What is Business Intelligence?

VanQ-november-med What is Business Intelligence?

What is Business Intelligence?

Modern companies are compiling a huge amount of data on a daily basis. Answering the question of what to do with all this information is the domain of business intelligence. BI covers a large range of functions within a firm; including everything from database compilation to the creation of presentation materials. BI tasks typically center on using powerful software suites to quickly analyze and present a company’ sdata to stakeholders in a fashion that allows them to readily make decisions. The ultimate goal of business intelligence is to render the decision-making process as efficient, accurate and fast as practicable.

Business Intelligence Questions

Business intelligence processes should allow a company to speedily address five key concerns:

  • Show what happened
  • Track what is currently happening
  • Explain why these things happened
  • Offer insights into what may happen
  • Inform decision makers about specific beneficial options

Most companies have pretty good raw data regarding what has happened. Even small businesses with little BI infrastructure can point toward sales receipts and inventory totals to frame a reasonably constructive narrative about the past.

Where real competitive advantages are emerging is in tracking what’s currently happening. A company with a serious BI system in place has the ability to analyze sentiment and trends in real time; allowing them to respond faster when critical inflection points have been passed. For example, a company can monitor social media outlets and its own customer service records to detect consumer discontent before it blows out of proportion. Similarly, companies can observe trends in real-time and task team members to explore them before competitors jump on them. A solid BI process can give a business a huge first-move advantage even in highly competitive niches.

Benefits of BI

Anything a company does has the potential to be done better with the benefit of business intelligence. Some operations have entire business models that are based on crushing their competitors by simply streamlining essential processes within their operations. Imagine operating in a market where margins are very thin and inventory requirements are huge. It’s easy to see where a company that can use BI systems to economize its processes for handling inventory could outpace a less nimble competitor quarter by quarter.

Big data’s a big deal, right? It’s not enough, however, to have a lot of data. Lots of companies are sitting on databases full of information, and very little of is actionable if it’s never properly compiled and presented. The main benefits of BI arise from how data is compiled and translated into actionable information. There’s already an arms race among the biggest companies in the world to produce the best BI, and corporations are spending billions of dollars to gain millisecond advantages over their competitors.

Business intelligence can be applied to a lot of highly specific problems. For example, many financial institutions now profile who their ideal customer is. They make a point of sending offers to those individuals who they feel will form long-term relationships with their companies. This requires having BI processes in place to filter through existing information about current customers; in order to produce accurate predictions regarding who will be the best future customer. It also demands a commitment to running new experiments all the time to see what insights are waiting to be gathered.

Importance of BI

Business intelligence is increasingly becoming a swim-or-die proposition. The analytics boom in Major League Baseball, for example, allowed several perennial losing teams to rapidly ascend by making smarter decisions. Teams could gain an edge in a variety of ways, including how they scouted prospects; which free agents they spent money on and how they managed players’ health. The biggest name in the sport, the New York Yankees, is still struggling to catch up in the analytics game against several previously weaker opponents.

Failing to build a solid Bi infrastructure in the modern business world is tantamount to unilateral disarmament. If one convenience store chain is monitoring the total customer experience while its competitors aren’t even tracking equipment failures, it’s easy to predict who’s going to thrive. If one retailer is fumbling around trying to standardize its data while another company has a smoothly implemented system in place; the company with the better implementation is going to be able to respond faster to problems and opportunities.

Good BI isn’t just elemental. It’s evolutionary.

Conclusion

Business intelligence requires a broad dedication to processes across an entire operation. It requires putting in software systems and standards with the intent of compelling everyone to conform to their use. It also demands a willingness among higher management to listen to the insights that are bound to bubble up from below. Building a BI infrastructure is no longer a choice for many companies. This is because competitors are either already doing it or bound to start soon.

Tactical Outsourcing vs Strategic Outsourcing

The term outsourcing scares people for various reasons, but there is no reason that it should. Outsourcing is very effective for certain situations, especially when developing software solutions. For a company to grow its internal IT department, it must search for a qualified candidate and go through the long process of interviewing, hiring, and training the new employee. This can take a long time and cost the company a lot of money. The alternative to this is outsourcing. But, what exactly is the difference between tactical outsourcing and strategic outsourcing?

There are two main types of outsourcing that you can find for your IT needs: tactical and strategic.

