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The New Age Of Business Intelligence And Data Visualisation
The New Age Of Business Intelligence And Data Visualisation 1024 512 Jon Hogg

Businesses have always amassed data, however the rate at which it is created has grown exponentially. Globally, we output 2.5 quintillion (that’s 18 zeros) bytes of data every day. Estimates suggest that 90 percent of the total data in the world was created in the last two years.

There are now myriad electronic devices, all connected to one another in an ever-expanding network of data generation. However, for all the data amassed, organisations are barely scratching the surface of what it is capable of doing and translating this into real commercial value.

In short, there is a vast amount of data at your fingertips, just waiting to be utilised.

Data Visualisation for Any Business

Until recently, business intelligence (BI) solutions were only available to global organisations with vast budgets at their disposal. One of the key barriers to entry was the ability to interpret these immense datasets that businesses were acquiring. As inter-connectivity has come to the fore, so too have BI solutions that answer the question of ‘what can I actually learn from this data?’

Tools such as Microsoft’s Power BI have bridged this gap, opening data visualisation up to more businesses than ever before. Businesses and organisations of all sizes and industries can now take advantage of the value in data visualisation and business intelligence. It has helped to democratise data, enabling powerful data analysis and decision making in a fast, accessible and easy-to-use platform.

Business Intelligence to Inform Decision Making

Power BI provides the tools to not only assimilate data from vast sources, but to interpret it as well. This is a crucial factor for executives, who can now immediately examine the data that is relevant to them and draw immediate conclusions. This leads to more informed and responsive decision making across a business, driven by actionable data insights.

Today, every business is a data-driven business. Utilising this data properly could create tremendous value for businesses. From greater market understanding, to more effective trend forecasting, the answers are now there for anyone to see. Powerful analysis can link the dots between data and performance, revealing new insight and opportunities.

Customisable Data Visualisation for Businesses

More importantly, platforms such as Power BI are customisable to the needs of a business. All businesses have different requirements and needs from their data, so a customisable and interactive platform is essential. It can help bridge and connect data silos from marketing, finance and sales, breaking complex data into clear insight across all departments and functions.

Even now, BI solutions and their applications are developing at a rapid rate. That’s why the BI market has exploded and is set to grow to a value of $22.8 billion by the end of this decade. It will become the cornerstone of high-level strategy and decision making, which was once impenetrable without vast budgets and specialised resource.

If you’re interested in business data solutions and would like to discuss your business requirements, talk to us today or call us on 0203 281 7342.

System Audits in the Insurance Industry
System Audits in the Insurance Industry 1024 658 Jon Hogg

The insurance industry is frequently accused of being slow to adapt. We often hear about the burden of legacy systems and how they cause problems for the industry.

It’s no surprise when you consider the scope, disruption and cost of updating a legacy system. Yet, with so much money left on the table and businesses at risk from more agile competitors, insurance firms must face up to modernisation.

So, when is the right time to maintain, modernise or completely replace a legacy system? This is a difficult question to answer, but regular system audits can help solve this problem.

Adapting legacy systems

As the insurance industry grew and developed, systems had to adapt to meet the demand. This meant patches and updates beyond a system’s original scope, which complicated them.

Many of the legacy systems used in the insurance industry will be decades old. Countless updates will have transformed them, adapting to each new regulation or requirement.

Modernising or replacing a system can be a big risk for an organisation. Nobody wants to disrupt business critical systems. What if the new system doesn’t work as intended? Or your clients and customers don’t like the changes?

If a system stopped working one day, the decision to invest in something new would be much simpler. But it won’t. It will keep plugging along. A new process here; a rushed update there.

That’s the problem. Legacy systems still ‘work’. But how well?

When should you update a legacy system?

A system audit looks at how your organisation uses all your systems. It gives you precise usage data and identifies priorities for modernisation or replacement.

This is often invaluable when trying to build a business case for investing in new software. Without this information, it’s almost impossible to assess the true value of an update.

In short, system audits help answer the question of whether you should maintain, modernise or replace a legacy system.

