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Business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools are invaluable to businesses: Data drive insights, enhance performance and enable forecasting. 

But different departments have different needs, so organizations often have several tools in place department-to-department. And, even within departments, dashboards may be spanned out based on users’ level of technical knowledge and skill. 

All told, this can create a complicated environment where data is walled off by department and not democratized, said Alvin Francis, VP of product management, business analytics and Watson applications at IBM. This makes information exchange difficult and bureaucratic.

“Data is critical for helping organizations deal with everything from inflation to shifting consumer expectations to supply chain disruptions,” said Francis. “They want to be able to give more of their team members access to data and analytics, but data silos and lack of specialized skills are big issues.”

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To help streamline this process, IBM yesterday announced Business Analytics Enterprise, a suite of business intelligence planning, budgeting, reporting, forecasting, and dashboard capabilities providing all users a view of data sources across the business.

“By having a collaborative platform, data from supply chain reports, inventory analysis and even sales reports can be reviewed together in the same dashboard by multiple teams,” said Francis. 

Advancing insights enables differentiation

Organizations can end up with multiple BI and analytics tools for a variety of reasons, said Dave Menninger, SVP and research director at Ventana Research. 

In some cases, he said, it’s the result of mergers and acquisitions. In other cases, different departments may have made independent purchases. Furthermore, different tools provide different sets of functionality. 

Menninger pointed out that in Ventana’s research, only five BI vendors out of more than 20 include planning capabilities in their offerings. 

But, according to Forrester, “advanced insights-driven organizations” are 1.6 times more likely (compared to beginners) to report using data, analytics, and insights to create experiences, products, and services that differentiate them within the market. 

As Francis pointed out, having multiple analytics tools can create bottlenecks in productivity, since many decisions makers may not have access to self-service data when they need it. 

For example, if a member of the sales team needs a report that only the operations team has access to, they have to reach out to request it, which can often result in a time and resource draining back-and-forth. 

“Having access to multiple tools may mean getting stuck in a carousel of windows and tabs and contacting multiple different people across the organization,” said Francis. Or, users may have to go through hours of training to learn how to use the tool containing the needed analytics. 

And, information gaps occur, which can ultimately result in errors in projecting how much inventory is needed. 

“A user should be able to go into a dashboard and pull real time insights that can inform their planning process,” said Francis. 

Data all in one place

IBM Business Analytics Enterprise allows users of every skill level to find the data they need in a single place, said Francis. 

“It’s like taking 10 open tabs in a window and condensing them down into a single, customizable page,” he said.

But it’s important to note, Francis said, that the tool is not just for data scientists, but for “information consumers in general.” Algorithms recommend role-based content, so even the least technical of users can view curated dashboards, said Francis. 

At the same time, he emphasized, the broadening of data access doesn’t mean that organizations have to compromise on data security and privacy, he said. 

“It’s definitely not about having one or the other,” said Francis. 

Organizations can automate guardrails for data governance and access controls with a “strong data architecture,” he said, which can help mitigate risks around data sharing and system breaches. 

A single environment

Also announced today, IBM Cognos Analytics with Watson now includes new integration capabilities and enhanced forecasting. Also, the company announced that IBM Planning Analytics with Watson is expected to be available as-a-Service on AWS later this year. 

IBM Business Analytics Enterprise has a broad set of capabilities, said Menninger of Ventana. This includes planning, which reduces the need to have multiple tools. The tool also provides access to analyses from a variety of different sources and vendors. 

“Without any additional development,” said Menninger, “the existing analyses across the organization can be accessible from within a single environment.” 

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