Tactical Outsourcing

Tactical outsourcing refers to hiring a firm to perform specific development functions as part of your existing software development process. You retain oversight of the project, giving you more control over the process. This is very helpful if you need a project done on short notice because you can avoid the long process of searching for the right candidate.

Tactical outsourcing is also helpful when you have a short-term need for a highly skilled developer in a specific technology that you do not normally use. A developer with the right skill set may be very difficult to locate, so going through a skilled tactical partner can mean fast turnaround and lower overhead than hiring internal resources.

With tactical outsourcing, you maintain the planning process, including gathering requirements from stakeholders and designing the system that the developers will create. This increases management overhead, but it also allows you to have more control over the process and more knowledge about what is happening. They are familiar with your processes and answer to you throughout the process.

Strategic Outsourcing

Strategic outsourcing involves partnering with an IT company that provides top-down services. They handle the entire planning and development processes, leaving you free to focus more on other aspects of the business. This is nice for some companies because they are able to pay prices per project instead of per hour of work.

With either type of outsourcing, you should address a few key points with your prospective outsourcing partner. The first is documentation because you never know what could happen in the future. If a support issue comes up or you need new functionality added to an existing product, you will need proper documentation to know how the product is supposed to work. Ensuring that your partner provides proper documentation, both in the code and out, can be vital to handling these situations.

You should always provide full technical information about your requirements to your outsourcing partner. Leaving out any details could cause severe problems as you go through the process. Always remember to include all of your key decision makers and stakeholders in discussions to ensure that everybody’s goals align properly. Repeated changes over time can greatly increase the cost of any project, so planning everything up front is vital to a successful partnership.

You should always examine your prospective partner’s portfolio, looking for consistent, high-quality performance over time. Not all outsourcing companies are equal, and even great companies may not be the right choice if their goals do not align with yours. It is also important to note for what industries the company has worked. If the company has worked for other companies in your industry, it could mean that they are already familiar with many of your processes and terminology, making communications much easier.

Conclusion

Both outsourcing solutions could work for you, depending on your situation. Many companies prefer tactical outsourcing because it allows them to maintain more control over the process and usually means less of a commitment. However, the trade off is significantly more involvement from the client. 

At Optimus, we find there is a lot to gain from ongoing strategic outsourcing partnerships, and clients typically reap more benefits: less hands-on management, higher quality work, faster delivery and greater flexibility.

For an in-depth look at strategic outsourcing, check out our guide.

Download our Guide to Strategic Outsourcing

(Note: This post has been updated with new information.)

What to Look for in an Outsourcing Partner

How to know if an outsourcing partner is right for you?

Bad experiences with an outsourcing partner are often traceable to badly designed selection processes or the use of deficient selection criteria. Whereas, you can find ample guidance online on how to build a robust selection framework, we will share the most important vendor attributes for comparing and contrasting outsourcing companies to ensure you select one right for you.

Sizing a Vendor to Your Project

When optimizing the capabilities of an IT provider to your project, size matters. If your organization can fund nine-figure deals, then the number of companies to field such a deal is not large, whereas for smaller projects you have a lot more choices.

The key is to find a provider of a size that will consider your deal to be a big deal. This significantly increases the odds that your project receives the attention it deserves by having their most talented staff assigned to it. Additionally, right-sizing usually provides meaningful accommodation in contract terms and professional treatment from the executive staff.

The risk of choosing an outsourcing partner that is too small, however, is that they may not have a sufficient level of technical capabilities, skilled staff, certifications or experience to deliver what you hope to accomplish.

Local Presence with Global Delivery

If your company is based in North America, then choose an outsourcing partner whose headquarters are there. They will better understand your industry, business model, goals and processes since you are working within a similar cultural context.

Your company also benefits from local contractual protections should your project hit a serious speed bump. It also provides the distinct possibility that they can provide onsite staff at your site, which improves communication and timely escalation of critical issues.

However, vendors that also provide delivery from offshore will save you money. Furthermore, vendors with a global presence could directly interact with your own global sites and offer the possibility to add shifts in other time zones that work collaboratively with your local staff, which provides you with 24-hours a day of development.

Consistency in Quality and Delivery

Until recently, the majority of IT outsourcing firms sold themselves mainly on cost and based contracts on hourly rates. These days, more companies compete on their ability to produce results. Those results should include both timely delivery and measurably high-quality products or services.

During your due diligence, evaluate the vendor’s past work and pursue references to gauge how well the vendor has delivered on their promises. Have a detailed discussion with their senior staff about how their corporate culture reinforces the importance of on-time delivery and high quality throughout the ranks.

