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Business intelligence software creates new opportunities

Stephen Bauld
Business intelligence software creates new opportunities

Every year I spend three days at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre at the end of November enjoying Construct Canada.

This year was no exception. It is a great opportunity for me to meet up with clients, friends and to learn about the latest building products and technological developments.

From the start of the show until the Toronto Construction Association lunch, I had the chance to talk to hundreds of people in relation to the latest and greatest ideas being used in the construction industry.

The conversations with the larger contractors often moved towards the overall goal of business intelligence software (BIS) to improve the timely flow of critical decision-making information to managers in a readily usable form. On large complex construction projects, every minute counts and such improved reporting will allow the people running the jobs to anticipate emerging problems and make smarter decisions.

As I was walking the convention floor talking to the trade professionals and exploring the exhibitions, innovative products and networking, I found a wealth of knowledge available to contractors.

I often wonder how many of them take the advantage to explore some of these new concepts and bring them back to use in the operations of the companies they work for. I found better ways to increase revenue and drive efficiency within the organization that could be used at any company.

The underlying premise is that business reports must connect each project manager to information related to the activity for which they are responsible in a personalized way — that is, in a way that reflects each user’s specific information needs.

Many of the sessions at the convention talked directly to these types of goals. The concept, generally, is that a fully BIS system generates real-time operational and management reports, using whatever format, delivery method or operational environment that a particular business challenge demands, using an integrated set of business intelligence tools.

BIS works by pooling together data from a variety of sources, which may be internal or partly external to the organization that requires the reports. Once the data has been collected together into a centralized data warehouse, BIS software tools then permit that data to be analyzed in a way that provides improved understanding of the business of an organization.

Often, when management wishes to improve organizational performance of some particular aspect of its operations, there is a shortage of information as to current performance.

Unless there is some comprehensive data assembly mechanism in place, even the assessment of current conditions can require months of detailed study.
Once such study is completed, many organizations have difficulty tracking the effects of changes during implementation and even after the new approach is up and running.

A real-time BIS system satisfies both of these requirements. In this way, business decision-making loses some of its tendency to resemble a journey from an unknown point of origin to an unspecified destination.

According to its proponents, BIS builds upon more traditional methods of business analysis, which is termed “ad-hoc analysis,” to differentiate it from the type of “advanced’ analysis which BIS permits. BIS enables a more dynamic approach to traditional methods. Specifically, BIS allows users, through the use of pivot tables and other querying functions to

conduct what-if analysis
budget, plan and consolidate financial data
identify top and bottom performers
identify emerging market trends
analyzes profitability
employ a wide selection of financial, statistical and mathematical functions, which will enhance predictive accuracy, and forecast, plan and model future operations.

These questions are addressed through the online analysis of transactional data. They permit users to discover relationships among data points. The query and reporting features of the software permit users to view and manipulate data via multiple report formats.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at swbauld@purchasingci.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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