Business Processes Key to Business Intelligence

Linking business intelligence to operational processes is one of—if not the most—important goals of enterprises, and the data that is derived is priceless.

Of course, there are some hitches: getting executives onboard, reining in users to participate, and cobbling data together. These were some of the findings in a panel discussion at IDC’s Business Intelligence and Business Process Forum in Cambridge, Mass. yesterday.

The goal is “find where the money is, and that’s the hardest decision, where do you get the biggest [return] out of it,” says Glenn Wegryn, associate director of global analytics, Proctor & Gamble, which has about 98,000 employees in approximately 80 countries worldwide.

The consumer product behemoth is in the midst of merging Gillette into its operations, including its supply chain management system, and finding the right balance is imperative.

“There are different choices that users need to make,” Wegryn says. “You’re dealing with people’s jobs.”

Guardian Group of Funds recently implemented an enterprise-wide CRM system that centered on a national wholesaler support program for mutual funds. The company is currently connecting key wholesale systems and services by building enterprise intelligence models, including data warehouse, ETL and reporting and analytics plans.

Julie Gill started to see the desire for real-time data from Guardian’s sales force. “They were reluctant at first,” so the sales staff started with basic reporting, says Gill, the company’s vice president of information services. The sales force’s reception to receiving real-time data has been so strong, they now want information delivered on RIM’s BlackBerries, so Gill and her staff plan on integrating Guardian’s CRM and RIM systems together.

Business processes and intelligence will help NStar Electric & Gas get a handle on customer service, according to Mannie Goldberg, director of data resource management. The electric company found out customers would call repeatedly when they had a problem, so NStar built an OLAP to analyze causes, locations and other factors and the actions taken.

“We want to understand why our customers are calling,” he says. “They don’t really want to call us, so we need to do something proactive.” Goldberg expects NStar to soon start redesigning business process and rules.

Drew Irving, director of information engagement at Diageo, is responsible for business intelligence projects for the sales, marketing and distribution of Diageo brands, such as Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Guinness.

Irving is focused on standardizing APIs, automation and business intelligence in sales and marketing, especially in light of recent mergers and acquisitions. He notes picking battles is the key to this project, so having a business partner is important for these goals, and Diageo’s CFO is backing Irving and his staff’s plans.

“We got the CEO onboard, and we built APIs from the top down” for areas including human resources and sales, Irving says. “The culture change and adoption is still being felt.”

Dan Vesset, an IDC analyst, says business intelligence adoption depends on interactions between a company’s business users and IT department.

“There needs to be communications between businesses and IT,” Vesset says. IT departments have the tools, and they want to implement business intelligence projects, but they’re dealing with cutbacks to their budgets. “It’s a business issue. … IT will build [what business users need], but users need to tell them. IT is rarely the issue. It’s a [business user] mindset.”

About the Author

Kathleen Ohlson is senior editor at Application Development Trends magazine.