New technologies in the insurance industry

So, why has the insurance industry been slow to update ageing legacy systems? According to a survey by Willis Towers Watson, 42% of senior level executives believe that complex regulations slow digital adoption and innovation.

It would be easy to dismiss new technology as another regulatory hurdle to overcome. In reality, the insurance industry stands to gain more from developments such as the Internet of Things or data visualisation than most. More data points and machine learning assist with risk profiling, as well as the accurate and timely provision of data.

Of course, firms shouldn’t adopt these technologies in isolation. You should consider them in relation to the impact they will have on the performance and security of existing systems.

Again, a regular system audit helps ease the adoption of new technologies. It considers your entire system network, identifying appropriate solutions for the wider business.

Systems audits and business agility

We know that global insurance firms are being disrupted by more nimble competitors. Today, more than ever, business agility is imperative to remaining competitive. Firms must adapt to new models and ways of operating quicker than ever before.

For example, the market is currently experiencing a trend towards self-service and customer experience. Whilst this is most prominent in consumer insurance, we know from our own experience that corporate and commercial insurance isn’t that far behind.

How do you know when to adopt these new practices and technologies? A system audit builds a picture of how your business uses its systems so that you can prioritise accordingly. In other words, it helps a business stay agile.

By understanding your current systems, it is easier to assess the value of new technology. You become better informed and can be quicker to adapt when it is necessary.

Instead of reacting to changes, firms who use system audits can proactively plan for them. It creates a forward thinking culture, rather than one that is always fighting fires with patches and updates.

Which, if we’re being honest, is something that the insurance industry needs to be better prepared for.

If your business needs support with an external system audit.

2018 – The Year of Data Visualisation (across every department)
2018 – The Year of Data Visualisation (across every department) 1024 432 Anthony Peake

Departments across companies of every size have been screaming out for better ways to visualise the data they have into real actionable insight. However, until today, the IT teams have struggled to help each line of business to deliver their own dashboards easily. Now with advanced, yet low-cost tools like Microsoft PowerBI it has never been easier to build interactive dashboards and finally deliver timely management information that is helping companies to deliver real-time insight for Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, Operations and IT Management.

Making data more engaging, internally and externally.

At Software Solved, we are called upon by the smallest and the largest organisations to help them not only bring their data to life internally, but to also make this highly engaging data available via customer portals so their customers, resellers, partners and suppliers can build much closer and interactive relationships. It is based on this increasing demand, and the fact that these tools are becoming increasingly easy to use and cost are rapidly lowering that I predict that 2018 will be the year for Data Visualisation across every department.

In a recent survey that Software Solved undertook in the Insurance Industry, we found that 78 of insurance companies stated that sharing real-time data with customers and brokers was either Important or Very Important, and yet when asked how advanced these Insurers are today with delivering real-time data, only 22 felt they were Good or Very Good.

Increasingly, sharing real-time data internally across your Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, Operations and IT, and externally with your customers, resellers and suppliers is becoming a huge competitive edge that I believe no business will be able to afford to ignore in 2018.

So, who should be looking into Data Visualisation in your company?

Head of Finance

Finance usually get good data from their accounts systems, but have lots of departments requesting data and PowerBI would be a great tool for them to make the departments have self-service (drawing on data from multiple systems / spreadsheets)

Head of Sales

No matter which CRM system you use, sales management very rarely have good dashboards showing leads, pipeline funnels, proposals sent, targets, performance and upsell/cross-sell opportunities. Therefore, PowerBI will be a great tool for you to overlay on Salesforce, Dynamics, Sugar or whatever the CRM or sales tools

Head of Marketing

Marketing would kill to be able to demonstrate the ROI from marketing campaigns and also to control sales and ensure all their wonderful leads are properly followed up and the results into pipeline can be tracked.

They also would kill to know which campaign, to which industry, hit with which target demographic, so that in future you can target your campaigns better and manage the marketing budget more effectively. Tools like Microsoft PowerBI are ideal for this.

