On July 17 TM is hosting BI Connect to help manufacturers understand the role of Business Intelligence in their organisations and the way in which this new piece of IT jargon might impact existing IT strategies. Here speakers at the event give their views.
Setting out a definition for BI, and therefore an anchor for discussion at BI Connect, Peter Throne, managing director of industry analyst firm, Cambashi, and also chairman for this Connect conference says: “The BI vision is of tools and analytics that can make use of the ever-growing volumes of available data to solve problems.”
He explains that while ‘traditional’ reporting from manufacturing IT systems might deliver, for example, a well structured and presented overview of products, list prices, and actual prices, BI tools should provide deeper analysis. “Perhaps they would identify price points where price reductions could trigger increased volume and improve profitability,” says Thorne.
Prioritising the challenges faced by manufacturers trying to get their arms around BI Thorne says: “I believe that for most people, the task of accessing and using existing data can seem like the biggest problem. Is using live data realistic? Do I need a data warehouse? How will I handle change?”
In contrast, Thorne says that many manufacturers seem confident that, given the right data platform and an experienced user, software applications will prove their own value by uncovering unexpected and useful data correlations. “This being the case,” says Thorne, “I think discussion at BI Connect of the data discovery process, and what you have to do to create and maintain the best data platform, will both be extremely valuable.”
The real world
Bringing direct insight into the motivation for manufacturers to get
to grips with BI, Tony Doran, European director of information systems at bearings manufacturer, NSK and a keynote speaker at BI Connect says that his organisation realised the need for better control of its business intelligence data in parallel with other business system projects. “NSK already did BI,” explains Doran, “in fact most companies do, but it was not as effective or controlled as it could be. The parallel projects created an opportunity to formulate a rigorous reporting strategy.”
Putting this strategy into practice is still a work in progress. “We have pockets of expertise,” says Doran “but need to join up our strategy to help drive the business forward.”
NSK’s historical IT infrastructure means that, like many manufacturers, it has multiple reporting databases and tools so duplicated data produces subtly different views from different areas of the business. “This means that business rules are not clearly defined – we are not always comparing like with like,” comments Doran. The challenge now is to bring those disparate islands of intelligence together and resolve a single outlook on organisational data.
According to Doran, the biggest obstacle NSK now has in realising its BI ambitions is “business appetite to resolve process and data issues in a controlled and consistent manner.”Another is “cultural change of data visualisation and moving away from physical reports and excel spreadsheets.”
Achieving this integrated vision may seem complex, but Steve Whittle, head of finance systems and data improvement at aero giant Roll-Royce and a BI Connect speaker says that manufacturers should not be scared off by BI. Simplifying the concept he says, “One of the first projects on which I worked over 30 years ago was to “pull together data” so that business decisions could be made from the resultant information, which by any name is BI.”
On July 17 Mr Whittle will share the Rolls-Royce BI journey, but he is keen to emphasize that the lessons learnt will be useful to SMEs as well as large organisations like his own. “BI is the “pulse” of the organisation,” he says. “It tells you whether it is at rest or being stretched, and unless being stretched you will be falling behind others.”
BI Connect takes place at The Belfry, West Midlands on July 17
Manufacturing speaker contributions will come from: Megger| NSK| Rolls-Royce| Tata Steel
Sponsors include: Board| PMSI| SAP
The event is also supported by the UK IT Association