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Advanced business analytics at play, but marginal in UK corporate IT

Brian McKenna, News and Site Editor

Corporate IT in the UK is in active pursuit of advanced business intelligence and analytics, but it shows a far from maturely developed capability.

An illustration of this came at a member workshop of the blue-chip Corporate IT Forum held last week in the City of London.

Four out of twenty delegates at the event are using predictive analytics, according to a transcript of the event. Four are using social media analytics, four are extending their BI efforts to mobile devices and three are pushing their BI efforts out to the cloud or to Software as a Service.

One delegate, from retail, confirmed that they have “automatic price changes, so we would forecast when these price rates happen, plan this onto our systems and they would automatically take effect. ... We’re always forward trending. That information is worth more to us than some of the retrospective reporting, but other organisations [outside retail] might find the reverse more beneficial.”

Another delegate, from manufacturing, confirmed his company uses predictive analytics on its maintenance schedule. "We’re getting better at the same sites, keeping the same spares and getting an agreement with our distributor, so we’ve reduced our costs.”

Social media analytics, in the sense of analysing customer sentiment on Twitter and Facebook, has drawn interest recently. But implementation seems to be incipient at best. Said one delegate, “We have a person who puts the data into Excel and they just email the detail around, but we don’t have any systems because we find it’s just not worth the effort.”

Another said, “We use Web analytics to look at marketing campaign management and effectiveness, but that’s not the same as social [media] trawling and text mining.”

Mobile BI has been much hyped this year, but again adoption has been scant. “Do we really want people carrying our data around on mobile devices?” was one comment. “The hype is that it’s much more prevalent than we think” was another.

It would seem, then, that while enterprise IT is abuzz with interest in business intelligence, it is only beginning to gain maturity. This was also confirmed in a survey from The Corporate IT Forum released in May.

From that survey, Excel emerged as the BI weapon of choice. Ninety-seven senior IT professionals from 40 corporate organisations responded to the survey on business intelligence and management information in March and April this year. The responding organisations spend £107 billion on IT and employ 1.24 million people, the forum said.

Dani Briscoe, research manager at The Corporate IT Forum, said that the survey was a new line-in-the-sand effort that would act as a future benchmark. The topic of business intelligence has seen a surge in interest among the forum’s members but is as yet diffuse. “People are not quite sure what they want to talk about, but they know they want to talk about it. Generally, we have seen an increase in members wanting to talk about ERP, CRM and data management this year.”

Respondent comments also indicated that there is “a lot coming down the pipeline with respect to data governance and master data management,” she said.

Business intelligence was mature in the sense of having full process and policy documentation at 37% of responding organisations. Most BI is done using off-the-shelf products, with little or no customisation (55.9%).

Advanced BI is in serious use. The majority of respondents said they were using predictive analytics (40.5%). In-memory technologies were in use at 31.5%, social media analytics at 24.3% and visualisation tools at 24.3%.

Corporates are also putting in strategic frameworks around their BI efforts to a significant degree. Thirty-seven percent have a data governance programme in place and 28.9% a master data management endeavour.

However, neither the cloud nor mobile technologies featured strongly in use. BI in the cloud is in use at 3.9% of responding organisations and mobile BI is used at 5.8%.

Briscoe said, “Many said they know they need this [BI], but sense a lack of drive from the business as to what it should look like. There is a lot of reaction to buzzwords.”


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