Head of Operations

Tracking manufacturing, stock levels, spares and workshop activities involves so many different supply chain and operations systems. The ability to get visibility across all these processes and then to deliver increased operational efficiency and greater customer service, should make Data Visualisation a must for Operations team.

Head of IT

IT not only needs dashboards for themselves, to be able to track server up-times, system patches, security vulnerabilities and roster staff, but also are key influencers in delivering systems and dashboards for every other department. Therefore, Data Visualisation should become a key tool for IT teams in every industry.

Head of HR

Tracking employee sickness, holidays, training as well as issues and advancement is key to HR management and is an ideal opportunity for using Data Visualisation. Delivering dashboards of recruitment campaigns to each line manager as well as tracking the effectiveness of university undergrad recruitment programmes and apprenticeships will deliver increased efficiency and effectiveness to the HR function and can be delivered quickly and inexpensively with tools like Microsoft PowerBI.

If you’d like to know more about Data Visualisation, and PowerBI in particular, you can find out more by  talking to us today.

Machine Learning: What’s it all About?
Machine Learning: What’s it all About? 1024 682 Ashley Workman

Following on from other blogs that my colleagues have written, I also attended the Tech Exeter conference. The session I was most interested in was the talk regarding Machine Learning, AI and the Brain by Samantha Adams.

When thinking about AI and Machine Learning it is easy to be caught up thinking about the bleeding edge uses that often dominate the tech news. Examples such as self-driving cars, AlphaGo and digital assistants (Siri, Alexa, Cortana) are usually the first things that come to mind. While these technologies are exciting and can change the way we work in the future, as things stand, they are not going to revolutionize the way businesses work overnight.

What is Machine Learning?

So you may think why consider these technologies when their use cases are very restricted or still in development? In this slot I consider Machine Learning to reside, while Machine Learning can be a key part of an AI’s toolkit it is a distinct subset within the field of AI. Machine Learning, at its core, is training a computer based on some sample data how to produce a correct and useful extrapolation from said data. In concrete terms, this means that we can train a computer to perform tasks such as predicting user load on a website, highlight anomalous activity within a website, highlight anomalous performance of servers and predict how systems might need to scale in the future. All of these use cases are relevant and useful to businesses of today; Machine Learning can be used to trivialize many analysis tasks that would have previously been performed by an individual. Alternatively it can be used to support the decisions of professionals who do not have the time to study as many examples as a computer can, think medical uses.

What data to I need to utilise Machine Learning?

The main factor that predicts how well Machine Learning can do its job is the data set that it is fed. It is surprising then to learn that a lot of this data you will already have at hand or will be able to generate very quickly. For example, a proof of concept we completed recently involved using the ElasticSearch stack to create a dashboard of information using their Kibana technology. This dashboard was created by automatically feeding the logs generated by the webserver into the ElasticSearch stack, from here we can look to integrate their new Machine Learning tools to do some trend analysis and automated alerts based on live data. In this example we could instruct the Machine Learning package to alert us when we’re getting more requests than usual, when the time to complete requests is higher than usual or where there may be an attempt to gain unauthorized access to the site. This example illustrates how we can quickly derive useful information from large datasets using Machine Learning, but this is just one specific example. There are many other use cases including deciding if a tumour is malignant or benign from a brain scan or classifying images based on what they contain.

In Summary

Machine Learning is:

  • Not a technology of the future, it is already useful!
  • Great at parsing very large datasets, many more than any human can achieve, and making decisions based on the provided example and knowledge gained from all previously processed examples.
  • Able to be trained to perform a wide variety of tasks.
  • Exciting!
Five Major Benefits of Data Visualisation for Charities and Non-Profits
Five Major Benefits of Data Visualisation for Charities and Non-Profits 1000 667 Jon Hogg

Huge amounts of data are being generated every minute of every day. In fact, 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone. When you factor in the global proliferation of internet connected devices, this isn’t surprising. But, how do you extract the value from this data?

Data isn’t worth a great deal unless it can be interrogated, analysed and used for decision-making. And it’s worth even less if people don’t understand it.

