for a bespoke web solution. However the internet is not a place where money and sales are easy to get, it requires planning, creativity, money and significant hard work to get the ecommerce solution working to a successful standard.

Marketing Opportunities – Having an online marketing strategy to promote the business is now an essential requirement. The possibilities for marketing on the internet are huge; these could include social networks, online partnerships or digital releases. The options are far greater online and cost-effective, than offline techniques. A business owner should know there target audience and that is where online marketing can be beneficial as ecommerce software solutions can now pinpoint your area and target particular groups.

Global Audience – A business owner may want to keep their service local but they must realise that the internet is a global tool to drive an international audience to your brand. Your website visitors are likely to come from all over the world so consideration must be taken to have your website readable in different languages, if financially viable. A good ecommerce software package may have this feature available.

I hope these guides help business owners with making that first step into online business. The opportunities online are increasing all the time so all businesses serious about making a successful impact online must use these guides to create their best online solution.

Can the Modern Business Survive Without a State-of-the-Art Printing System?

Business processes are becoming more digital by the day. We now send emails, rather than memos. We use online quote systems, rather than sending a fax. We search for answers on Google, rather than looking it up in a book. Almost everything we do in our personal and professional lives involves some kind of digital or multimedia interaction.

As you look to the future, and increasingly use digital platforms to communicate and do business, will you be able to do away with offline processes such as printing? Constantly keeping your digital systems at the forefront of technology may improve your online productivity, but without an efficient printing system to support your offline needs, your business could suffer.

As day-to-day employees’ working practices travel further up the digital stream – some now operating only in a digital space with emails, web and network connections – it’s important to keep up with the times. Even by having the most state-of-the-art email, hardware, database and networking systems, there is currently still a need to have hard-copies of information as a back-up, for legal reasons or simply for ease of use. Therefore, whilst the digital revolution is increasing business efficiency and information accessibility, the need for printing is currently still strong. Paper is something that is engrained in our society and the concept of an entirely paperless office still looks to be well off in the future.

One of the biggest challenges faced by companies is how to effectively manage and integrate their offline printing solutions. A simple, secure network of printers may no longer suffice. To make your business’ printing the most efficient it can be, an in-depth look at the current printing needs and situation is needed: the more complex and fragmented the printing network is, the greater the likelihood it is not as effective as it should be.

Integrating your business printing solution with your online systems is very important, as it will allow users to access, create, process and distribute content and information easily.

The environmental impact of printing should also be considered, and an integrated printing solution that allows fast, high-quality duplex printing is a must in today’s business society. Not only will this help reduce the company’s environmental impact, it will help save money too.

Therefore, an assessment of your current business needs, whilst considering your existing online systems, would be highly beneficial to any business. With the right printing solution and your existing, efficient online systems, your business will be able to achieve maximum online and offline productivity.