B intelligent

On an average, a US MNC possesses up to 22 copies of information about the same customer. That's a lot of information. How can a company collect all that data and make it into a single body of useful information? BI may well be the answer.
Written by Thomas Chen, Contributor

SMART is the word yesterday at the Sun organized seminar aimed at instructing the market further on the concept of Business Intelligence (BI) and what it entails. Data alone is not enough; what it must do, to be relevant to the business process, is for it to make sense.

That's the difference between data and information, according to an associate partner of Arthur Andersen's who is present at the seminar today.

Answering a query about whether BI is just CRM re-named, Chart Chai Chayavirabood of Arthur Andersen replies, "BI lends to an IT structure the ability to transform data into information."

Information that a business could use, to be precise.

In ordinary circumstances, information about a customer can pass through a company's IT system without leaving much imprint on the business. The customer enters as a digital unit with an attachment of standard information and he leaves pretty much the same way. The file is then stored in a back-corner of the digital hardware until the customer visits again.

BI suggests that those information can be collected, harnessed and make sense of in such a way as to make it meaningful to the business process.

For instance, with BI, data collection begins at the moment the customer enters into the company's e-business structure, it will track the customer as he goes about his net activities, it will relay and connects up with information previously gathered about this customer from other channels, and adding all that together, BI will form a complete picture of the customer as an individual, profiling everything from buying preferences, payment habits to on-line behavior.

The implication is clear, such a profile enables a company to direct more precise marketing at the customer. It affords detection of fraudulent or undesirable users. In addition, macro evaluation of this kind of information will tell a company even more about its own business. The potential is obvious.

When it comes to information about customers, companies are plagued with another problem, that of being unable to relate data about the same customer coming from different sources.

When a company is big enough, it will have several points of contact with its customers. There is e-mailing, direct selling, tele-marketing, retailing, and so forth, but information from these sources are separate, even though it may be on the same customer.

This is why your credit card company would call you up twice a year to ask you to sign up with a card that you already own. It is because the information has not been shared.

BI will change that, collating data from multi-sources and producing a single view of the same customer.

In the words of Cyrus Golkar, chief presenter at the seminar today and Sun Microsystem representative, BI provides the glue that gel all the information systems of an organization together. ERP, CRM, information portals, risk management, finance, supply chain management, all these systems can be negotiated and held together by deploying BI technology.

At the heart a BI structure is a data storage area called the data warehouse, where information from different systems are collected and organized. A set up of BI enabling structure does not come cheap, costing upward of 1 to 15 million depending on the scale and services that are picked.

One final word of advise from the convention speakers to would be customers, define your business objectives well with regards to what you want the BI structure to achieve, and ensure maximum scalability and later add-ons.

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