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The Convergence Of Social Media And BI

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsWednesday, July 28, 2010

The BI market is one that consistently strives to improve solution offerings by integrating new technology within their applications.  Enhancements in processing speeds, space allocations and data latency enable faster and timelier processing of data.  In addition, because of the plethora of structured and unstructured data that reside both internally and externally to the organization, decision makers require more visibility into the information that resides in multiple locations in order to make informed business decisions.  Technology has finally reached the point where it can meet the needs of businesses by delivering a single view of any business unit to aid in developing broader and deeper insights into overall performance.  This was the original promise of BI, which is only now becoming a realization.

Aside from technological advancements that help companies get the information they need faster, the way people interact with technology now includes iPads, BlackBerries, online communities and the like.  People are constantly connected, whether to work, friends or family and share information related to their lives and preferences.   Consequently, businesses have an exponential amount of information in regards to the demographics of consumers and their buying preferences.

The question becomes, how do businesses leverage this information in a way that can be beneficial?  With GPS to enable consumer tracking, customer product ratings and reviews to provide product feedback, online discussions, etc., the amount of data organizations can collect is amazing.  This article discusses the new role of social media within business intelligence applications and how this convergence will continue to increase as organizations integrate both social networking concepts within their current BI solutions and leverage the information being collected through social media channels to drive performance management initiatives.

The emergence of social media within business

The chatter involving how to integrate social networking within business is slowly leading to a transition in the way organizations manage their processes.  For instance, companies will research potential hires by looking at their Facebook profiles or LinkedIn recommendations.  The way people present themselves within their online communities can affect how they are perceived by potential employers and may lead to either positive or negative outcomes based on how a person appears on a personal level.  Also, portals are now becoming an integrated community within organizations as opposed to a place that people look at or interact with rarely.

These examples affect the way technology is represented within the company.  It also shifts the way people interact with computers by creating an expectation that they can access what they want, when they want it.  Whether within BI applications specifically or through a collective approach to computer use, broader access to data and analytics leads to broader insights and collaboration.  Portal use now allows disparate business units or employees in different locations to communicate regarding projects and to share ideas within a community-like setting.  Consequently, the more importance businesses place on collaboration, analytics and process management, the more important the role of community and social media will become.  

The importance of BI to decision makers and social media integration

BI solutions are beginning to integrate social media concepts within their applications.  Collaboration and sharing information across the business are the starting points of BI and social media.  Solution providers are enhancing their offerings to enable more integration with operational solutions, annotations and conversations among various end users, interfaces that mimic social networking sites, and self-service models that increase overall ease of use and the ability to share information across the organization.  These changes lead to more information visibility, which in turn leads to more informed decision making.

As organizations start to adopt these applications and apply social networking broader across multiple business units, the ability to use BI as a tool that transcends any one business need translates into the ability to create a centralized information source that moves towards an enterprise approach to BI adoption.  Although many companies develop separate solutions for individual departments, the reality is that managers and analysts can make more informed decisions with access to information that might be outside of their reach.  By integrating social networking concepts and features within business intelligence applications, businesses are better able to provide employees with the right information at the right time to increase the likelihood of better decisions and performance management.

Leveraging social networking data to drive corporate performance

In addition to applying social networking within an organization, businesses are starting to leverage the information collected online to help drive performance.  Marketers have always been hard pressed to quantify the success of their campaigns - and with ecommerce, increased competition decreases the ability to effectively manage customer satisfaction.  The ability to identify how customers feel about products and services, what conversations are taking place, how competitors are leveraging social media to increase market share, etc. lets businesses draw on the wealth of information being collected online to help drive analytics and performance management. 

The use of social networking analytics within a BI framework takes this to the next level by enabling the integration of predictive analytics with content directly related to sales, after-sales sentiment, and competitive information.  This combination, in addition to built-in algorithms and current internal analytics, can take BI use to the next level.  Overall, organizations can learn a lot about their business, their customers and their competition by leveraging the information collected within social networking settings.

Takeaways

The convergence of BI and social media is still new.  There is much talk about how the data collected online will affect organizations and how they conduct business.  In addition, employees now demand better and easier ways to access information on a daily basis.  Add to this customer expectations, increasing competitive pressures, and the increasing reliance on analytics to make business decisions and companies will begin to rely more heavily on the integration of their BI applications within a social media framework.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is the channel expert for BI for the Mid-Market at B-eye-Network and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.


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