When Big Data Has Nothing to Do With Size

June 27, 2012 by Susan Galer 0

Foto: istockphoto

It’s no secret that data volumes continue to explode. Or, that analytics software helps companies make sense of what’s going on with their customers today and even the future. However, what many people may not realize is that every company needs to understand and use the data for advantage, regardless of size.

“For companies of all sizes, visibility into not just the past and present, but also the future, powers faster, better decision-making to stay competitive, retain customers, cut costs, and generate new revenue opportunities,” says Emily Mui, Director, Ecosystem & Channels, Solution Marketing.

Intuition is Out: Integrated Facts are In

Small and midsize companies typically use analytics software for standard reporting or siloed customer-facing processes. But real-time, integrated analytic solutions allow them to do much more. The benefits cut across every industry and job function says Mui. Physicians at small hospitals can use dashboards to track disease outbreaks. Decision-makers in marketing can monitor pipelines real-time, exploring ‘what if’ scenarios to anticipate and act quickly for competitive advantage. Marketing can identify customers who are cutting back on purchases and steer them to the right products at the right time and price, in the right channel, to retain them. Finance teams can see aging receivables faster and take action to stay on track. Customer service managers can see the customer’s buy history along with what products are in stock instantly, fulfilling orders faster. Using social media analyses, everyone can mine sites for customer sentiment such as immediate response to product launches, or to head off potential reputation and service issues. For people across the company, reports that once took hours, days or weeks, not only take seconds, but also don’t require IT assistance.

As an example of real-time, integrated analytics, Andreas Wolfinger, Vice President, SAP Business One,  Head of Product Management, points to SAP Business One analytics powered by HANA, SAP’s in-memory computing solution that, “gives anyone across the company immediate access to trusted information for faster, better decisions.

Take a Problem-Solving Approach

To get the most benefits from analytics solutions, Mui advises small and midsize companies to begin with the business problems they want to solve. “Are you trying to improve sales performance or generate more leads?” she asks. Companies also need to keep the users in mind, balancing standardization and customizability. Mui explains, “You want to make sure the solution is sufficiently standardized so it’s easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of training. It should also be easily configurable as you add new users who may want different capabilities.”

Easy access to information is crucial to understanding and using all of the data that’s collected. “Look for solutions that deliver the information in colored graphics including pictures and charts,” advises Wolfinger. “With good data visualization, decision-makers can quickly get a high level overview, identify trends and correlations, and drill down into the details with ease.”

Companies should also make sure they can get data real-time anywhere on any device, particularly mobile, Wolfinger adds. “Competitors and customers won’t wait in today’s always-on world. Businesses have to know what’s going on when it happens so they can make better decisions faster.”

Insights Meet the Customer Promise

FreshDirect is a fast-growing business that uses SAP ERP and SAP Business Objects to bring thousands of fresh, healthy groceries to customers in New York City every day. This online grocery delivery company buys fresh foods directly from the source, putting food on customers’ tables that is four to seven days fresher than items from a typical supermarket. To meet this customer promise, FreshDirect needs real-time visibility from the moment the company buyer selects the freshest fruit to when that fruit is delivered into the consumer’s refrigerator.

“SAP has helped us see our business very clearly, in a cost-effective manner. We can put in place better controls and enable managers to run their operations more efficiently,” says Jason Ackerman, CEO and Founder, FreshDirect.

Using data gleaned from SAP BusinessObjects reports, managers can dig into customer data by product to identify trends, understand the impact on business, and even recognize products either negatively affecting customer loyalties or bringing them back for more. Executives proactively address process issues within the plant—whether during the picking operation or the assembly line. Delivery vans are constantly monitored on real-time screens. When traffic stops, operations control takes action so the customer gets delivery as scheduled, sending a back-up van or rerouting the driver. All of these improvements save the company approximately half a million dollars in customer credits due to packaging or delivery problems. With on time delivery rates at 98%, satisfied customers keep coming back for more.

Gaining Global Agility

Even the smallest companies need real-time information to sustain their agile advantage, particularly in fast-paced, global markets like high technology. Even Systems Company, Ltd. is a Taiwan-based manufacturer that brings innovative touch screen monitors, computers, and kiosks to people in a variety of places including restaurants, hotels, airports, retail stores, manufacturing floors, hospitals and nursing homes. Using SAP Business One with SAP Crystal Reports, Even Systems has automated its entire sales process in multiple languages from production schedule and sales quote approvals to inventory control. They selected SAP Business One for its comprehensive, flexible, global capabilities.

“We can control our management process in one system that connects various departments together, and have a clear process flow,” explains Olga Hu, Operations Manager. “Crystal Report integration allows us to collect all the information we need to see.”

For companies of all sizes, there’s no surefire path to growth in today’s complex, uncertain environment. What’s clearer is the real challenge: knowing precisely where the business stands and what the future could bring. Thanks to advanced analytics like SAP’s software solutions, innovative small and midsize businesses can gain the insights they need to compete and win.

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