When you are convinced they will deliver what they say they will, it is still prudent to start the relationship with one or more smaller projects of a few months in duration to validate their work and timeliness for yourself.

Communication Capabilities

Well-planned, thorough and frequent communication is critical when using an IT outsourcing partner. This goes double if the company you select has offshore resources, since both time and language may present communication barriers.

How much, when and how you each of you communicates with the other should be driven by the client. Both sides must identify primary contacts for specific areas. These people must have seconds in cases where the primary is unavailable. Daily meetings with program and development managers are not unreasonable as are weekly meetings with BDMs or department managers. To gauge frequency, ask yourself how much time you can afford to lose should a process go astray.

Vendors uncomfortable with your communication plan should raise a red flag with you, since this is such an essential element in your business relationship.

Their Range of Skill Sets

Except for the largest IT organizations, most companies do not have all the personnel with all the right skill sets for every project. When evaluating outsourcing partner’s technical and process capabilities, strike a balance between broad and deep skills that align with your business and project needs.

If you hope for the vendor to work on more than one type of project or you wish to establish a long-term relationship, then one with a broader range of skills may work out better in the long run. A possible drawback is that a project comes along that is a mismatch for the vendor’s skills and quality suffers.

Many enterprises today recognize that one size does not fit all, especially when working with small to mid-size IT outsourcing companies, so they choose to multi-source these services. This can complicate internal management of vendors, but often the point solutions that smaller vendors provide are of higher quality, with faster delivery and at the same or lesser cost.

Conclusion

Proper selection of an IT outsourcing vendor will significantly augment your company’s strategy and operations. Lack of due diligence, however, often leads to negative consequences plus lost time and money.

Use the selection criteria above along with a robust process comparing business requirements against each company’s pros and cons. This will lead to asking the right questions and building a seamless working relationship with a talented development provider.

The Optimus Information model is designed to allocate the right mix of local and offshore resources in order to optimize expertise, speed and cost. We provide the ability for development teams to quickly add specialty skills to a development team without incurring long-term costs.Our successful track record speaks for it’s self, and we love to share past work we’ve done. Our global team is made up of a diverse range of experienced professionals, allowing us to work on complex solutions requiring a wide variety expertise. The result for our customers is the capability to far better manage resource capacities and outcomes.

Contact us if for your next IT project. We’re always happy to help.

Contact us now

(Note: This blog has been updated with new information)

Top Ten Software Development Outsourcing Trends for 2020

What are the Top Ten Software Development Outsourcing Trends for 2020?

Originally, the primary motivation to outsource software development was to achieve lower labor costs, but continuing and emerging business and technology trends in 2016 are leading to new client requirements on outsourcers. When choosing an outsourcing partner, more and more businesses are looking for closer alignment to their business goals, flexibility demands and quality requirements.

Thus, clients are evaluating outsourcing companies via increasingly sophisticated criteria. The smartest software providers are reciprocating by developing new service models while taking advantage of many of the same technologies driving these current trends.

1) Moving from Hours to Results

In order to ensure that enterprises are getting what they need for their money, most are now seeking out providers who operate on a results-driven model versus rates based on time. Furthermore, clients are demanding that payment schedules be based on satisfactory achievement of those results versus upfront fees or retainers.

2) Greater Flexibility

Clients are looking for providers who provide on-demand services without locking them into long-term contracts or volume commitments. This enables client companies to respond more efficiently to rapidly changing market demands. In response, development providers who are moving operations to cloud resources are the ones most likely to adapt to the increased demand for flexibility.

3) Utilization of DevOps Practices Continues Apace

DevOps continues to attract adherents as it goes mainstream in up to 25 percent of companies this year, according to Gartner. Most of the IT departments in these organizations are transitioning to a service center model. Service providers who already operate in this manner will more easily blend into these organizations’ processes and decision-making apparatus.

4) Security Risk Perception Increases

A key concern within any outsourcing strategy is security. With the growing presence of the Internet of Things and the potential for an exponentially larger attack surface, software development outsourcing companies must ensure that their own security vulnerabilities are addressed in a manner that will win the confidence of client decision makers. Demonstrating solid track records and establish policies is of high importance when selecting a vendor.

