6 Ways Embedded Analytics Can Change Your Business in 2017

By Juan Martinez Features PCmag

The ability to integrate business intelligence (BI) and data visualization tools into your business software isn't a particularly new concept. However, some organizations still see embedded analytics as a luxury item, opting instead to import software-driven data into a standalone BI tool from which they can run static, past-tense reports.

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For those organizations, embedded analytics could be a game-changer. Not only does it simplify how you access business data, it makes your workers smarter, more proactive, and more independent than they could possibly be running reports in standalone BI tools. I spoke with John Doyle, Director of Product Marketing for Microsoft Power BI about the many ways that embedded analytics can turbocharge your business.

"All companies need to embrace a data culture," said Doyle. "The ability to get insight and take action and make it accessible to everyone in the organization is how you gain a competitive advantage."

1. Predictive Analytics

Pulling BI data into your enterprise software lets you leverage machine learning (ML) to make smarter business decisions. Here's how: When you have access to all of your business data within one tool, your analytics software is able to combine real-time data with historical data to more accurately predict business trends. Think about it like this: When your software is kept in silos, you're only able to pull historical information in order to make business decisions. The lag time that exists between when you run your third-party software report to when you can ultimately take action on that data leaves a gaping, temporal hole of real-time information that could have been useful in your future decision making.

"By building in the insight and reporting inside the software, you'll be able to offer up predictions for the future from directly within the software," said Doyle. "You won't then have to leave the app, go somewhere, and come back because a lot of time is lost [that way]."

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2. Customizable Visual Storytelling

Most of the reports in your enterprise software are comprised of static graphs and charts that tell a momentary story about how your business is performing. BI tools, when embedded within your customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, give you access to interactive, real-time, customizable data visualizations. You'll be able to click through, drill down, and build out reports based on how you need information delivered, rather than based on how your software vendor envisioned.

Here's a real-life use case: If you own a retail store, then your embedded analytics can pull CRM, ERP, and e-commerce data into a visualization that actually depicts your showroom floor. Your employees can click on items as they would lay on shelves and they can see in real time as inventory is moved from one side of the floor to the other. This is just one example of how customizable and visual embedded analytics beats static pie graphs.

(Click to see the whole image. Via: Actuate.)

3. Better Data Sharing

Your embedded analytics can help your employees better determine which reports and which data need to be distributed to co-workers and partners. Using telemetry, embedded analytics will recommend new reports based on what people are actually using rather than on standard, preset reports recommended by your third-party software vendor. This may sound like a ho-hum feature but, if you run a multi-thousand-person enterprise, then having a system that can automate your reporting to help your teams make smarter decisions can save you countless amounts of time and money.

4. Better Data Integration

The ability to pull in data from various different sources and mash it up into one giant report is not only valuable from the standpoint of taking action but it's also an incredible time-saver. If you'd like to run mixed reports from all of your siloed, cloud-based and on-premises applications, then it would take massive amounts of time to run independent reports, parse through the data sets, combine all of the pertinent data into one set, and make your final report visually palatable. Even if you did this, you'd still wind up with old information that doesn't reflect current data.

Sure, you can program all of your software to automate this process but even this would take more time than is necessary. With embedded analytics, you can plug all of these systems and the pertinent reports into one chart. Best of all: The chart runs your collective information in real time so you'll never have to log out of one system to get access to data in another system.

5. Make Your Own Apps Better

Embedded analytics isn't just about multiple data sets. This feature lets your company make your own proprietary, internal apps more visually compelling. Rather than telling your developers to construct live, interactive data visualizations, you can work with Editors' Choice companies such as Microsoft and Tableau to design and format your app the best way you think it should be made to make it more appealing to users.

6. Education and Training

Because embedded analytics allows you to offer information directly within your enterprise apps, you can use the tool to show employees the impact of dramatic changes to your business. Show them what happens to an e-commerce website (and its revenue) when a server fails. Show them what happens to your social media following when an executive tweets something controversial. Do your employees spend too much money on business trips? Show them the difference between a good expense report and a bad one. And if they still don't understand, then overlay the amount they collectively spent on a steak dinner with an average employee's monthly salary.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.