Masters of calculation

15 October 2012 | Category: BI

What are the costs of Business Intelligence and what is the use thereof? Swiss Post has been investigating this question systematically for three years.

In the division “Postal Offices and Sales” (PV), the deployment of Business Intelligence is systematically monitored and managed. Investment decisions are calculated and information is at those places where it brings added value. Why does a business like Swiss Post need this?

Firstly: Business Intelligence today is no longer simply provided, but is systematically managed – particularly regarding costs, but of course also regarding usefulness. Approaches to this – such as Managed Services, Demand Management or Agile Development – demand reliable knowledge of BI investments and their use.

Secondly: to a certain extent, the company is almost forced to analysing its Business Intelligence: the topic of “Big Data” presents the company not only with an important investment decision, but also the likelihood of a methodological paradigm shift. Such decisions quite simply cannot be made without robust figures.

Last but not least: the high level of importance of Business Intelligence means that persons in charge today find themselves in positions requiring great leadership qualities – multinational, across the hierarchy and over all functions. These people are less techno “freaks” than cool, calculating managers, with the Business Case as their basis for action. For this, they require analysis about Business Intelligence.

The aim is better management of BI development and its use in business. And as in all management, here we have four components: first there is the management content, which then – secondly – is managed in a systematic process and, thirdly, it is supported by a BI application. And fourth: change! Often it is only the BI analyses that recognise potential for improvement in cost savings and use. This leads to change, for example in in-house shared service centre introductions. In this way, analysis about BI often support necessary changes and serve as an important source of information when measuring performance.

In operational practice, Swiss Post PV uses the BI evaluations with two platforms. First the monthly meeting of the BI management board, where the BI statistics on the use of reporting form a central point of discussion. If necessary, information up to the level of key figures is analysed. This includes the number of cases where reports are opened with a date and time or the frequency of reporting use by consumer group.

The committee for technical requirements is another platform. Here Thomas Steiner, head of Business Intelligence, proactively presents the use of reports and key figures, through which an assessment of the value contribution and the selection of individual reports runs not only top-down, but also bottom-up. This enables dynamic management of resources associated to Business Intelligence across relevant organizational units.

And how does the management of Swiss Post assess its usefulness? The analyses have lead to a definite change in awareness of the use of Business Intelligence in the company. Let us first take a look at development: today the individual Business Case places costs and usefulness far more in the foreground and is noticeably established in development as well as operations: instead of a mass of specially tailored reports – many of which have been effectively abolished – multiple use and decision support value now stand in the foreground. This is not only determined by Requirement Engineering, but is also lived by the project and development teams.

Today, platform costs in the field of operations can be managed much more purposefully. Not only the clarity and standardisation of the applications, but also the predictability are of immense help here. In addition, the use of external resources at peak application times can be planned more exactly.

Conclusion: Given the relatively low cost of carrying out analysis about BI, their usefulness is enormous – not least of all because the value contribution from the grey area emerges and becomes manageable. Actually, an appropriate Christmas present for every BI manager!

Author: Ralph Riede Partner & Management Consultant at Brightcon AG,

Brightcon AG, Switzerland
Tel: +41(0) 44/400 95 01

Brightcon GmbH, Germany
Tel: +49(0) 7 61/4 29 96 49