Data visualisation, the presentation of information in a graphical or pictorial way, is a great method of making data easy to view and understand. Tools like Microsoft’s Power BI mean this is no longer an incredibly complex task – its quick and easy to set up, and start getting insights from your data.

The five major benefits for charities and non-profits are:

1) Increased transparency with stakeholders

Charities and non-profits must be transparent with donors, supporters, service recipients, and members of the public about how much they are spending on what and why. Presenting this information in a graphical way helps people understand the data quickly and easily.

2) Removing the complexity

People can digest images and graphs more easily than reading through rows and rows of numbers. If you are dealing with large and complex datasets, visualising this data makes it much easier for other people to understand, particularly if they are not subject matter experts.

3) Deeper insight

Data visualisation makes large and complex datasets easy to read. This means that you can identify trends, anomalies, and insights with ease. Comprehensive data visualization tools will enable you to drill down deeper into specific data segments as well. This allows you to glean more insight from your data and identify areas that need further interrogation.

4) Improved internal communication

No matter how hard you try to avoid silos, they often exist within organisations, especially those with several large departments. Sharing insights and information in a graphical way can be a great way of informing other departments what’s happening in the organisation. These can be presented as dashboards on intranets or internal applications, enabling self-service, and saving you even more time.

5) Improved organisational performance

When you are actively using insights from your data, you will be making better strategic decisions, thus improving the perception and performance of your organization, both with potential donators and volunteers, and your current team.

As a non-profit, you’re highly likely to be collecting your own data, whether it’s as simple as user behaviour on your website using Google Analytics, or more detailed information on how stakeholders are interacting with your applications or services. Are you confident that everyone within the organisation can understand the information? Is it being used to inform decision-making to improve the effectiveness of your organisation? If the answer to these questions is no, then talk to us today to see how data visualization could benefit you.

If you’re interested in a great visualisation on just how much data is generated every minute, then take a look at this infographic

Why Insurers Should Be Thinking About Business Intelligence
Why Insurers Should Be Thinking About Business Intelligence 150 150 Jon Hogg

When we think of Business Intelligence (BI) it is very easy to think of product focused business models. Dashboards and reports based on production figures, supply chains and sales numbers. But the benefits of BI are not limited to product-centric industries, the insurance industry is perfectly placed to gain huge advantages from implementing BI. After all, insurance companies are businesses like any other and at their core are seeking to reduce costs, increase revenue and boost profitability.

Becoming More Efficient With Business Intelligence

Using BI tools to get better insights and get ahead of competitors, can be critical in such a hotly contested industry. BI tools allow your staff to make better decisions, with the right data, driving efficiency improvements and therefore, boosting profitability.

If you think about it in terms of risk management – a concept central to the industry – the benefits are obvious. A Risk Management department that has access to up-to-date, detailed and accurate 360-degree risk profiles are far better placed to make better decisions regarding levels of risk.

It is also important to consider the value of BI in terms of regulation and compliance. Insurance has a significant level of regulation and compliance becomes much easier to monitor when you have the right tools for the job. Giving your staff the right data, in the right format at the right time means they can make decisions to keep you above board and in business.

Using Business Intelligence to Improve Customer Experience

Just as BI can make a real difference to how your company manages risk profiles, it can do the same for your clients. Customer portals are nothing new in the insurance industry, and the era of self-service is going nowhere. What insurance companies are not doing though, is allowing clients to access BI around their own risk profiles.

Putting yourself in the shoes of the user (good practice, by the way), it’s very easy to see just how useful this would be for clients. Being able to log into a client portal and see your risk profile, in real-time, means they are better placed to manage their own risk. This is good news for them, they’re at lower risk now, and great news for the insurance company as the chances of a pay-out are reduced significantly.

In an industry so hotly contested, improving customer experience and inspiring brand loyalty can be the difference you need, and BI could be the answer.

If you’d like to know more about how BI could improve your business, talk to us today. We’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to know more about our Business Intelligence services, click here.