5) Managing Infrastructure as Code

Amazon’s AWS has enabled the application of software development change management systems to development and deployment infrastructure. AWS is dedicated to making this paradigm increasingly easier with new APIs and services. Outsourcers who adopt this practice are reaping large benefits in their software support, testing and deployment efficiency by synching servers, storage and networking infrastructure to precise versions of the source code.

6) Multi-Sourcing Technologies Impacts Integration

Client companies are utilizing a more complex mix of software products and services this year. This multi-sourcing of technologies presents in-house management challenges, and a rise of new vendor management offices. The challenge for software providers is meeting new performance and integration standards from VMOs. Compliance failure may result in the outsourcer being dropped in the interests of streamlining operations.

7) Business Process Outsourcing Being Replaced by Robotic Process Automation

The software outsourcing industry in 2016 will continue to feel the influence of the rise of RPA. In fact, one of RPA’s touted benefits is the reduction of outsourcing, especially via cloud-based RPA services. Those outsourcers who can adapt by offering relevant automated services in the most responsive, scalable and efficient manner are the ones who can survive and profit from this trend.

8) Outsourcing Selection is Speeding Up

Along with the adoption of agile methodologies within software development, business decisions are also being made with more agility and higher velocity. Outsourcers will increasingly recognize this trend as more clients endeavor to close smaller deals faster in order to stay ahead of their competition.

9) Adept Companies Are Being More Selective with What They Outsource

Many organizations who originally turned to outsourcing to compensate for a lack of internal expertise and resources have grown more sophisticated over time. They are progressively learning to be more selective regarding what to do in-house versus handing off to an outsourcing provider. Organizations are looking deeper into what their core competencies are. And what they can outsource to make themselves more efficient in-house. Their motivations are usually the desires for greater flexibility, responsiveness or cost reductions. All of which software providers need to be sensitive to in contract negotiations.

10) Outsourcing Company Accommodation Increasing

It is no longer the case that companies seek out only the lowest cost provider. Sophisticated outsourcing companies will respond tactically and strategically to all the trends discussed here to grow or to survive. This trend is seen in the greater tendency for outsourcers to adapt and adjust terms or offer new services in an effort to deliver the best product and service.

Conclusion

The outsourcing industry is more fluid than ever this year with clients focusing less on price per se and more on results, quality, integration, security and agility from software development providers. As you adapt to your own fast-moving markets and the rise of paradigm-shaking technologies such as IoT and on-demand infrastructure, so do we. Optimus stays two steps ahead in order to support your business in all your software and IT requirements.

At Optimus, we consistently stay on top of these trends while leveraging the forces driving them to bring you the solutions you need. Contact us to help with your next development, testing, cloud, BI or mobile project.

info@optimusinfo.com
604-736-4600

(Note: This post has been updated with new information)

Microsoft BI Gold Partner

What are some benefits of working with a Microsoft BI Gold Partner?

Recently Optimus Information was certified as a Microsoft BI Gold Partner in Vancouver, British Columbia. This new partnership provides many benefits and opportunities for our clients, which include:

  • Firstly, access to Microsoft software and in-depth product information that helps to guides clients to the right tool and strategy for their Business Intelligence initiative.
  • Secondly, various training materials, which help facilitate workshops on Microsoft’s platform and tools with the client.
  • Virtual labs and independent study resources that can be used as reference points when discussing a client’s technical problem.
  • For any client-related technical issues, Microsoft offers a specific number of hours of Technical Enablement and advisory services from Microsoft consultants.

Additionally, clients will find it cost effective to engage with a Microsoft Partner that provides umbrella services (i.e. .Net development, BI, etc.), instead of hiring an individual for each requirement.

Microsoft’s definition of a Gold Partner:

“Gold competencies demonstrate your best-in-class expertise within Microsoft’s marketplace. Earning a gold competency is evidence of the deepest, most consistent commitment to a specific, in-demand, business solution area, along with the distinction of being among only 1 percent of Microsoft partners worldwide that have attained this outstanding degree of proficiency.”

Furthermore, OptimusBI has extensive experience, ranging from reporting services to data management, helps clients set themselves apart from their competition. To provide world-class service, we adhere to a proven methodology. We provide a superior client experience, and become a true business partner on every project. We bring a broad depth of industry, business, and technology experience to projects. Lastly, our team focuses on customer satisfaction, productivity, and quality of work. OptimusBI views our Microsoft Gold partnership as an integral part of our offerings.

 

Note: This blog post contains new and recent information on the topic.