Business Intelligence: A process? A product? Both?

By David Gemma, Chief Marketing Officer, UNAPEN, Inc. on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Business Intelligence (BI) has been a buzz word in the industry for quite some time now.  But several questions remain: What is BI?  How do you achieve BI? And most importantly, how does BI translate into actually helping your business retain clients and grow into the future?
Confusion about BI

The term BI is most often used in conjunction with a technology system.  Firms advertise, “We’re not just software – we’re business intelligence for your whole firm.”  It has even been referenced as being an initiative or project all on its own.  Companies are implementing business intelligence or hiring BI consultants for…?? And that is where things get convoluted and the talk becomes a jumble of buzz words and vague deliverables.
The bottom line is that business intelligence does not constitute a project in isolation.  Instead, it is the ongoing methodology for evaluating and then improving your operations and standards in all areas of your business.  The focus is on the interplay of hard-working employees, their approach to performing job functions, and how technology can facilitate their efforts.
Here’s how to get started:

Aggregate all data in a centralized repository. Of course, advisors closely monitor assets under management as this drives revenue, but having information that is centralized and comprehensive is another critically important asset that is often overlooked.  Portfolio accounting systems are just a slice of the information pie in a firm, a holistic view of all corporate and client information is needed to really get traction in a BI solution.
Provide users flexible tools to mine the data. BI solutions have typically been aimed at executives and power users, but to achieve the real value, users at every level need to be able to easily find and organize the information they need in a format meaningful to them.  Firms can no longer afford, nor does it make sense to allow, 10 different users to call IT for variations of the same report.  There is no time to sift through mounds of data spread out in multiple systems and across variance business units.  Users should not need to go into a portfolio accounting system, five different spreadsheets, an MS Access database, another SQL database and a filing cabinet or two to get an answer.
Evaluate historical trends, anomalies and outliers Look into the areas of your business that are not easily visible - where tasks get delayed and sometimes slip thru the cracks, or where issues and problems keep recurring.  With this arsenal of information about problems that have been encountered in the past, your next step is to catch them closer to real-time.  From hindsight comes insight. The goal is to get ahead of the game with predictive forecasting to steer your firm clear of these obstacles and drive efficiency.

Don’t Find Information, Let It Find You
Investigating your business processes, existing technology and human resources (either on your own or with the help of consultants with experience in your specific business and technology) will uncover areas where you can streamline your operations, integrate your systems and automate processes in the most cost effective manner. Successful firms today need the ability to quickly and easily spot trends earlier in the cycle, or better yet, receive proactive notification of important information.
This is where it all comes together – knowing what you need when, or before, you need it.  Investment advisors who work smart using technology to help talented staff do their jobs more efficiently and effectively (not just one or the other) will be more likely to achieve actual BI success.
UNAPEN partners with its clients to evaluate their current processes and determine how to best use their technology to run their businesses.  Our decades of experience allow us to help clients automate burdensome processes that tie up valuable resources unnecessarily.  We focus on streamlining operations by allowing information to be shared more quickly and in a consolidated environment.

Reap the BI Benefits
When you run your business more efficiently, your clients will notice the difference in the service you provide them.  With your firm running more smoothly, you will have more time to give individualized attention to your clients and their portfolios, thereby increasing your wallet share.
This is not a magical process but it can be a difficult one.  It is the way smart advisors do the hard work of running their businesses in order to maintain and grow their client relationships.  The only way a software company can offer you “business intelligence” is if they have the experience and expertise not only in the technology they provide – but also in your industry and in the services you provide to your clients.

David Gemma, co-founder of UNAPEN and member of the Board of Directors, serves as CMO and Head of New Business Development.  He oversees Client Relations, Strategic Partnerships and Business Development at UNAPEN. Connect with David on Google+.

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