The trends putting intelligence back into business

3d small people - there is an ideaAccording to Gartner, the business intelligence market (including data warehouses and CRM analytics) is growing nine percent per year. While it was worth $57 billion at the end of 2010, it will surge to $81 billion by 2014 and as high as $136 billion by 2020. Rather remarkable, isn’t it? What’s driving this growth is the search for improvements in performance, and a change in thinking around people, processes and systems.  Let’s take a look at three major trends supporting the BI boom.

1.  Big Data. Smart data.

Big data – an over-hyped buzzword?  Well, the jury is still out on that. But what’s certain, is that the big data bubble has focused businesses perspective on data, and driven them to re-examine who their customer is and how they can continue to deliver what they want.

Due to the inefficiencies and cost associated, it is not feasible to capture and analyse all the customer data available, and then deliver insight as well.  Location data, blogs, purchase data, weather data, sensor data, social network data… what is available for capture to organisations is immense and requires exceptional technologies to efficiently process the large quantities within an acceptable timeframe.  What businesses are now doing is taking the first steps towards mastering big data analytics (although mastering is probably the wrong word; more like ‘lassoing’).  The big data bubble is creating a renewed and necessary drive by organisations to understand what data is actually going to impact on their business, what data can be accessed and manipulated into actionable outputs, and how they can get true return on investment from their systems.

Businesses that are setting clearer objectives, keeping data more organised and starting with smaller pieces of the puzzle, will be better placed to transform their big data into smart data.

2.  Introducing BI for the next generation – Self-Service.

By far one of the fastest growing trends is the ICT department’s relinquishment of the title as gate keeper to information.  By providing end users with more visibility and access to data means analytical reporting and information has become the foundation for operational decisions and applications. This is causing a distributed BI landscape that is making the data warehouse concept much less prevalent, though challenges arise in how we manage this environment without going back to the spreadmart world of yesteryear.  The one thing that’s for certain, it’s keeping happy the research-focused, tech dependent, outcome driven next generation of our workforce.

3.  The whole truth and nothing but the truth, Master Data Management (MDM).

MDM is a suite of business focused processes, procedures and standards, and technology that aims to improve the quality of data to bring control of high-value data assets back to the business.  Essentially, it’s about finding the truth – a single source of high quality, consistent data made contextually relevant across the organisation.  This is perhaps the trend becoming most critical to organisations, particularly in sectors such as mining, oil & gas, and energy, where the ability to guarantee the accuracy of management reports, operational transactions and system information is crucial to maintaining health and safe practices.  Businesses looking to improve their master data need to first ensure there is the correct level of business engagement and enabling technologies to easily manage, cleanse and control the data.

Although the themes that are driving these BI trends are not new, there have been step-change movements in the last two to three years – and many organisations are still only in the early stages of adoption. These trends will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, further highlighting the need for organisations to be clear in identifying what the business drivers are for the BI initiatives.

I outlined a couple more top trends in my recent white paper, “Top 5 business intelligence trends in 2013: enabling insights from anywhere, anytime, in real time.”


James Bashworth is the Practice Lead for Business Intelligence at Velrada and a Senior Consultant with over ten years’ of experience in delivery of Business Intelligence, Data Governance, Architecture and Business Analysis services. James has worked internationally around Europe and Australia, in sectors that include resources, government and financial services.

In addition to being a certified Microsoft Business Intelligence specialist James is also a distinguished Microsoft Virtual Technology Solutions Professional (vTSP), a position held by a select few in Australia. As a vTSP, Microsoft leverages James’ expertise to consult on BI strategy, architecture, business requirements and solution definition, in support of key client objectives.

How To Create A Competitive Advantage: Learning From The Art Of Wine Making By Matthew Coppola

In a nutshell, a competitive advantage is gained by having what competitors dont have and doing what competitors dont do.A company can gain a competitive advantage by differentiating itself significantly to the extent that its products and/or services are a better offering in the customers product mindset than what the competition have to offer.Take for instance wine. Why does chardonnay produced from grapes grown in the Yarra Valley taste different from a chardonnay whose home is in Burgundy, France?

There are a number of ways a winemaker can change the taste of their wine. One way is by micro-oxygenating a red wine before bottling, which means introducing small amounts of oxygen which ages wine so that a young wine tastes like a mature one in 3 years instead of 10.

But the answer to the unique taste comes down to soil and climate.
With soil an expert winemaker will tell you that the best soils for growing grapes are the least fertile and rockiest soils.

Soils filled with gravel drain easily, dont hold water at the roots of the vine and so the grapes dont become filled with water, diluting flavours.
Like how different soils affect the taste of wine, in business strategy, a competitive advantage is gained by being different, unique and having resources and capabilities that cannot be easily copied to gain the same advantage.

