Embedding Analytics in Business Processes

In this digital age, data is changing everything. It’s arming us with insight to identify risks, streamline processes, make more profitable investments and most important, better serve our customers. But that insight doesn’t come from simply hoarding every tidbit of data, rather it’s about analytics—the art of “discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns” in that data.  And analytic practices are best applied where most needed: embedded in our business processes.

We reached out to a panel of industry leaders for their thoughts on the subject. Specifically, we asked them: How is embedding analytics in business processes changing decision-making in the enterprise?”

In short order, we found one thing to be abundantly clear: The game-changing potential of big data comes with real-time insight—not hindsight. One thought leader, Mike Maddock, director at Kader Technology Ltd, likened after-the-fact analytics to “driving a car only using the rear-view mirror.”

Your Gut Isn’t Enough

The days of guesswork are long gone; there is simply too much riding on the insight to be had. Make no mistake, “without analytics to gain insights, you are just guessing,” that’s according to Jack Gold, principal analyst and founder at J.Gold Associates, and the general consensus of our expert panel.

The key to moving beyond gut instinct is analytics. Logically we all get the value of analytics, but we’ve been relying on instinct for a business lifetime. Embracing analytics calls for a change in culture, as much as technology. In fact, Narinder Singh, founder and chief strategy officer at Appirio Inc, suggests that “leaders must become more data centric.” He boldly contends that “gut [instinct] is a copout not, a reflection of character.”

As director and enterprise architect for Collaborative Consulting, Ed Featherston concurs, cultural change is a must. “Embedded analytics causes a fundamental shift in business processes when the culture is ready to embrace it.”

Data Deluge

Still analytics is an art form with many challenges—probably none more daunting than the data itself. After all, that data is growing in volume and velocity as quickly as it’s growing in value. We need to harness its true power, lest we miss out on its true value.  That means moving quickly, looking deeply and leveraging completely.

Perhaps Kirk Borne, principal data scientist for Booz-Allen, says it best: “It has become cliché to say ‘moving at the speed of business.’” He explains that with data coming at us so fast and furiously—more so than anything we’ve ever experienced—we need “analytics at the speed of data!”

Speed is certainly a critical element to leveraging big data to its fullest, but it’s also important to apply analytics where it matters most. “Putting the right information at the point of decision is a huge advantage and really illustrates the value of performing the analytics in the first place,” Zach Slayton adds. And where are most decisions made? Within our business processes.

Slayton, who is technical architect at Collaborative Consulting, brings it together, saying “Analytics provide full-circle feedback to business process enabling both automated and better-informed decision making.”

Analytics in Process

So the best application of analytics is indeed within our business processes. “Embedded analytics represents the most democratized delivery of analytics—enabling processes to work smart at the speed of the business,” says Shawn Rogers, chief research officer for Information Management Group at Dell.

Decisions are the basis of every process, certainly no one debates that.  An out-of-stock part prompts alternative sourcing. Marketing campaign results beget sales efforts. Questionable activity initiates risk mitigation procedures. So the question is really about whether those decisions are being fed by this now-debunked concept of gut instinct, or more wisely by the data behind our processes.

Be sure, data-fed processes are the future. According to William McKnight, president, McKnight Consulting Group Global Services, “Business processes that are built to execute without the value-add that analytics bring are asking to be ineffective and outdated in short order.” He goes on to purport that “Today’s processes should be built around increasing analytic capabilities of the company.” And that requires us to “grow the data science of the process and leverage the company’s data infrastructure.”

Booz Allen’s Borne suggests “One way to achieve that is to embed analytics in business processes at the edge of the network, as close to the point of data collection as possible.” That’s where this concept of real time comes into play. He explains, “Only then can the business of discovery, decision-making, and innovation be accelerated to the speed of data.”

Featherston weighs in as well, extolling the virtue of real-time analytics, “Embedded analytics allow for the ‘near real time’ analysis and reaction to the information provided by the data.”

In the end, analytics in any form comes down to business impact. Kader’s Maddock sums it up quite nicely: “The realization of business potential can only be achieved once analytics become embedded in every significant decision-making process.”

Analytics in Action

Now, when it comes to the business impact of analytics embedded within business processes, all we have to do is sit back and imagine the possibilities. “It is amazing how looking at data through different filters can reveal new insights,” says Richard Stiennon, a cyber security author.

Industry thought leaders offer these benefit statements:

  • “Increased agility and generally faster time to decision points are clear outcomes,” says Matt Vasey, transformational business development professional.
  • “Creating value and competitive advantage for companies smart enough to engage all stakeholders in the business with deep insights and actions,” according to Dell’s Rogers
  • “There have been savings in time, process efficiencies, cost savings and better user engagement,” Justin Lake, CEO and founder of Think Numbers, points out.
  • “We’ve seen a rapid shift in our commercial functions time from data preparers to true business partners through embedding analytics tools,” adds Lake.

And Featherston puts the “feather” in the cap, saying: “It’s not easy, it’s not cheap, but the benefit could be large in reaction time and the accompanying savings in time and cost.”

Bottom Line

Getting the most out of big data means applying analytics in our business processes. Digital Converge sums it up in today’s social vernacular… “#BigData + reverse #logistics + fast #analytics + smart IT = 5-10% savings.”

Find out how you can become fast and smart with your analytics—leveraging real time insights to better arm your organization for success in these digital times. Visit SAS Analytics in Action now.

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