Business Intelligence Can Stop The Spread of “Spread-Mart”

j0387953It’s a corporate equivalent of “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  If a spreadsheet is the only tool you have for analytics, chances are good you won’t produce any business intelligence.  E-mailed spreadsheets multiply like, well, Excel formulas as the documents and attachments move throughout your network.  They can turn any organization into a SpreadMart with lots of data but no knowledge or insights that let you plan for the future.

Most spreadsheets land with a thud in your email In-Box and sit there unaware of someone else doing different things with the same data.  And organizations spend tremendous amounts of time and resources to recreate or track down lost insights that could otherwise “live” and remain productive instead of creating limited, one-off solutions.  And shared knowledge could bridge the gaps between functions such as finance, marketing, production, shipping and planning.

For many organizations, the answer is “regulation” – tightening rules that prohibit data replication, downloading and applications or programs not blessed by the IT Department.  That can lead to rogue users who find their own systems for getting the answers they need.  And it creates a hidden, or shadow IT department of software no one knows is being used, or data leaking out of the organization on USB drives and non-networked storage. Every once in a while, one of these “illegal” users finds crucial information and justifies breaking the rules – but there IS a better alternative.

“We need to take the same data and create analytical models that satisfy the various personas that are going to look at the information so they have better decision making ability from it.  That is how Ram Naggapan, managing director of financial services company Pershing LLC, described it to Smarter Technology magazine in September 2009.

“If you look at the traditional ways you put out a spreadsheet, and people might pivot that spreadsheet but that’s about as far as they went,” he added.

Better collaboration, improved forecasting, clearer visualization and more accurate future planning are just a few reasons companies are choosing BI and analytics as a way to stop the SpreadMart.  Sharing those applications and the details they create tell users as much about the practices and assumptions of each department.  Then those assumptions can be tested, challenged and various scenarios considered.

Like opinions, no single view of information can match the impact of multiple points of view.

David Wallace
Spotfire Blogging Team

Image Credit:  Microsoft Office Clip Art