Businesses, where to?

Data is the new oil, and businesses are always looking for it. How can a modern organization know where it has to drill?

by Milad Botros


Maxim Berg / Unsplash

If you are anything like me, you love to travel and visit new places. You also like to plan ahead. I have always found long-distance trips to be both exciting and overwhelming. Exciting because of the freedom of the open road, meeting new people, seeing new places, and experiencing new cultures. Overwhelming because it required a great deal of guessing, uncertainty, and constantly asking for directions.

Then came GPS! This incredible tool! Not only did it map out the whole route, but it also anticipated roadblocks, predicted traffic flow, and updated the itinerary accordingly, making travel much simpler and hassle-free. The journey remained an adventure but with fewer unknowns.

This is what Business Intelligence (BI) is for companies. It is their GPS. It fully surveys the terrain, maps out obstacles, and provides directions at every turn of the road. By doing so it reduces the uncertainty and guesswork that used to be acceptable practices in running a business, making the journey adventurous but less daunting.

BI is the drilling rig in today’s world, where data is the new oil. It is no longer considered a buzzword. It is a game changer that has transformed the strategies of modern businesses across all industries. In this dynamic modern business world, where companies strive to capture and interpret data, BI means not only focusing on a company’s ability to collect, analyze, and visualize data, but also exploring its potential to reshape the way companies think, operate, and make plans and strategies.

Therefore, it is safe to say that BI enables companies not only to react to change but also to anticipate it. Paving the road for a more proactive style of business management. So, how exactly is BI affecting corporate mindsets? In the past, companies relied on experience, intuition, and a healthy dose of risk-taking. Since the introduction of BI, data has replaced assumptions, allowing companies to make more accurate decisions.

For example, Southwest Airlines began looking at the city pairs that are being searched for together to determine what type of service it should offer on a specific route. By switching from “gut feeling” to a more data-based decision, Southwest Airlines achieved an annual increase in its customer loyalty segment.


Illustration by Francesca Ragazzi

Another way BI has impacted the corporate mindset is by fostering a culture of transparency and accountability within the organization. A change that cannot be underestimated. But don’t take my word for it; Ben Porterfield, founder of Looker, one of the leading BI platforms, said: “You want everyone to be able to look at the data and make sense out of it. It should be a value everyone has at your company, especially people interfacing directly with customers.

There shouldn’t be any silos where engineers translate the data before handing it over to sales or customer service. That wastes precious time.” By doing so, every decision, every progress, and every mistake can be supported by tangible evidence thanks to detailed data analysis. Everyone becomes part of the decision-making process, which promotes accountability.

For instance, take Clever, a portal for digital learning used in many schools in the USA: by giving every employee access to their data, reports, and insights, Clever was able to foster greater collaboration between teams. In fact, its product development team was able to identify and prioritize new features using the trends found by an analysis of support tickets, which, in turn, was provided by the customer support team.

BI is also changing how companies view failure. Failure has become less of a corporate taboo, thanks to BI. Business author and data expert Thomas Redman once said that “where there is data smoke, there is business fire.” By offering insights, hard data about why a specific initiative may not have achieved the expected results,
BI has transformed the negativity of failure into an opportunity for learning and creativity. By looking into the “smoke” of data, organizations can put out potential fires.

Moving away from the competition-based approach of business intelligence toward a more customer-centric approach is perhaps one of BI’s most important and profound impacts. As customer research and UX expert Cindy Alvarez, says in her book Lean Customer Development, “You don’t need to learn what customers say they want; you need to learn how customers behave and what they need.

In other words, focus on their problem, not their suggested solution.” Equipped with powerful BI tools, companies need not only look at their competition to gain insight into their markets, but they can also seek to understand their customers better, and focus on improving their user experience and offerings.

Organizations that embrace data analytics and BI have proven to be more agile, adaptive, and proactive in times of great change — rather than being simply reactive. This is true for for-profit companies as well as other types of businesses: The Contingent, an Oregon-based non-profit that supports the state’s child fostering system, was able to reverse a negative trend.

Thanks to their data-supported initiatives, the number of families inquiring about fostering in Oregon continued to grow, while in nearly every other state, it declined. The success of their approach enabled them to expand their initiatives to a national level.

In conclusion, it is clear that BI is much more than just a tool for crunching numbers and managing large amounts of data. The use of BI has led to a paradigm shift. The potential impact of BI on business mindset will continue to grow and evolve, so much so that only those organizations that are quick to embrace it will take the lead. Companies cannot afford not to use their GPS, just as the most experienced drivers need to use theirs every now and then.