Business Intelligence (SAP BI): what is it all about?

Even though Business Intelligence may seem to be rocket science, it turns out to be used much more frequently than we might think. Universities, sports leagues and business giants: how are their activities based on BI and how do they make use of the potential of gathered data? Here are a few interesting examples.

Business intelligence and analytics software application’s market size reached 13.9 billion USD in 2018, and is expected to increase to 16.5 billion in 2023, according to data from Statista portal. SAP SE is the second leading company in this sector, with revenue of 2.1 billion USD in 2018.

In the last few years, data have become an extremely fashionable and widely discussed issue. On the one hand, there are us – web users, who often shudder at the very thought of such a possibility and are often clueless about the subject and the rules of acquiring information. On the other hand, there are businesses that will pull out all the stops not only to meet consumers’ needs, but even to anticipate and generate them.

We are reluctant to talk about our customs and shopping preferences, but we undoubtedly produce increasingly more data that, when reasonably used in Business Analytics, help to improve the quality of life and services and, therefore, make many things easier. Take, for instance, this example: traffic lights combined with traffic intensity sensors will allow drivers to avoid the hated moment when they are waiting for a green light at a completely empty intersection. Useful, isn’t it?

Business Intelligence (SAP BI): what is it?

Business Intelligence should be defined in two ways: as a business philosophy, and as a set of tools supporting its implementation. If we focus only on the implementation of the IT system, the benefits will be small, and the disappointment and costs will be huge. The aim of Business Intelligence is to transform and standardise data being gathered in the course of company operations, and then to generate advanced analyses that the company can use as a basis for changing its production process, the direction of expansion or product offer.

One of the necessary parts of this jigsaw puzzle is the data warehouse, which is responsible for the gathering and storage of information and for its standardisation, which means the adaptation of its format to SAP BI solutions for the purpose of its cohesiveness and analysability. This is a simplified model, but it reflects the idea of this solution pretty well.

What are the benefits of using Business Intelligence in the business world? The package of SAP Business Analytics’ benefits is quite large: analyses constitute a reliable basis for the decision-making process, which also simplifies this process and involves fewer people. The possibility of forecasting certain indicators is a recipe for quickly changing market trends. Some can be “anticipated”, or quickly addressed.

SAP BI is not as terrible as it is painted – who has it already?

Boston City: associated with rigid bureaucratic structures, metropolises are becoming increasingly “smart”. The goal of Boston City is to improve the efficiency of services provided to inhabitants and companies. Apart from the implementation of standard management systems, SAP BI was also implemented to help the city gather data, track 2000 indicators of efficiency and use them as a basis for forecasting, proactive measures and the improvement of the quality of life in the city. The strategy adopted includes the introduction of the Citizen Insight mobile application delivering the most important information to inhabitants via tablets and smartphones.

Thanks to the utilisation of the SAP HANA platform (which makes real-time data analysis much faster), crime rates in the city have decreased by 55%, and the city has reduced the number of delayed formal decisions from 600 to merely 10.

The University of Kentucky: the American university has made a technological step towards the improvement of the retention rate among its 28,000 students. The conditions of education and the use of university resources have been improved on the basis of SAP Business Analytics solutions. The efficiency of the IT system has increased, making it possible to perform operations that previously lasted 20 minutes… within 1 second!

After 9 months, the costs of the investment were recovered, databases were compressed by 77%, and the university gained a profit of more than 6 million USD. The University can provide more intensive support to students who need additional aid merely on the basis of the data gathered.

National Football League (NFL): 150 years of tradition, 32 professional teams. The American football NFL league is a cult institution that develops on the basis of data gathered in order to increase the loyalty of football fans more effectively and to take care of its own administrative teams.

An element of this analytics strategy is Fantasy Football – a virtual league that, upon addition of statistical data based on over 100 indicators for each player, has become a much more thrilling entertainment building the commitment of fans (the number of players rose from 27 to 33 million year by year).

NBA: the aim of the world’s most famous basketball league was to provide the most accurate game statistics, which have been kept for 65 years, to all interested parties (fans, media, teams)! The immensity of statistical data required tools that could contain all of them and analyse tens of thousands of queries at the same time.

Today, the website handles 4.5 quadrillion statistical combinations: the entire history of the NBA league. The quality of data increased the number of hits on the website by 66% within one season. The website functions in 215 countries and 47 language versions.

These are only a few examples of successful implementations of Business Analytics, and more specifically Business Intelligence solutions that discreetly make life easier for us. BI is a fascinating field, and the leading producers of these solutions (SAP SE, Oracle, IBM) have not said their last word yet.

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