Small Shops Can Benefit from Business Intelligence and DB2 Web Query for i

Business Intelligence

If your organization hasn’t yet considered business intelligence, now is the time to investigate those possibilities. Turning your business data into information for decision-making has never been easier. The time spent implementing your BI strategy will likely provide a return on your investment.

Benefits of BI and Web Query

  1. Timely response to business questions. Executives and managers require information to run enterprises. Traditional reporting almost always relied on periodic (monthly, quarterly or yearly) comparisons. But that's like looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing only where you’ve been, not where you're going. Another issue is that, even with huge amounts of data available, existing reports don’t always present this information in the format needed. Web Query’s user-friendly portal and report designer provide a framework to derive more immediate answers and improve methods of presentation while making data more comprehensible and readily available to decision-makers, when and where they need it.
  2. Use of pre-established KPIs. Businesses can benefit from establishing a key performance indicator (KPI) to monitor business activity. The capability to see KPIs on demand or track them over time can provide consistency and reliability for decision-making. Web Query offers many choices for presenting KPIs current status or trends.
  3. Derive insights from business data. Most BI tools offer a method for you to manipulate data. Web Query offers both OLAP and the Active Report, which features built-in manipulation tools. With such tools, analysts or executives―whether they're connected to the home office or not―have the capabilities to spot trends and more easily identify and respond to problems.
  4. Combine data from multiple platforms. Businesses today often use IBM i as the central platform for ERP while employing other systems and platforms. Web Query functions natively with DB2. It can also simplify the process of merging data from disparate platforms via the use of several adaptors to target other databases or ERP systems, thus improving combined reporting of internal, external or industry data.
  5. The power of information. It's often said that knowledge equates with power. Traditional reporting often included manual exports, collation and manipulation. In BI, these are replaced with reports, graphics or dashboards for metrics. Such new techniques have the potential to allow businesses to increase knowledge and be in the position to take action more rapidly.
  6. Productivity and cost savings. Empowering employees with BI tools may not only improve their productivity, but impact the bottom line. Data discoveries potentially lead to opportunities for increased sales, reduced waste, reduced cost, improved margins or beneficial inventory control.
  7. Measure customer trends and satisfaction. A BI system can enable businesses to combine sources of data about customer buying patterns, behavior, meeting delivery objectives, quality control or other information relating to consumers' changing needs. Improving customer service is often linked to both retention and sales growth.
  8. Data governance and curation. Within many businesses, the task of data validation, to ensure accuracy and improving data quality is time consuming. Using tools to automate this process may enable rapid location of outliers or entry errors. The tools being brought to the BI arena allow you to sort, filter and chart, all on the fly. This allows users to see things that might not be readily visible via traditional reporting methods. This advantage in particular may go lacking at the smaller business, which can benefit just as much from data accuracy as the largest enterprises.
  9. Visualization and notification. BI tools often utilize traditional bar, pie, line and surface charts. But new and unique presentations―such as gauges, heat maps, bubble charts, mapping and geographic analysis―can provide new perspectives on customers, market penetration, sales, quality and more. Web Query, in conjunction with DB2 and the IBM i OS, provide numerous methods for presenting data to clients with desktops, tablets or phones, as well as techniques to facilitate monitoring and alerts.
  10. A single version of the truth." The recognized father of the data warehouse, Bill Inmon, coined this phrase in his writings about IT. One of the key opportunities to be had from BI tooling is the achievement of SVOT and a corresponding reduction of debate about data and business performance. BI tools allow businesses to set goals for a project, product or business segments, and then collect and report data in ways traditional reporting could not. When objectives are set, they can be agreed upon, maintained and attainment evaluated to be sure that results are tracking goal expectations. The development of predictive analytics software, which uses past data to statistically predict future outcomes, will open the door to the future.

Rick Flagler is an information technology consultant, teacher and mentor.

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