By definition resources are the productive assets of the firm and capabilities are what the firm can do.

A good strategy will have the right resources and capabilities to be different.
For example to successfully play golf you need to know which golf putts are suitable for different scenarios

Same with business strategy.

Now resources are broken down into tangible, intangible and human resources.

Tangible resources can be easily identified, such as financial resources and physical assets.

Intangible resources are largely invisible, such as brand names, trademarks and intellectual property like patents and copyrights.

Human resources are the productive assets that employees offer such as their skills and built up company knowledge.

Once we have identified the organisations resources, we then ask two questions:

Firstly what opportunities are available to economise on their use?
It may be possible to use fewer resources to maintain the same level of business or use the same amount or resources to take on a greater level of business.

For example an accounting system designed to improve the control of cash and receivables will allow a business to operate with lower levels of cash and liquid financial resources.

A BA working on such an accounting system could then see how it relates to the organisations overall strategic plan and how with the new system it will be using less financial resources to support the activities of accounts receivable.

Secondly can we capitalise on the existing assets?

We might be able employ our existing resources better so that we get the most out of them.

A good example is an organisation promoting an employee to a higher position as the previous position may not allow the employee to reflect their true potential.

How To Implement A Strategic Plan: Learning from the Game of Monopoly by Matthew Coppola

Implementing a well-thought out strategy can result in a desirable outcome.

Monopoly is a great example. Although it is a game of chance there are elements of strategy which contribute to a successful win.

Firstly forget about cheating in business. It doesn”t guarantee winning.
In Monopoly the player who steals money from his opponent or does not remind the other player that they are due rent if they forget, may experience a short term gain, but the long term result could be negative, such as a loss in credibility and trust, and with a short term gain mentality, there is no future focus, so the strategy will be misguided.

Secondly, ethical behaviour and a sense of fair play, is just as important in Monopoly as it is in business.

In game strategy we refer to the situation when a player makes a course of action over a series of games, as “repeated games”.

A firm that takes on unethical conduct to craft a quick killing might benefit in the short term, but will end up paying for it in the long term.

Take for instance organisations that outsource manufacturing to low cost countries.

Yes it will result in cost savings, but may affect reputation of product quality.
However, a business that maintains an open-handed refund and makes a practice of giving customers the benefit of the doubt, might not be as profitable in the short run as a more rigid policy, but is more likely to lead to repeat business, customer loyalty, and long-term gains.

Thirdly maintain a healthy cash position. In Monopoly having a nice wad of cash around helps protect you from times when you land on high rent spot or you want to buy property or build houses.

Same with strategic planning, opportunities arise in the strategic scope which may not have been accounted for when the plan was initially developed. Cash position is a good indicator also of the health of an organisation and their ability to repay short term debts.

Fourthly in Monopoly, by having your hand in different areas you can be guaranteed of income, for example not just having one side of the board but having parts all over. Same in business.

Business diversification is a strategy to increase the variety of services and products within an organization. Diversification can be a growth strategy, taking advantage of market opportunities, or it may be aimed at reducing risk by spreading interests over different areas.

It can be achieved through acquisition or through internal research and development, and it can involve managing two, a few, or many different areas of interest.

There are two types of diversification strategies:

One type is horizontal diversification, which involves expansion into a similar product area, for example, a domestic furniture manufacturer producing office furniture.

In Monopoly it means acquiring all properties under one colour.
Another is vertical diversification, in which a company moves into a different level of the supply chain, for example, a manufacturing company becoming a retailer.

Vertical diversification in Monopoly entails acquiring utilities and other non-residential spots.

So what are the motives for diversification?

They are growth, risk reduction, and profitability.

To become the top player in Monopoly you need to acquire as many properties as you can and increase your cash flow by buying houses and hotels.

Players can reduce risk of losing or succumbing to landing on a high rental spot by acquiring as many properties and utilities as they can. That way, nearing the end of the game once everyone have bought houses and hotels, if you do land on a property or utility and you own it, well you avoid rent.
Profitability is also a key motive for diversification. In Monopoly, some properties offer very little rent value, but other properties offer very high rental return. And having a constant cash flow from owning numerous properties helps keep you profitable.

However, a key advantage of a specialised company over one that is diversified across a number of vertically linked businesses is the specialised company”s ability to develop distinctive capabilities. In Monopoly, by concentrating on one or a couple of property blocks on one side of the board enables you to have enough money to build houses and hotels on those properties quicker and with less risk.

And lastly In Monopoly try and team up with players who have a nice wad of cash for needed protection.

