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May 27, 2020

In an unparalleled show of valor, audacious call of duty and impeccable military discipline, the legendary battle of Saragarhi, has a lot to offer on significance and practice of insights. Serving a larger purpose, the reliable communication link established by the post of Saragarhi proved vital. The need for a resilient defense led to the unique adaptation substituting telegraph with heliography ensuring continuous insights embedded in day-to-day activities. Engaging foot-soldiers to gather intelligence and discover hidden patterns, it was use of a technique that was fast-to-deploy and asset-light, while being adaptive and innovative.

Fast forward to the age of frugal business intelligence (BI), we find business users far more empowered and informed. The balance long ago started tilting towards value as against technological nuances of the earlier days of BI. Since today’s technology allows greater freedom in the hands of business and users, it must not come as a surprise to see businesses demand and command the course of BI on their own terms. What this simply means is that today’s stakeholders would welcome technology that is – fast-to-deploy, affordable, modular, adaptive in meeting industry-specific (and often growing) needs, and that brings innovation. Anything else that is said or sold around technology is much below the water level to be able to serve the purpose-driven, resilient and adaptable organizations of the modern times.

At the same time, as it turns out, the current state of disruptive transformation (often termed as the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0) has left businesses overwhelmed with the possibilities such as – big data, data discovery, in-memory computing, geo-spatial visualization, and machine learning. In this context, let us look at a few features of the modern-day frugal business intelligence (BI).

  • It does not stand alone, it’s embedded:  The term “embedded” may have eluded those seeking to derive greater value from BI investments. Thankfully research analysts have, for the benefit of stakeholders, simplified the idea of ’embedded’ BI as one that does not occur as a stand-alone activity, but in the moment when user is transacting normal business activities such as executing marketing campaigns, following up on sales leads, on-boarding customers, managing projects and collaborating with suppliers.
  • Data harmonization is a self-discipline: Harmonization of reference and master data cannot be done in a ‘black-box’ away from actual (business) users. The opportunity lies in eliminating the dependency on technical resources by making data-harmonization a self-discipline. It is ‘machine’ and ‘business’ working in harmony. While machine learning algorithm takes care of harmonizing most of the data, the business takes care of exceptions and outliers spotted by the machine learning algorithm. With embedded insights that are backed by harmonized data, modern BI offers much better contextualization for the business users.
  • Modern BI goes beyond data delivery into the realms of data discovery: Presenting reports and dashboards that have already been bucketed into preconceived visualizations and measures is not different from attempting to fit a square peg in a round hole. While there is nothing wrong in pre-built KPIs from the point of view of best practices, modern BI leaves enough head room for the creativity at the hands of users who are in the best possession of business knowledge and context. In providing data discovery options beyond standards reports and dashboards modern BI encourages deeper insights. 
  • It leverages cloud, capitalizes eco-systems: Data has gone boundary-less. Modern BI enables organizations to embrace data from external sources. Organizations need to harness data eco-systems, even if it comes at a cost. From ‘aggregators’ to ‘APIs’, data is well on its way to be driven by the fundamental principle behind the economy of production i.e. division of labor.
  • The Vantage Point triad dictates the path: The modern BI derives its true power from the Vantage Point triad, of 3Vs & 3Ps. The 3Vs (volume, velocity, variety) that make big data bring the raw material, for the 3 Ps (prescriptive, predictive, pervasive) to provide consumable insights. Prescriptive makes the insights consumable by bringing ‘conversational’ aspect suggesting causes & actions, while predictive on the other hand helps users navigate their business challenges with greater preparedness such as predicting - workloads, weather conditions, and anomalies in detecting frauds. Pervasive (the third P), helps in making practice of insights a way of life, by taking the use of BI to the grassroots and foot-soldiers.

Today data is a strategic (digital) asset. “Here & now - insights” is the new normal. It is therefore imperative that the state and promise of BI is relooked at, from an Industry 4.0 lens. It is important to closely consider the aspects of greater freedom along with immense possibilities offered by various features of affordable business intelligence, as discussed in this blog. Welcome to the future of business insights characterized by frugal business intelligence that is connected, democratic, embedded & intelligent. 

Ravindra Lalas is the Head of Marketing, Platform Solutions, a strategic business unit at TCS. In this role he is responsible for driving global marketing initiatives for our Business4.0™ platforms including TCS CHROMA™ (Talent 4.0), ERP on Cloud (Enterprise 4.0) and TCS TAP™ (Procurement 4.0). In his professional experience spanning over 15 years, Ravindra has worked on CRM, BI and analytics across industries such as Telecom, Travel, and Retail. Ravindra holds a master's degree in Industrial Engineering and graduate degree in Electrical Engineering.


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