Can Big Data Analysis Drive Better Business Decisions?
By Patrick Taylor, Co-Founder and CEO, Oversight Systems, Inc
At every company, there are spectrums of decisions – ranging from the strategic to day-to-day tactical. At every company, there’s also a ton of energy and money invested into armies of consultants whose sole purpose is to leverage big data to help the company drive smarter decisions. While there is a significant upside to being able to make smarter tactical decisions, you can’t engage consultants for every single one of them. The real question is how can a company make better tactical decisions without using a data consultant?
Let’s first take a closer look at the decision spectrum for the answer.
In any given business, there are more tactical decisions being made than strategic ones and the risk associated with any single strategic decision is much higher. As a consequence there’s extensive back and forth collaboration around strategic decisions. Think about your company’s strategic plan; it likely involved the CEO and a board of advisors spending days of exploratory analysis to decide upon the future direction of the company. Tactical decisions usually rest with just one person, at a lower level of business and are often routine in nature. This combination of low levels of collaboration and risk, coupled with the high frequency of decisions present an opportunity to automate the analysis.
The biggest challenge with tactical decision makers is they’re busy. They, after all, already have a day job, and it is lots of work to assemble the data no matter how easy ananalytic tool is to use.
Additionally, there’s a synthesis problem. Today’s business intelligence and reporting-driven technologies focus on delivering results from individual tests. Once the initial analysis is complete, it is up to the business manager to take these results, analyze them, reach a conclusion, and determine the appropriate next course of action. That’s a lot to do when you’re already busy.
The healthcare industry is a great example of an efficient model for making decisions on the course of care for a patient.
Chemistry panels and complete blood counts are executed. Then specialists with domain expertise interpret MRIs. All these results go into the patient’s chart, creating a case file for the doctor. The individual physician reviews the analysis and notes the course of treatment in the case file. The staff delivers the care based on these instructions. Applying this model to your average corporate decision maker means assembling data, performing expert analysis, presenting results in a coherent case file, and making it easy for the decision maker to implement next actions.Sounds exhausting at the corporate level, but what if we could automate this process?
Some areas where decisions can be readily automated are within Travel and Expense, Procure to Pay, and FCPA Compliance programs. Oversight has been able to come up with general-purpose SaaS solutions in these areas; ones that both automate data assembly and analysis and deliver these answers via a case management system. The combined approach of mixing analysis with an action tool allows our users to quickly stop fraud, shape policy, save money, and modify corporate traveler behavior.
One important key to automating the analysis for tactical decision makers is to focus on providing actionable answers, not just a report. With a basic reporting tool, you’d get a report that is a list of all instances of non-compliant spending. It is much more powerful to provide at-a-glance visibility into how this exception fits a larger pattern of bad behavior. Now our frontline decision maker knows to act to correct this larger pattern. Your company’s efficiency will depend on your ability to provide answers, not another report.
Automated analysis is a great way to leverage big data to improve an organization’s finance process, because you’re also giving streamlined advice to those employees making front line decisions. What if they were all able to make just one smarter decision each day? Imagine the impact.