August 1, 2021
This was one of my early essays in management information systems. I chose to evaluate a small web agency business. According to the article, Business Intelligence vs. Business Analytics by Harvard Business Analytics Program (2018), business intelligence is “the use of data to manage day-to-day operational management within a business” (para. 3). They define business analytics as “a more statistical-based field, where data experts use quantitative tools to make predictions and develop future strategies for growth” (para. 6). Business intelligence is vital to understanding business operations and potential while identifying new opportunities for growth.
I analyzed Your Imprint, a small marketing and web design agency. Based on those definitions by the Harvard Business Analytics Program, this project digs deeply into the company’s data. With this information, I’ll explore ways of leveraging the intelligence to help create better, more efficient service packages for clients, as well as improve operations in the company. Analysis of this information will show current bottleneck areas in the production process and help the team be more efficient. Tracking and analyzing this data more accurately will allow the owners to discover the most common obstacles. Intelligence will give deep insight into the invoicing and bookkeeping process allowing for more meaningful financial reporting. Research into this data will uncover weaknesses in security, storage, and backup methods.
The business analytics research portion takes meaningful data obtained through intelligence and looks for ways to grow capital, save time and money, increase website traffic, and automate the sales and marketing funnels more effectively. The greatest challenge in this project is that every customer gets a customized service package, and not all team members are the best at tracking time, so measuring this data will be tricky; however, obstacles are approached by using averages where possible and estimates where it’s not. The company is shifting from a marketing to technology niche, so this information will help the owners and team members better prepare for a smooth pivot.
BI/BI System Diagram & IS Personnel Considerations
This essay will outline an analysis and development process for business intelligence and analytics systems for a small web agency. The company is changing specialties from content marketing to web development and programming. Therefore, it’s important to mention that the organization is still a small company with significant budget constraints. Given that obstacle, large-scale database consolidation may not be an option until the appropriate capital can be obtained and training can be completed. In the meantime, this essay is a guide to help plan the future database options for the company as it shifts into a new industry niche.
The top-level goal is to simplify the data collection, storage, and analysis process as much as possible. Simplified data collection, storage, security, and analysis are vital to a smooth transition. Some of the clients will need to be referred to local marketing consultants as the company gets closer to finalizing the pivot, and the intelligence collected will be useful in assisting with this transfer.
The following page is a detailed systems diagram for utilizing current applications to build a database that’ll help owners understand existing services and clients’ needs. This data will also help facilitate a smooth transition to the new niche over the next 18 months. Therefore, some of the pieces in the diagram are vague and will require experimentation and testing over the coming weeks.
Business Intelligence/Business Analytics System Diagram for Your Imprint
Note. This diagram outlines the future/recommended database plan for Your Imprint. This information is based on current applications, so the data plan may change in the future.
BI/BA Systems Rationale
The above systems diagram defines the intelligence and analytics database as including all the vital parts of the business such as Payroll, Production, Invoicing, CRM, and Other Types of data collection. A data warehouse is “a database that holds business information from many sources in the enterprise, covering all aspects of the company’s processes, products, and customers” (Stair & Reynolds, 2018). Currently, the company does not have a single location. Instead, they are a compiled list of separate databases. It would be beneficial to use a relational database management system such as PostgreSQL, DBeaver or Microsoft Access, along with a data warehouse where all information can be stored, organized, and categorized in special data marts.
The goal of the business intelligence applications is to explore ways of leveraging the data to create better, more efficient service packages for clients by reviewing the projects closely and comparing anticipated to actual project costs. Time spent on specific tasks will prevent bottlenecks in the future by scheduling them more efficiently. Payroll and accounting data will provide deep insight into the books and help the owners achieve more meaningful financial reporting.
Several applications collect statistical data about website traffic, lead generation, sales, and social influence in the business analytics section. The data from these applications will aid in creating relevant, timely, and engaging content people are searching for online using specific industry and service keywords. Some of the spreadsheets and documents are from the company’s earliest days and have critical data on tasks, policies, and client pain points. Data analytics will provide new insights into prospective and current customers as it outlines their interests and problems in plain language, showing questions they ask the search engine.
Benefits and Risks of Investing in a BI/BA Environment
Business intelligence provides entrepreneurs, business owners, and managers with a clear, 40,000-foot view of an organization’s operations, performance, and projected growth. According to Stair & Reynolds (2018), “business intelligence includes a wide range of applications, practices, and technologies for the extraction, transformation, integration, visualization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data to support improved decision making” (p. 273). The applications and technologies are the most complicated part of developing this environment, primarily due to cost restrictions and an abundance of choices. However, several significant benefits justify the time required to build such an environment. The top five benefits of a BI environment with BA functionality would be:
- It will improve forecasting to scale for projected growth, dial back variable costs when necessary, and answer as many “what-if” questions as possible to see where the business is headed.
- It allows for detailed analysis of disparate data that can be put into customized reports that improve decision-making.
- There is faster and more accurate reporting to adapt quickly to rapid-fire changes in the market with a lower risk of error (Master’s in Data Science, 2020).
- It will provide valuable business insights about operations and production and where the team members are spending the most labor hours so processes can be adjusted as necessary (Master’s in Data Science, 2020).
- It will save the company money in the long run because it can find inefficiencies that eat at the profit margins (Master’s in Data Science, 2020).
- It will also save in labor hours.
Currently, it takes weeks to find, gather, and interrogate data so it can be put into visual reports that make sense. This time can be cut in half with the appropriate business intelligence and analytics process.
Personnel Considerations for the Business Intelligence/Analytics System
To deploy such an effort of consolidating business intelligence and analytics into a single database, a database management system and warehouse should be considered. There are several business intelligence consolidation tools that could help reduce the number of reports necessary to analyze the data (Kastelic, 2018).