A strategic alliance is a cooperative relationship between firms involving the sharing of resources in pursuit of common goals. Having a strategic alliance can help you win against the big boys with more money. Acquiring another company can be expensive, but alliances are more targeted and cheaper way of accessing other company”s capabilities.

So all these points just in a game”

Therefore for an organisation, the most important factor is not luck, but the ability to recognise opportunities when they appear and to have the clarity of direction and the flexibility necessary to exploit these opportunities.
Seeing the benefits of a well thought out strategy takes time and patience. You won”t see the fruitages of a strategy over night.

We can learn this lesson on patience in the game of chess.
Many opportunities will come up that may divert your strategy on a tangent, and as attractive it may be, it doesn”t hurt to be patient and do your research by considering all the known options available.

In business grabbing an attractive opportunity can result in “first mover advantage” however, by being flexible and open to possibilities can result in a more optimal outcome.

Understanding the Business Environment: Learning from the Game of Golf by Matthew Coppola

The surroundings of the business has a huge impact on the outcome of any strategy.

Now an organisation may operate in a…..positive environment.

But what if it is operating in a…..negative environment?

Well then it may have detrimental effects to the business.

An organisation would be a smart company if they took good note of their surroundings.

Take for example….professional golf.

Professional golfers are not only good at accurately taking a swing and controlling the speed and height of the ball, but they also take into account how the environment affects their game.

Pro golfers even look at the type of grass used on the golf course they are playing at.

For example, certain types of grass will affect the size of a scuff mark or divot and your ability to create one.

Divots are the amount of grass that shoots out after you hit the ball. It is very annoying to have to fix and also if your ball lands in someone else”s divot.

Some grasses, such as bent grass, have a thinner and more delicate blade structure than most other grasses while their root structures are also more vertical.

Together these traits mean that these grasses more easily produce divots.

On the other hand, the Bermuda and fescue grasses that can be seen on a large number of golf courses in Queensland make it tougher to produce divots. These grasses feature wider and tougher blades.

PEST Analysis (political, economic, social and technical) is a technique we use to analyse the business environment.

But it can be very time consuming to do, and you would be forever finding new factors which may have little or no affect on your organisation”s strategy.

So what we need to do is go back to the fundamentals:

In making a profit, the firm needs to create value for customers. This requires an understanding of the customers:
Who are they? What do they like? Why do they buy?

In creating value, the goods and services are acquired from suppliers. So an understanding of the suppliers is required:
Who do they also supply to? What do they supply? How can we develop a better relationship with them?

Next, your organisations ability to generate profit from value creating activities depends on the competition and how intense it is, this then relies on an understanding of your competition:

Who are they? What are they good at? What aren”t they good at? Who are their customers? Why are they in business?

So your organisations business environment is formed by its relationship with three sets of players in the game: Customers, suppliers, and competitors.
This is its industry environment.

So a key part in understanding the game being played is the ability to read your customers and know how to satisfy their needs depending on changes in the business environment.

Professional golfers for example, read the grass by taking into account the characteristics of the putting grass used. This understanding enables them to be able to determine the “influence” on their ball “” that is, what factors will impact the direction and distance they require from a stroke.

There are two factors which influence their ability to read the grass “” slope and grain

Most greens are designed with some slope so they can drain away water and any green may include a number of slopes to influence your putt.
Grain refers to the tendency of a species of grass to grow in a certain direction.

Because greenkeepers rotate mowing patterns, a uniform pattern of grain generally is not established.

Still, it”s valuable to understand the impact of grain.

Grain has a tendency to run in the direction of the natural form of the land – away from hills and toward places where creeks and ponds naturally occur.
Exposure to sunlight at only certain times is another factor. For example, Bermuda grass has a tendency to grow toward the sun.

A professional will know whether they are putting the ball against the grain or not, and will change their style to suit.

So the solution to the problem of environmental change is to understand your markets characteristics, that is, what are your customer”s underlying needs, rather than what are the specific products your customers need.


Author: Matthew Coppola, Managing Director of Client Centric.

Client Centric – Executive Employment Solutions are a boutique employment services company specialising in executive and managerial level roles. We are committed to helping you succeed in your career and to do this we have the best staff on board to help you reach your goals. Our team are highly experienced and knowledgeable in a broad range of areas and expertise, so you get the best advice. We service clients all over Australia including Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Hobart.  We provide Resume Writing ServicesCover Letter WritingLinkedIn ProfilesAddressing Selection Criteria’s and we also offer a Job Application Service where we apply for jobs on your behalf and all you do is wait for the call. Please visit our website at to find out more.