Your Imprint is a small company that will require employee training because the applications are already being used accordingly. The training required is centered around implementing a database management system. Further, the company is currently making a pivot in the industry, which means data needs may change over the coming months as it shifts to a more technology-centered development agency rather than one focused on marketing. For now, as the owners are capable of performing these DBMS tasks, there is no rationale for hiring another team member. Setting up and managing the data will be costly in terms of time and materials necessary, so limiting labor costs will be crucial to successful implementation.
Planning for the Future
As mentioned above, this is a small company in the process of pivoting in the industry. Data from the various areas of the company can make this transition smoother and more profitable. Still, there are budget and time constraints that will make database management more difficult. Throughout this portfolio project, several resources were identified that will help bring the data into a single “house” to interrogate and analyze as necessary to make sure the company is operating at its full potential, capacity, and capabilities.
Enterprise Risk Management Considerations
When it comes to working with data at Your Imprint, risk management will be used and deployed throughout the process of gathering, using, and managing the information we receive. Datto, a leading provider of cloud-based software and security solutions, defines data risk management as “the controlled process an organization uses when acquiring, storing, transforming, and using its data, from creation to retirement, to eliminate data risk” (Mesevage, 2019). In Mesevage’s article, he notes and links to a resource that found 71% of ransomware attacks in 2018 targeted small businesses. This can be devastating for a company as small as Your Imprint, so risk management is addressed in the following ways:
- All web forms for website inquiries are encrypted.
- The company will not use any SaaS or other software platforms that hold data hostage by way of not handing over total control to the business owner.
- Data is securely backed up nightly on a local SCSI (mirrored) drive, in the cloud, and off-site. Off-site vendor was thoroughly vetted, and their privacy and security measures approved by the team.
The company is weak in some areas of regulatory compliance. The data is scattered, and some of the accounting charts are inaccurately described, which has led to mismanaged capital. The business uses online accounting and invoicing software, so there is little ability to control security measures through those platforms; however, owners can secure the payor’s information by exporting and utilizing only basic data for business purposes to reduce the risk of information being leaked in a hacking or ransomware event.
Information Systems Security Considerations
Security tends to go hand-in-hand with risk management, as securing the data not only protects customers, but it protects the company’s proprietary information and intellectual property as well. The textbook defines a security analyst as “responsible for developing and delivering training on proper security measures” (Stair & Reynolds, 2018, p. 24). Your Imprint currently provides extensive training to clients on how to add and manage new users to their website database. The team also provides customer relationship management (CRM) training and e-mail marketing best practices to avoid spamming. Extensive IT and security support for medical clients who need HIPAA-compliant forms and communication channels are provided as well. For future development, PostgreSQL and mySQL will be used for database management. Currently, there are adequate security measures in place across all the hardware, software, and platforms used. However, the company could do better at finding a secure place to store, analyze, and use all the data.
Information Systems Privacy Considerations
There is a difference between privacy and security. Privacy is about the user, whereas security is about the system. For Your Imprint, privacy considerations include the ways in which the owners can protect user identities. That goes back to risk management, where all form submissions are secure, encrypted, and backed up regularly. Monthly corruption checks ensure there is no lost information either. The organization will retain its policy that immediately and automatically denies the request to purchase any of the company’s data. Additionally, the company and individual team members will sign non-disclosure agreements with clients to protect the client’s property and give them peace of mind.
Change Management Considerations
Change management has a lot to do with the people side of initiating change in an organization. Also called “the soft side of change,” Stair & Reynolds (2018) define a change management model as “the phases an individual or organization goes through in making a change and outlines principles for successful implementation of change” (p. 16). Change is always complex and difficult, especially when technology is involved and there are multiple members on a team, or an entire organization to train. However, to make any real changes in an organization, the people who are expected to use the system need to be on board. For Your Imprint, the change is enormous for such a small company. There is the niche pivot and changes in the way owners gather and work with data. As the team is currently inundated with data and working long hours, time management training and incentive-based motivation will work best in this scenario. The owners tend to favor Prosci’s (n.d.) three-phase process for instituting change, which include 1) prepare approach, 2) manage change, and 3) sustain outcomes. This long-view, high-value approach will give the owners a bird’s-eye view of where they need to go.
The Future of Your Imprint
With a solid business intelligence and analytics system process in place, Your Imprint will become a successful web development and IT support agency that is comfortably outside of marketing but close enough to benefit those departments. To have a successful transition, owners will need to analyze current data for the marketing projects performed in the last five years. This intelligence will provide enough information to securely transition clients to new services and keep the current business operations running smoothly in the process.
Harvard Business Analytics Program (2018, November 30). Business Intelligence vs. Business Analytics. 30 November 2018. Retrieved from https://analytics.hbs.edu/blog/business-intelligence-vs-business-analytics/
Kastelic, S. (2018, February 28). Consolidation of Reporting and BI Systems Save Time and Money. CRMT. https://www.crmt.com/en/resources/blog/consolidation-of-reporting-and-bi-systems-save-time-and-money/
Master’s in Data Science. (2020, June). Here Are 10 Key Benefits of Business Intelligence Software. 2U, Inc.https://www.mastersindatascience.org/learning/benefits-of-business-intelligence/
Mesevage, T.B. (2019, May 7). What is Data Risk Management? Datto. https://www.datto.com/blog/what-is-data-risk-management
Prosci 3-Phase Process. (n.d.). Prosci. https://www.prosci.com/methodology/3-phase-process
Stair, R. M., & Reynolds, G. (2018). Fundamentals of information systems (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.